Music Festival Experience Design
// interaction and experience design

Advisor: Dr. Suguru Ishizaki
Dates: Fall 2013 - Spring 2014

Not Fade Away: Enriching Music Festival Audience Experience

The modern music festival is a site of interaction between up to hundreds of thousands of people, artists, vendors, musicians and technologies. Audiences travel thousands of miles and invest huge amounts of time, energy and money to attend them. Despite the increasing commercial demand for music festivals and the budding recognition of their social value to festivalgoers, human-centered design methods have not been applied to explore ways to increase the value of music festival experiences for audiences.

For festival-goers, music festival experiences span much longer periods of time than of the events themselves. Currently there are no models of music festival audience experience, and no service that successfully supports the ongoing activities of music festival experience. Few music festivals have the resources or incentive to provide substantial support to pre- and post-event experience.

The purpose of this project was twofold. First, I planned todevelop a nuanced human-centered understanding of music festival audience experience. Based on that understanding, I then planned to design a solution that enhances meaningful, positive experiences for festivalgoers, especially during the periods of anticipation before and reflection after events.

By combining insights pulled from research in music psychology, positive psychology and current neuroscience on happiness with qualitative data gathered from my own human-centered design research methods, I developed several robust conceptual models for the complex realities of audience experience at music festivals. Based those models, I then developed a web-based platform called Neverfade that acts both as a music festival history archive and a virtual space where individuals can curate, save and share their own music festival experiences.


I started my project with an in-depth literature review. I read widely on the psychology of music festival experience, Csikszentmihaly's research on flow states, Maslow's writings on peak experiences and on the neuroscience of music and happiness. This literature review strengthened my conclusions that music festival experiences can provide moments of learning and growth as real, beneficial and impactful as any life offers, and that lasting happiness is built on learning to recognize happiness as it comes in the flow of life experience.


The music festival experience survey and expert interviews
I developed a 30-question survey to establish some basic demographics for festivalgoers, fill some of my knowledge gaps and to see if I could validate some of my theories about music festival experience. Within a week, the survey received responses from 40 different states across the US and seven different countries in total. In the end I received 330 enthusiastic responses. I also conducted six hour-long interviews with individuals I consider festival experts

Summary Infographic: MFUX is...Music Festival User Experience
I also developed an infographic to share some of my survey data in a more visual and entertaining way.

Major research findings
Here are some of the major research findings on which I based my final design solution, Neverfade. All of these festival fan interests and behaviors are worth supporting because of their contribution to the lasting quality and richness of music festival experience.

Festivalgoers have great stories to share and want to share them.
Festivalgoers enjoy hearing other people’s music festival stories and seeing festivals through other people’s eyes.
Festivalgoers actively seek and collect media (photos, videos, etc.) after the events they attend and regularly review content from events they’ve attended and even ones they haven’t.
Music festival experiences often help people better understand themselves as individuals.
Music festival experiences can have lasting positive impacts on people’s self-perceptions, life outlook and acceptance of others.

Thesis Process Blog
To review my design process and thoughts as I worked through the project, please visit

I presented the following poster as a summary of my research process, findings and conceptual models of music festival audience experience in December 2013.

As a way to synthesize my research findings and communicate them more quickly to a wider audience and in a visual way, I developed several models for music festival audience experience. I used these conceptual models to structure the interactions and experiences built in to my design solution, Neverfade.

Music festival audience experience as three levels of interpersonal interaction and learning
For the festivalgoer, music festival experience consists of three levels of intense interpersonal interaction and the learning that accompanies each.

The music festival activity cycle; personal investment and benefit
Each music festival experience is comprised of a cycle of activities with four distinct phases. Festivalgoers must invest heavily in events before experiencing them and recieving any benefit from participating.

Music festivals as a continuum of experiences over many years
Most active festivalgoers attend more than one event per year, and many are interested in continuing to attend them in the future, even as they continue to move into new phases of their lives. Music festivals then can be considered not only individually as a cycle of phases of activity, but a repeating event in festivalgoers lives.

Testing six design concept scenarios
To move my design process from models to designs I could build and test, I developed six detailed scenarios of use for different design concepts that might support each of these models in different ways. Each concept was based on the three-tier circle of music festival interaction model and was intended to support one or more of the music festival activity phases. Each concept had a stated goal, whether to improve social bonding, save memories, or otherwise enhance the festival experience.

Using storyboards, I developed a concept testing survey to speeddate each idea with festivalgoers. Each of my questions was about a different feature that could be be part of a service that would do the following for music festival fans - firstly, support basic music festival audience needs, and secondly, support sharing of memories and reflection on experiences.

I presented the following poster to a panel of Carnegie Mellon Design faculty for my final presentation of my thesis work in April 2014.


What is Neverfade?
Neverfade is a web and cloud-based digital service and music festival history archive that provides a virtual home for the huge community of music festival fans. It’s a place where festival fans can tell their stories, keep great memories alive and celebrate their adventures and experiences through audience-sourced multimedia, story and experience sharing.

Neverfade is designed to support music festival fans and enriches their experiences by actively encouraging them to reflect on their own personal festival history by saving and sharing their stories. It also helps maintain the sense of connection between what can be geographically distant peer groups while also celebrating the large scale and unique energy of each event, as no two music festivals are the same.

Neverfade feature list
Touch and zoom: Touchable, scrollable and zoom-able content display that works across devices and platforms
Member login: Separate public and member-only access levels for privacy and control over content
Story view: Story and comment view paired with media
Filter menu: Many filters available to help users discover personally relevant content (such as searching and filtering media by new additions uploaded since last visit, date or time, GPS-tagged or nearby to user, lineup schedule, media type)
Archive: An archive for past and current media
Upload: Data is automatically collected from devices or pulled from storage by referencing event date metadata
Share: Facilitates easy sharing to other social networks, devices or email
Scan: Optional variable-speed, auto-playing slideshow

The Neverfade prototype
I prototyped screen interactions for three flows that three unique festivalgoer personas might use. These included exploring the public view of a music festival to learn about an event, saving an experience by adding a story to a photograph, and filtering through older, archived content to rediscover and see a past experience in a new way.

I loaded the prototypes on an iPad to demonstrate how Neverfade worked and informally tested it with fellow designers and guests who attended the CMU Design Masters Thesis poster session. Feedback from the informal testing and presentation was overwhelmingly positive. People found the system effective at demonstrating the feel of a large music festival with a human touch through the addition of personal stories.

Here's a short (rough) video of the Neverfade prototype in action, as it doesn't translate well in a static format.

Sample scenario: Exploring a new festival, viewing a story, scan view and sharing to other networks

Neverfade Prototype Gallery

The following are a few photographs from my design process.