Second Story: A Q&A on Innovation and Ideas for the FUtUre

Scott Wickstrom
Managing Director, Second Story, Portland Scott sets the vision for Second Story’s future and leads the development of its constantly evolving focus on innovative storytelling.

Daniel Meyers, AIA
Creative Director, Second Story, Portland Daniel is a registered architect, creative director at Second Story and leader of the studio’s responsive environments practice.

Question and Answer with SapientNitro’s Second Story


The boundaries between physical and digital worlds are becoming increasingly blurred, as consumers bring digital attitudes and tools into retail spaces, museums, stadiums and more.
For the past two decades, Second Story has explored using emerging technology and hands-on experimentation to develop the connections between the physical and digital worlds. An innovation lab with extensive experience working with cultural institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, Second Story brings its expertise in creating blended environments to the commercial retail space. We sat down with Scott Wickstrom and Daniel Meyers to talk about Second Story, the studio’s process and what the team sees coming in the evolution of digital and physical worlds.

Q: Who is Second Story? How does it relate to SapientNitro?
A: At its core, Second Story is a team within SapientNitro that designs and builds amazing experiences in the real world. We work with our clients to explore the very latest technology capabilities in a lab-based setting to create totally new experiences, which are then deployed in physical spaces. Second Story is one of many experience innovation capabilities within SapientNitro.

our lab, we have regular, in-depth sessions to ensure clarity and to explore the art of the possible using the raw technology. Second Story is about exploratory learning: working directly with the materials at hand and playing around. Many of the best opportunities to solve problems arise out of play rather than a deep or formal analysis.

Q: How do you work?
A: We believe that to create a great experience, you have to facilitate a dialogue between design and technology. Our lab provides the setting for that conversation, which always involves a truly interdisciplinary team. The best way to learn about technology’s potential is to actually use it, and we’re lucky to have a physical space in our studio built especially for exploration, experimentation, prototyping and testing. You can literally get your hands dirty in the lab; it’s a true working environment. Just as architects use models to explore how to modulate light and explore space, we use prototypes, learning from experience what the technology can and can’t do. Prototyping also helps in terms of client communication: we can show them what we have in mind rather than just telling clients.

Q: Who is it for? When should a client come to you with a challenge or problem?
A: Many of our projects begin with an open-ended or undefined request. For a retail environment project such as a car showroom, special event, retail space or museum, we often design and create a set of physical fixtures (working with architects and fabricators), design the digital experience as part of the overall experience and develop the content to support that digital experience. Our most successful engagements – whether with a global brand or an art museum – involve true collaboration with the client. Together with clients in


Second StorY: A Q&A on Innovation and Ideas for the FUtUre

The ASICS/NYC Marathon Interactive Wall detects motion with sensors and invites passersby to interact with inspiring brand content in several visual layers.

Can you give us some examples? We did a project with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum where they wanted to represent baseball statistics and their significance to the game but were having trouble bringing the numbers to life for non-statisticians in a compelling, engaging way. We mocked-up graphic solutions, built out of foam core in the lab, of what a physical interface might look like for them. We then projected these graphic solutions on a wall and filmed people coming in and reacting to what’s on the wall. We sent the results of the experiment to our client and immediately they were able to see how the project approach could be enhanced and improved. More recently, Intel Labs asked us what we could make to help show the capabilities of its new Galileo development board; Intel would demo the final product we came up with at Maker Faire Rome. Over the course of just a few weeks, we concepted, designed, prototyped and created something exciting for us and for our client: Lyt, an interactive, collaborative lighting fixture that you can control with your mobile device. Our ability to quickly iterate in our lab, to test and hone ideas as much as we needed to, was essential to Lyt’s success.

Second Story explores with projected light and shadow during the design process for the University of Oregon Interactive Alumni Table.

For Maker Faire, Second Story worked with Intel Lab’s hardware to create Lyt, an interactive, collaborative lighting fixture that you can control from your mobile device.

Second StorY: A Q&A on Innovation and Ideas for the FUtUre

Q: What is your perspective on how things are evolving? Do you have any projections of the future?
A: We see a few interesting trends coming in the next several years. 1. Environmental Impacts We’re at a point now where smart brands are realizing what architects have known for centuries: your attitude is influenced by your physical environment. Brand affinity and propensity to buy are affected by the environment just as much as by traditional and omnichannel marketing campaigns. 2. Delivering an Architectural Experience The terminology around “digital plus physical” limits us today; digital and physical is really about content plus architecture instead. It’s about creating an experience using physical design, static and dynamic content, product and human brand representatives as ingredients in a holistic composition. 3. Internet of Things One of the most interesting conversations right now is around the Internet of Things. That concept relates to our homes, businesses and civic spaces just as much as small devices and wearables. The proliferation of technology is happening, often without a lot of thought toward consequences. Smart brands will have a clearly expressed institutional attitude regarding place, space, technology and the consumer.

Q. When we talk about “innovation,” how do you predict the future? How do you plan for the next 10-15 years of “innovation”?
A: One of the most important aspects of innovation and future-thinking is that of context: historical, cultural, environmental, etc. There’s a tendency in our industry to become totally intoxicated with radical futurism. When we look at the real meaningful shifts that have been made, we don’t see radical breaks with past thinking. We see people who are able to synthesize the past and the future. Take the iPad, for example. The iPad was totally revolutionary in terms of impact and is changing how we interact with one another. But Steve Jobs wasn’t the first person with the idea. Buckminster Fuller was sketching out the social possibilities of mobile devices in the 1930s. And Stanley Kubrick designed a visual prototype in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Technology evolved to make possible the ideas of visionaries such as Fuller and Kubrick, and then a savvy, well-read, and culturally immersed organization fused technology, precedent, and context into a product that we think is revolutionary, when it’s really evolutionary. You plan for innovation by practicing listening and looking to the past as often as you look to the future. We’re starting to see more mature thinking around the proliferation of technology. We’re remembering how to design things in a way that demonstrates awareness of the human and technological contexts. Second Story, as a part of SapientNitro, is, in a lot of ways,approaching innovation in the same way. We’re focused on designing solutions in an environment that is as context-aware as possible.


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful