One of the best things about being in a code school is getting to tour some of the web development shops around town. A tour is a lot different than a open house because you usually get to meet a principal and/or hiring manager and hear their thoughts on what makes their company unique.
A couple weeks ago we toured Second Story, a Portland-based interactive agency recently acquired by Sapient Nitro. Second Story’s site describes their space as an “innovation center”, which is a good description of what we got to see. There were plenty of examples of their interactive design in their lab, some for brands like Nike and some for museums and universities. One of the most impressive projects was the companion website for an expansive photography exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art:
In 2001, the Museum of Modern Art acquired more than 300 iconic photographs from Thomas Walther’s private collection. Spanning the first half of the 20th century, these works represent a period of unprecedented photographic creativity as new techniques and technologies became widely available. Object:Photo brings these photographs and the research of MoMA’s curatorial team to life in the form of four visualizations that allow users to explore both the collection and the artists represented in a variety of contexts.
The area of Second Story’s interactive design work that most excited me was using technology, especially soundscapes, to enhance public works and exhibits. One example was the “reactivation” of Lawrence Halprin’s Lovejoy Fountain in downtown Portland.
I reached out to Chris Carlson, an Interactive Developer at Second Story, who worked on the Lovejoy Fountain project. Chris was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. I asked him about his job and about the tools he uses. He mentioned Open Frameworks, Open Sound Control (OSC), and Max/MSP. I have some experience with Max and OSC, but none using Open Frameworks. It looks pretty amazing:
I also asked Chris if he had any advice for a new developer. He mentioned being willing to learn new tools and having a solid portfolio, which I think is the most common refrain I’ve heard when it comes to career advice in the field of web development. People want to see that you’re passionate about making things. One of Chris’s projects outside of Second Story is an elegant application called Borderlands Granular. It allows you to visualize granular synthesis while interacting with default audio or even your own uploaded samples (where the real fun begins).
Interactive design is a field I’m going to be exploring more, so I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it here.