Hi Lovie Awards judges, this is the case for DEPT® Weekender


  • In a world that stays at home, we had to rethink our annual flagship event: DEPT® Festival. But we were not going to cancel our annual DEPT® festival. Instead, we choose to bring the festival to our Depsters. How did we do this? By designing and building a next-level virtual experience for Depsters worldwide in two months time.
  • Our challenge was to fit three days worth of activities and inspiration into three hours and make it feel like only three minutes.
  • Concepting to a minimum viable 3D festival map built on React Fiber Three only took us a couple of weeks. Discover how we accomplished this by reading “The process behind creating a next-level digital event”.
  • The virtual version of our festival took place over 3 hours and included 50 speakers who delivered talks across 15 stages. Explore the ins and outs of our virtual event by reading “A seamless, online-offline event experience”.

Pushing the boundaries of virtual with a next-level digital event

It can feel impossible to capture the spirit and energy of physical events and translate that into a digital experience. In a world that stays at home, virtual events miss the magic and experience of live experiences. This was the challenge that we faced for our own flagship annual event: DEPT® Festival. Over the last five years, what was once a small gathering had transformed into the industry festival of the year, hosting thousands of visitors from around the globe for three full days of inspiration on the future of creativity, data and technology. However, COVID-19 forced us to re-imagine our flagship event.

The show must go on

Our challenge was to fit three days worth of activities and inspiration into three hours while making it feel like it all lasted only three minutes. To do this, we decided to create a next-level virtual experience full of energy, a little crazy and above all personal. And that’s why we reimaged the physical experience and transformed it into a virtual one by building an interactive, 3D festival map which supported 15 stages across which more than 35 presentations took place.

Designing and building a next-level virtual experience for 1,500 people worldwide

The process behind creating a next-level digital event

Simply transferring all the elements of the original festival to a virtual platform would have led to a clumsy, unsatisfying result. Therefore, reimagination was the key. To kick off the process, we started by conceptualising our vision, the platform and the architecture of the event. The concept was crucial as this became our red thread both visually but also across our communication which we could always refer back to.

With a clear theme and concept, we quickly began to build our 3D map using React Three Fiber, a front-end tool specifically engineered to manage and bring 3D experiences to life. This, in turn, connected Zoom, Slack and Vimeo together. Our designers had the first version up and running in a few weeks time.

Dept weekender WIP

At the same time, we arranged 50 speakers, 15 stage hosts and food gift cards for over 1,500 people around the world. We also crafted an internal social campaign which included daily hints from our zebra mascot and teaser videos from guest stars and global heroes meant to hype up our event.

A seamless, online-offline event experience

In two months time, we designed and built a custom made 3D festival map which one could easily explore with their mousse or keyboard and that was protected by single sign-on. The design and layout digitally recreated the festival site from the previous four years, squeezing in 15 stages and 35+ short and snappy presentations into a 3-hour event, and included some industry heroes like Stefan Sagmeister and Gmunk. With the help of Slack and ‘social reporters’, people knew what was going on across all the virtual stages, creating a healthy amount of event FOMO, before and during the event.

Presentation topics ranged from diversity and inclusion to data intelligence, the future of voice, and coding for a 3D world. The fun was provided by virtual meditation, magicians, karaoke and DJ sets. ‘Easter eggs’ were hidden around the virtual map, leading people to things like the ten most famous internet cat movies, and a crazy Zoom background contest. The virtual Photo Booth generated a live photo wall, and in all thirteen countries, Depsters could have food delivered to their doorsteps after a visit to the digital food truck.

Looking forward

Because of COVID-19, virtualisation has become the new norm and this will shape the future by creating new hybrid events which combine both physical and digital elements. And it doesn’t stop with virtual events, imagine virtual product launches, remote assistance and digital campuses. Thinking bigger, one could picture entire online environments that enable organisations to exchange knowledge or try out products and services in an accessible and personal manner.

Our weekender story has only just begun, with mesmerising virtual experiences, we are helping to solidify company culture while also connecting people and brands across the globe.


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