A few months after announcing his retirement from The Walt Disney Company, former Imagineer Bob Weis has joined design and architecture firm Gensler as their Global Immersive Experience Design leader.
“We are thrilled that Bob is joining our global innovation design team,” Gensler co-CEO Andy Choen said in a press release. “A creative design force, his leadership and expertise in entertainment design will enhance the ways people interact with and thrive in the spaces and experiences we create around the world. Now more than ever, design has the power to shape how we experience life. Bob is joining us just as we emerge from the pandemic as people are craving compelling, visceral experiences in the places where they live, work, and play.”
“At Disney, we often collaborated with Gensler, and I was able to see firsthand its culture of design innovation that transforms the quality of life in our world,” Bob Weis said. “This is what visionary companies are seeking, and what we all are yearning for as we interact with the world around us. Gensler’s commitment to leading the future of design is perfectly aligned with my passion for developing unique, immersive experiences with a diversity of creative voices.”
Gensler stated that Weis would “take the firm’s design innovation to the next level, expanding its commitment to reclaiming human experiences in the spaces and places where we live, work, and play.” He will “collaborate with Gensler’s global leadership platform to envision and bring to life unique experiences for clients across a variety of industries where the firm is immersed — from entertainment, lifestyle, hospitality, retail, sports, mixed use, and cultural institutions to wellness and workplace.”
Gensler also interviewed Weis about immersive experiences, and he laid out what he thinks the three main elements of an immersive experience are:
First, these are experiences that people want to do together. We’re tired of being at home in front of our computers. We’re looking for communal celebratory experiences with our friends, family, and other people in our community.
This is why Gensler is so important in the development of immersive experiences. The firm already has such an incredible commitment to the cultural vibrancy of cities and the place where we live, work, and play. It’s exciting to think that we can create great stories that people can experience together in new ways and do them in the spaces Gensler already creates.
The second element is that we are immersing people into the space, meaning we are surrounding them with the theme, the story, and the idea. This is different from what we’re used to, which is watching things on a screen or seeing a piece of sculpture or painting in a museum. In this medium of immersive experiences, we want to break out of the screen and really envelop all the senses — sight, smell, emotion, the feel — all the things that can tell the story in physical ways that you will never forget.
And the last element that is key to an immersive experience — and this is maybe the hardest to accomplish — is that we are giving people agency in the story itself. We want people to feel that these experiences are their story and that the story becomes about them. Think of going to the theater, but instead of watching the play from your seat, you are part of the play. You are impacting how the conflict is resolved or how the art piece is accomplished. You have a real authentic impact on the experience. It’s an active role.
Regarding why he chose to join Gensler, Weis said:
Gensler has long designed for the human experience, and I hope to build on the amazing work and culture the firm as created. I’m also passionate about doing things that are closer to people’s everyday lives, and there’s no other place I can realize that passion than at Gensler. The firm does business in hundreds of cities all over the world and across 29 different practice areas. Every one of these practice areas — from sports and retail to airports and the workplace — will all potentially have an application to the type of immersive storytelling. It’s the next step.
Visionary companies are seeking to create new experiences in the spaces they design with Gensler because they know that this is what people are yearning for as we interact with the world around us. Gensler’s commitment to leading the future of design is perfectly aligned with my passion for developing unique, immersive experiences with a diversity of creative voices.
Now, I get to take my passion, expand it, and inject experiences into projects all over the world that will reach people in their everyday lives.
Read the whole interview with Weis on Gensler.com.
Weis was with Walt Disney Imagineering for 42 years, serving as president of WDI for a time and then Global Imagineering Ambassador. He officially departed Disney on January 2, 2023.