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Northwestern University

EDI Alumnus Helps Design Super Bowl City

Matthew Glibbery presents to team on Super Bowl City.

Matthew Glibbery graduated from EDI in December of 2013 and is currently working at SAP. This year he had the opportunity to help make Super Bowl City a reality. Check out the Q+A below to learn more about his expreince. 

What is your role at SAP?
I work as an Experience Designer in SAP's Design and Co-Innovation Center (DCC) – a sort of in-house agency that primarily focuses on customer-facing projects. I'm approaching two years with this team in Palo Alto.

What’s a day in the life look like for you?
One of the things I love about my role is that there really isn't an average day. Our projects typically last 3-6 weeks and can overlap, so depending on where I am in the life cycle of the project, I may be prepping with the SAP account team and project stakeholders, on-site with the customer, or buried in post-its inside a project room. 

Recently you worked on a project for the Super Bowl – tell us more about that!
SAP is a big sponsor of the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers and Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, so when the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee needed a technology partner to bring their vision for Super Bowl City to life, SAP was a natural choice. In order to achieve the Host Committee's goals of highlighting the best of the Bay Area and being the most technologically advanced Super Bowl in history, SAP worked with the Host Committee and its partners to develop the centerpiece of this week-long, free to the public fan village: The Fan Energy Zone. It would feature three immersive games for fans to play (two using Kinect, one using Oculus) and a 50-foot outdoor display to showcase great fan performances on various leaderboards. The DCC was brought in to focus on two specific touch points in the fan experience: first, the personalized digital playing card that registered fans would receive after playing a game; second, the leaderboards and other content that would be displayed on the 50-foot fan wall. 

What was your role on that team?
I was the design lead for the digital player card and fan wall. The team from the DCC was just myself and another designer, and we worked directly with both the company developing the games, and the SAP implementation team working on the back end.

What was that experience like?
As a designer it was an incredible experience having the opportunity to create something meaningful on such a stage – something that would only live for a week, but would touch a million people in that time. And to be able to be there in person to see fans engaging with the work was really special. As a football fan, it is still hard to believe I had such an opportunity.

It was new for me to design for such a large outdoor screen. The developers we worked with set up a pixel map with four projectors across a wall in their basement to simulate the resolution and feel of the screen we'd use – but even that was only half-scale. The first time we saw the designs in a real setting was the week of Super Bowl City. 

I’m sure you ran into some challenges…
It was challenging creating leaderboards and other content based on guesses we had to make about things like the distribution of scores for a given game, or how many fans from other NFL teams might show up. We wanted to be sure that even in the worst case scenarios our designs could only tell positive stories about the fans participating, about the Bay Area, about the NFL, about the Host Committee. 

So you actually got to go to the Super Bowl, how was that?
Yeah, that was a real surprise. They made it very clear when we began the project that doing this work didn't mean going to the game, to the point that we'd laugh when people would ask if we were. But the Wednesday before the game, some tickets became available and someone thought of my co-worker and I. It was surreal. It was easy to forget after all of the work and all of the events that there's a football game.

How’d it all turn out?
The Fan Energy Zone was really well received. There were healthy lines for each of the games for the entirety of the days I spent in Super Bowl City. As proud as I am of the work my team did, there were so many people involved in making the whole experience a reality and I think each of them really did a fantastic job. Even having spent 10 weeks working toward it, knowing what it would be like, I was still blown away experiencing it. 

How did the fans react to Super Bowl City? 
Over a million people came through Super Bowl City over the course of the week, playing more than 17,000 game sessions across the three Fan Energy Zone games. The most common complaint I heard about Super Bowl City was that it was too crowded; there really was a great turnout. Beyond SAP's Fan Energy Zone, there were so many other cool sponsor activations as well as free concerts and fireworks over the bay each night. It was a very exciting place to be.

How did your experience in EDI help you on this project?
One of the things that I remember Craig Sampson saying that really stuck with me was about the first step in any project always being backwards. That approach really helped on this project to contextualize our piece in a large and complex puzzle, getting answers early to those 'why' questions. And to the credit of all the partners involved, they took the time to explain their roles and goals and we worked together to understand how our designs could support them. One of the skills from EDI that has often proven immensely useful, is getting smart fast on what you're researching through whatever formal or informal channel you can. It's been 30 years since the Super Bowl was in the Bay Area and there was no Super Bowl City or really anything outside of the game back then, so we had to get creative when trying to research this type of fan experience. Instead we found people who have been to World Series games, the Olympics, World Cups, conventions; anything that might have a fan village or activation experience we could learn from. 

View SAP's presentation to learn more about the project from start to finish.

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