Interview with Downstream

Surprise! Wonder! Magic! Downstream is all of that and a can of soup. Known for being a global leader in the development of unique, digitally augmented environments and public spaces. Their projects invite visitors to dig deeper, to think critically, and to connect with information on a human level.

During Design Week Portland, you’ll have the chance to experience their work up close and personal at AIGA Portland’s exhibit, Blurred Lines: A Curated Exploration of the Future of Interaction (held October 9-11, 2013 at Refuge PDX).

We asked the Downstream team a few questions about their Blurred Lines installation. This is what they had to say:

What are you creating for Blurred Lines and who is the team working on it?
Our installation is called: “Reality Remix.” #dwpdx attendees will experience a view of their reality that is distorted, or ‘remixed,’ in interesting ways – all set to music. The Reality Remix installation is in effect an experiential equalizer.

Team members are: Trent Hays – CTS (Systems Integration Manager), Sean Fitzgerald (Technical Director), Gordon Nickel (Lead Developer), Brian James (Design Director), Robert Schroeder (Senior Designer), Maggie Bethke (Senior Designer) and Gerry Sposato (Senior Designer).

Whoah, sounds wild! What inspired you to make this?
We wanted to create something interactive, but not in the traditional sense. Rather, we aimed for something that would be reactive – reacting to AIGA guests and the ambience, mood and music in the event space. Ultimately, we sought to meld what we do everyday – building unique interactive environments – with a fun showpiece for the local design community.

Discover table at the Verizon Innovation Center

What’s been your favorite part of working on this project so far?
Distilling our many ideas down into a single final concept that is cool and yet achievable. We had about a half dozen viable concepts. The Reality Remix was the best balance of fun, fast and affordable. But, we had a bit of an advantage because that’s what we do for our clients every day.

Why do you think people will be excited about your installation?
People enjoy interacting with things. People enjoy being the center of attention. People enjoy seeing distortions of themselves. And, people love music. Our installation offers people an opportunity to try to figure out the cause and effect of what is driving the distortions.

Abraham Lincoln was a person. If he time traveled to Portland next month and came to Blurred Lines, what would he say about Reality Remix?
“Is my boy Daniel Day-Lewis up in here?!”
“Four score and 7 seconds ago, I really liked that last riff.”
“I’m gonna throw a selfie from #dwpdx on my Instagram feed.”

Matthew Knight Arena

Johnson Controls Technology Experience Center

Of course this isn’t a competition… but what makes your installation the best?
We’ve made it fun and simple, void of complication. No apps to download. No bull$h!t. The bottom line: People will have more fun with ours than other installations. Period. End.

What confidence… and cursing. I like it!

Last year was the the very first Design Week Portland. People are still buzzing about it. What do you think made it so great?
The opportunity to experience inventive new designs and the inspiration and reaffirming pride we derived from knowing that Portland offers a thriving design community and culture.

Yeah, Portland’s design community is pretty rad. What most excites you about the creative scene here?
The incredible growth in recent years. The economy is recovering; there is investment in the local tech sector and a new influx of VC funding, as well as an explosion of new creative agencies in Portland.

Are there any challenges we face?
Attracting top talent to a largely unknown region remains a longstanding challenge. We have great, talented people here in Portland doing strong work. Additionally, while we have truly talented designers in Portland, we don’t have a broad enough set of skills generally across the local market. The “unicorns” exist here, there are just not yet enough. We may need to cultivate, grow and train those people right here in our own backyard.

What is good design?
Good design is obvious. Great design is invisible.

Cheers to that!

Thanks to the team over at Downstream for all their hard work. We can’t wait to see Abraham Lincoln taking selfies as he remixes reality next month at Blurred Lines!

You too can experience Downstream’s Reality Remix October 9-11th at Blurred Lines: A Curated Exploration of the Future of Interaction – where leading design studios in Portland share their experiences of what can (and may) happen when light, sound, images, motion, culture and history combine. Explore a space like you’ve never imagined, grab a drink at the bar and groove on music spun by different DJ’s each night.

Buy your tickets now at:

Published September 11, 2013
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