Second Story: Where we live, where we work

[Traci Sym & Daniel Meyers] Our founders, Brad Johnson and Julie Beeler began Second Story in 1994 and lead the studio where we work. As the studio has grown in size and migrated north from the Bay Area to Portland, Ore., it has attracted an exceptional group of collaborators with an always-surprising variety of personal histories and professional experiences. Like our colleagues here, we love this region, and this city.

Something about the place attracted us all here in spite of (or perhaps because of) our diversity of interests and experiences. Our work regularly takes us far away from Oregon yet, paradoxically, we see place as integral to our identity. Our studio responds to its exterior environment as well as to the people inside it, and this in turn informs the way we work.

Second Story is an innovation center pioneering new interactive experiences. We push the boundaries of storytelling for brands and institutions across digital channels—web, mobile and installations—empowering audiences to connect and share.

Our studio is made up of a particularly broad spectrum of people, ideas, interests and inspirations. Because of this variety of perspectives, collaborative efforts are always lively, passionate and engaged, and the results of these efforts are greater than the sum of their parts. We are dreamers, thinkers and makers who are passionate about blending media, ideas and technology. We playfully explore and apply new ideas, transforming challenges into engaging and memorable experiences.

You can get a sense of what you might find beyond the doors of our studio from the moment you walk in. This studio is a place where thought and action coexist.

It’s also a place where multitalented and driven people, from wildly diverse professional backgrounds, have found a home. The paths that have led each of us here have not been typical or linear, and as a result we tend to have interests and skills that are not conventionally related to our professional efforts. Our lives involve a great deal of off-hours noodling, making, exploring, materials, mediums, and just plain being excited about getting our hands dirty. Our extracurricular activities extend far beyond the world of interactive media, and this diversity of inspiration serves to add a depth and dimension to our work that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

The studio itself is filled with inspiration: artworks, textures, exposures, layers and forms. We’re artists. We fill our spaces with tools, reminders, inspirations and totems. We make workspaces that mirror our landscape and our city. Because we’re technically, culturally and aesthetically omnivorous, we compulsively marry handwork and traditional materials with contemporary technical and process-based forms of expression.

Our individual and collaborative workspaces are a natural extension of our larger context. We’re drawn to Portland and the Pacific Northwest because this is the best place in the world to inhabit the margins between city and wilderness, and between tradition and innovation. Diversity of experience defines a life here, whether it be the spatial diversity of our city or the freedom of the woods and mountains outside our door.

The richness of culture and the richness of the wild.

Above all else, we are storytellers. The diversity of this environment and the diversity of experience and capability of the people who are drawn to it allow us to tell stories and to make narrative landscapes in new and unexpected ways. Through our own creative process, as individuals and as a group, these stories expand beyond the walls of the studio.

Inside the studio, our process informs how we, as collaborators, tell stories and develop experiences through technology and media.

There are tactile expressions in each that pass between those two worlds.

The evolution of interactive media means the story no longer flows in one direction, from the one to the many. Through a framework of possibility that visitors use to weave their own story, the narrative is only visible in hindsight—when their path is revealed, the path that was their history, their story—that is the second story.

Daniel Meyers (creative director, Environments) and Traci Sym (producer) live and work in Portland, Ore., at Second Story Interactive Studios. Like many of their colleagues they’ve come from other places and done many other things. Daniel (a Navy veteran) studied medieval English literature and was a practicing guitarmaker before his graduate degree and professional work in architecture. Traci studied acting and worked in the dramatic performing arts and also as a designer and producer of interactive experiences for private clients and public institutions before coming to Second Story.

Since 2006, Second Story has occupied its current North Portland studio on the second floor of a converted warehouse that they designed from the inside out to serve their creative enterprises. Other Felt & Wire friends who also call Portland home include C.C. Stern Type Foundry, Power & Light Press and one of our favorite contributors, Laura Tarrish.

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Comments (6)

  1. Posted by notely on 10.4.12 at 10:30 am

    Cool space, cool people. Second Story’s work is really incredible so it’s no surprise that their studio is just as amazing. Can anyone tell me more about the image where the kids are touching the interactive (?) screen?

  2. Posted by traci on 10.4.12 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks @notely! The photo you’re asking about is from a session we had in our lab to test a new piece of multitouch hardware.

  3. Posted by notely on 10.4.12 at 2:48 pm

    Thank you. The photography of your studio is really great.

  4. Posted by Terry on 10.4.12 at 3:19 pm

    Looks like a stimulating, creative and fun place to work.

  5. Posted by Lee Moody on 10.4.12 at 3:41 pm

    ~ love the whole story of cool people coming together ~ cool space ~ cool projects !
    It makes me regret living in NYC for so long ~ and not moving out west~ I love Oregon too :>)
    Photos are yummy ~ and you got me at “storytelling” C O O L !!!

  6. Posted by John Mohr on 10.5.12 at 5:51 am

    What a fantastic place to work and live! Thanks for sharing the story.

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