One of the six winners of the inaugural Pat MacKay Diversity In Design Scholarships, Tyler Christian Harris is a creative producer and designer specializing in concept development and set/media design for themed entertainment. A junior at Arizona State University, he is pursuing a degree in Immersive Experience Design at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. His goal is to bring the seemingly impossible to life through tangibility, interactivity, narrative, and a little bit of magic. He is currently working on a new immersive theatrical experience through his themed entertainment production and design company, TCH Experiences, and ASU Gammage.
Live Design: Why did you apply for the Pat MacKay Diversity In Design Scholarship?
Tyler Christian Harris: Not many scholarships exist in the entertainment arts for diversity so I was very excited to apply after it was announced at LDI 2018.
LD: What made you interested in the field of lighting, projection/video, or audio design?
TCH: I have always loved live and themed entertainment, especially since I grew up in Anaheim, California and would go to the Disneyland Resort weekly. This early exposure to themed entertainment got me to where I am today. As a kid, watching Disney media and then going to a place to experience it was a special type of magic. As far as being interested in the media design aspect, Fantasmic! introduced me to the ability media has to add dimension and movement to static structures and places and adds a level of awe and experience that I feel like only projection and large-scale media installations can achieve in tandem with other elements. This was all at an insanely young age. It has gone from an interest that I would search the Internet for answers on to something I do daily.
LD: What are your career goals?
TCH: My current career goals are to continue being a designer, creative director, and producer. I enjoy the creation and inception of new experiences and orchestrating their creation. I love having a hand in every aspect of an experience to make something come to life. I am currently able to do this while still pursuing my degree through my experiential design and production company, TCH Experiences.
LD: How can the industry better serve underrepresented communities?
TCH: I think that once the industry fully recognizes that the people buying tickets to their shows aren’t just one type of person and see the correlation between diverse voices and experiences, things will become more diverse behind the scenes. A lot of organizations preach diversity but do not fully stand behind their marketed statements, and in doing so, the said marketing becomes a hindrance to minorities in the industry. When you include a multitude of different experiences on a creative team or crew, you get perspectives that haven’t been experienced or done in the same way that can draw in new audiences and people interested in the industry.
LD: Who or what are your influences, albeit people or events?
TCH: I have quite a few influences in the industry. My favorite designers are Es Devlin and Luke Halls. They have a very interesting and unique view of space and how to use it that is inspiring to me. They have quite a few collaborations together that are just really spectacular, especially their work on Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour and Ugly Lies the Bones.
My mentor Jake Pinholster has also been an invaluable influence on me in how he can see the method to my madness and help channel it in beneficial ways. He is also one of the smartest people I have ever met and has guided me and helped me on my journey. One of my other influences is Joe Rohde of Walt Disney Imagineering. His use of narrative, story, and nature as a motivating force behind everything is just amazingly beautiful to me. This is why anything he touches becomes literal art that millions of people get to enjoy. His work and guidance have provided more than just a themed attraction, land or theme park. They have become specific multi-layered places in their own right.
I am also convinced that Steve Davidson of Disney Parks Live Entertainment is a live-entertainment wizard.
LD: Are there particular challenges you have faced?
TCH: One challenge I have had in the industry is more so about not being taken seriously by some just because of my age and its correlation with my big ideas and concepts. But I am the type of person to see challenges as something to defeat and prove that you can do anything if you have the right mindset and spirit. It can be very discouraging at times when it seems as no one sees you, but by constantly working and reaching out to people, even if they don’t respond the way you would like, is a great endeavor to take up.