DIX au carré brings art and science together for unforgettable events
Montréal’s streets are full of intriguing installations and people-powered art pieces that entertain visitors and locals alike. And while these fun surprises – be they illuminated see-saws and dominos, city centre swings or a quartet of standing musical bicycles – make for great Instagram #mtlmoments fodder, there’s local hard-working creatives and innovative companies behind the selfie-ready technology. One such creative driver in Montréal is DIX au carré and its co-founder Félix Marzell, whose talents aren’t just limited to the urban landscape, but the events scene to boot.
“Design, engineering and experience”
Since founding DIX au carré in 2012, Marzell has focused his efforts on finding, “the crossroads between design and experience.” And with their playful installations, he’s lived up fully to his company’s ethos time and again. “The mission of the company is really to inhabit the space with objects,” he says. “Unusual objects that surprise or spark a passerby’s imagination.” And for Marzell, Montréal is the perfect home city for these experiments. “It’s unique in the world,” he says. “Montréal is a great incubator for these ideas, and more and more, we’re seeing export-ready artists here.”
A home-grown success story, DIX au carré has successfully delivered over 625 projects since 2012, averaging about two projects a week.
A personal favourite
When it comes to making an impression at a conference or expo, Marzell says a bit of effort goes a long way. “The good news is that it’s still extremely easy today to stand out at trade shows because most people just take pre-made products – like a bowl of candy, stress balls, pens or roll-ups – so no one really stands out,” he says. And with a bit of investment, a booth can go from average to unforgettable. He continues: “If you’re going to invest $10K for your space and, in the end, you get 100 visitors, it’s better to invest $30K and get eight times that.”
One example is an installation that he did for a company that makes crushed glass pellets to mix in products like cement to reduce ecological impact. DIX au carré suggested they make a fountain of crushed glass. “Their booth had the basics, but it was missing the experience. So that’s what we created!”
In the process, the dynamic between customer and salesperson was changed in an unforgettably nostalgic way. “[At shows] People are afraid to stop and people don’t want to talk – they just want to look,” he says. “We also put a bar counter with company employees behind it, and they told me the difference was immediately like night and day.” By making attendees curious, “People stopped and conversation came naturally. And the fountain awakened the sense of touch – It was like a sandbox and people wanted to play with it.”
Planning the perfect experience – keep it interactive!
An exciting and interactive installation that elevates an event to next level status needs more than just an imaginative idea. And Marzell’s background is perfectly suited to the needs of event planners. “There is the industrial design side, which is easy for me because that’s my training,” Marzell says. “It’s very important to establish detailed specifications at the beginning of the project. Who will the users be? And users are not just the people who go to the event, but it’s the people who will carry it, who will mount it and disassemble it, who will have to repair it and store it. You really have to think of everything – the whole spectrum.”
DIX au carré applies what Marzell calls “design thinking” to all their projects.“Design thinking is about the relationship between the object, the environment in which it will live and its relationship with the user.” For example, if an installation looks great but makes too much noise, then you have to address how to minimize its negative impact on the environment and the user.
Of the lessons Marzell’s picked up over the past decade in event planning is the rise of interactivity, one of the best ways to not just grab attendees’ attentions but keep them. “People want to have more and more control. They want to participate in the action and get something back. When I started the business in 2012, you could just do projections on a wall, but now the projects that really work are interactive, not passive,” he says.