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My work focuses on designing experiences, which expand capacity for empathic choice making.
My research is in the study of emotions as it applies to immersive experience.

Here below are some of my experience designs, followed by a bio.


Koala Republic - Designing Healthy Appetite

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Together with Ashley Scarborough, I designed the restaurant Koala Republic from scratch. Tthe perspective of Amsterdam dining is thought of as mashed and fried food. Our aim was to nudge that perception, by presenting a space that felt like a healthy .play-space.

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A Light For Your Dreams - A Design for The Neighbors Magnolia Hotel

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This invention-commission was offered to guests in every room of Amsterdam’s Neighbor’s Magnolia Hotel. This concept also inspired an interactive installation at the Central Museum of Utrecht, during an exhibition on light.

The light canvas brought to life, the potential of the things we feel at night, as you could even draw from your bed, all the way across the room. One day, I’d like to cover a high lobby ceiling with this canvas, and let visitors paint the sky.



Sherlocked Mystery Experiences

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Sherlocked Mystery Experiences is a design company I co-founded in 2013. Our experiences have more 5 star ratings on Trip Advisor than over 5,000 of their kind, with over 300,000 visitors to date, This company designed sensorial, cinematic live experiences. As a creative director, Sherlocked was a brilliant teacher of the psychology behind group behavior and undertaking large experiences productions. If you'd like to learn visit our still running high-end escape rooms in Amsterdam, go to www.Sherlocked.nl

This is the team from year 1.

This is the team from year 1.

We've also outfitted this VOC vessel as an escape ship during SAIL, Amsterdam.

We've also outfitted this VOC vessel as an escape ship during SAIL, Amsterdam.

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The Diabetes Fund and Empathic Gamification

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This design for the Diabetes Fund taught visitors what it feels like to live with Diabetes. Together with researchers, we designed interactions that triggered chemical reactions in the body similar to how a diabetes patient feels daily. We designed metabolic reactions such as physical balance, focus and even safely mimicked a hypoglycemic attack. Applying passive learning techniques, it wasn't until after playing that the visitors were shown a case film. This film brought home the message.

This project was also the world's first mobile escape room, of which there are now hundreds.

This mobile awareness game travelled around the Netherlands for a year, changing the way the Dutch related to the 1/16th of the population in NL with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. 



Re-designing Appetite. A system that understands you, better than you.

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Creative meal decisions can be a mouthful. The average Dutch person limits their cooking knowledge to 7 meal options, because they don't have the mental bandwidth while on the shopping floor, to make inventive choices.

In place of the traditional 16 recipes on a rack, our choice stress eliminator’s software design, provided visitors the perfect new meal idea tailored specifically to their tastes, within 45 seconds. This device was commissioned and installed at Albert Heijn, the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands.



Innovative Opinions Need Honest Spaces

How do many-employee-companies, adapt controversial opinions necessary for innovation?

The organization that commissioned Philosophy Bank for their event, invited 200 partner businesses in an effort to create better longterm corporate relationships. 

We placed Philosophy Bank in the middle of this event to create a greater intentionality.

Amongst their networking moments, invitees entered Philosophy Bank and gave their opinions on their relationship with the organization anonymously, such as, 'why are our companies meeting ourselves to death'. These thoughts were spoken to the silhouette of an artist, sitting behind a sheer curtain. These thoughts were turned to artworks, with the original statement at the bottom. Hung in the communal space throughout the day, each statement sparked a higher level of empathy between partners and the authenticity necessary to begin more innovative conversations.

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  ARTISTIC EXPERIENCE DESIGNS

The following projects are design performances and interactive art exhibitions.


Beginnings with Wildlife - A Creative Thinking Collective

Lead by myself, Tristan Hupe and working with a group of about 12 artists and musicians, Wildlife was our first artistic experience machine. Here above is our business logo and an edition of our portfolio, which had 100 interesting design projects and ideas, many of which we were able to make in our beginning design years. Together with their founder Tom de Bruyne, we were the first three active behavioural designers in the Netherlands and a precursor to Sue's behavioural design agency.

Illustrations by Robin Pieterse

Illustrations by Robin Pieterse



The Secret Life of Letters - Designing an Alphabetic Dance Language

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What if right now,

1) You were to write down your 8 favorite letters.

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2) Then, what if I showed you results from hundreds of other people's feelings on letters: and you saw that many people felt more or less the same as you, about those same letters. And then what if you turned those feelings into movements understood throughout many cultures. Could it then be possible, to create an emotional alphabet?

3) What if you could see a written poem, in dance form?

First our team interviewed hundreds of people asking what specific letters meant to them. Then with professional dancers, we created a choreography based on a collective feeling of each letter of the alphabet. We then made that choreography readable by the, at the time, brand new Kinect motion camera. 



Designing Interactions for the Soul

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Human artwork no. 1 is a safe space where the visitor can explore an unintentional conversation.  The idea is that, without intentions, the unknown layers of self could be explored more deeply. Each of my artworks were chosen based on their ability to speak without trying to understand. Here are some images from an exhibition at the art society of Amsterdam.

The topic of the soul is a life long discussion. Sometimes direct, in discussions of religion, society, spirituality or a united force of presence. Other times it’s indirect, in discussions of dreams or coincidence. In either case, the soul is usually subtext within a larger talk with other intentions. I wanted to design a space where the soul could discuss itself, without any intentions or anything to prove.

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What is Love? A Highly Emotional Artwork in 3 Minutes

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Visitors entered the gallery and were greeted by human artworks. The artworks asked the visitors to then choose one of them for the interaction. The visitor was taken to a place in the gallery that felt as if the visitor belonged there. There the human artwork said, 

'I'd like to ask you a question. This question is going to take 3 minutes. You can answer it in as many ways as you'd like. Is that okay?'   

The idea was that through this repetition, the introspective self would have time to emerge and express beyond the projected self.

The following minutes were full of emotions which we discussed in interviews a few days later. To give the interaction space for authenticity, this work needs to be not filmed. However, I filmed the artworks answering the question, to give a small idea of how the work may have felt, had you been there.



H.U.G. (Human.Under.Going.) - A Relational Art Experience

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Human.Under.Going is an interactive experience about the mysterious challenge of embracing one’s individuality while embracing others.

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In this exhibition, the visitor could always hug the artwork, though the artwork, depending on their personal experience at the moment, would not always hug back.

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The artwork’s embracing of their personal experience - meaning that they could not always embrace others - was meant to mimic the nature of how we perceive other’s actions as personal to us, when they are often just going through their own thing.

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Philosophical Papers on Emotional Interaction Art and Design

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Through my study of poetry, philosophy and music, I began writing papers on my approach to emotional design. The outcome has been a manifest, essays and book, discussing the philosophy behind my exhibitions.

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These are covers from 3 booklets I’ve written in relation to a human art philosophy during my study at the Royal Academy of Belgium.



‘I believe we can all benefit from greater spaces for emotional nuance, to play a leading role in our life and community.’

Micah Kessel is a strategic designer, and principal founder of Playground of Empathy, an organization whose mission is to spread empathy throughout community.

Members of Playground of Empathy, design emotional experiences that raise capacity for empathic choice making. Their creative work develops design experiences in emotional subjects such as self-perception, childhood, racial bias, infancy, laughter, and gender awareness. Playground of Empathy’s emotions research is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett (the president of the Association for Psychological Science, author of hundreds of articles on the science of emotion, and recipient of the National Institute of Health Director’s Pioneer Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and numerous scholarly society memberships across the world.) Playground of Empathy's current immersive creation on gender awareness, is a portable experience, designed to disarm unconscious bias, and sexual harassment - while raising pro-social EQ - in communities and business environments.

As the Netherland’s first behavioral designer, Micah has created concepts for companies like Disney, Google, Microsoft, The Diabetes fund and various European Governments and Universities. He's given workshops or lectures on human centered design subjects at The Darden School of Business, the UVA school of Engineering, UNC Chapel Hill, the UVR Robins Graduate School of Business and the University of Amsterdam.

Micah began his career as an opera singer at the Met, age 10, and later studied poetic song at San Francisco Conservatory, operatic and baroque music at The Royal Conservatory of the Netherlands and multi-medial design at the Royal Art Academy of Belgium. Though interpreting romantic music and strategically designing experiences may seem unrelated, Micah's focus in both professions was on developing the role of embodied emotions to create emotional nuance and empathy. Designing spaces for emotional nuance, are one of Micah's most ongoing values.

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My professional focus is in strategically designing the potential of empathic, human-centered experiences and campaigns, through their realization.

If you’d like to see my CV, or for questions, consultation, assignment or workshop requests, send an e-mail. I like to work with interesting, imperfect people, with great values, and cared-for challenges.