Despite all its challenges, the covid-19 pandemic has shown us the connective powers of virtual technology. Microsoft’s Strategic Prototyping Group asked Belle & Wissell to help them explore what the future of a family’s story-time might be like, and how we can keep in touch with family members from afar. Take a peek into the future.

Interactive Storyworld at Microsoft’s Envisioning Center

Connecting with nature is more important than ever to our mental health. Research has shown that “forest bathing,” the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, can lessen anxiety and improve wellbeing.

We designed an immersive media experience at Understory that provides an up-close look at Amazon’s world-class botanical collection.

Special thanks to project partners Studio Matthews, JREMco, Graham Baba Architects, NBBJ, AVI-SPL, YCD Multimedia, and Planar Systems, Inc.

Located at over 250 locations worldwide, USO is the nation’s leading charitable organization serving active-duty service members and military families.

The team at Belle & Wissell created an interactive experience for the newly renovated Bob Hope USO at LAX. It warmly welcomes troops and their families, and asks them to add their hometowns to a digital map.

Learn more about this project.

Architectural design by Gensler.

Belle & Wissell was asked to design and deploy a computer-driven, dynamic digital signage system to support experimental venue Octave 9. The Octave 9 Multiplex is the key ingredient in activating the streetscape outside Benaroya Hall.

Using a custom-built CMS to populate content templates, the Symphony can promote performances with a cohesive typography system and playful, animating color schemes. Learn more about Octave 9 and its digital signage system.

How do you make an art museum accessible to the visually impaired? Working closely with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and accessibility consultant Sina Bahram, the team at Belle & Wissell developed a system that allows everyone to explore artwork through an interactive, audio-rich experience—the first of its kind in an American museum.

Learn more about Eyes-Free Mode at SFMOMA.

Make-A-Wish America enlisted Belle & Wissell and architect WorksBureau to design a visitor experience at their national headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona. The collective team developed engaging ways to tell their brand story through the Legacy Timeline, and to highlight and visualize the enormous magnitude of wishes they’ve granted through the years on a Digital Wish Wall.

Learn more about this project.

Octave 9, the Seattle Symphony’s experimental music venue, gives fresh meaning to the term “multisensory.” With an intimate performance space, cutting edge audio technology, and a library of generative visual themes, Octave 9 engages with audiences on a whole new level. Learn more about what it took to realize Octave 9:

Belle & Wissell worked closely with the Seattle Symphony to craft the Immersive Canvas: a visual accompaniment to live performances. Built to respond to live instrumentation with over 30 visual effects, the Immersive Canvas transforms Octave 9 into an expressive palette of pattern and color.

Octave 9 is a space for experimentation, fusing traditional music performance with new technologies. To further explore the interdisciplinary possibilities, the generative visual effects engine may be customized by visiting artists and Octave 9 staff. Visual themes can be choreographed and switched with the tap of a foot pedal, or timed according to a piece of music.

Belle & Wissell collaborated with a suite of highly-capable project partners to bring Octave 9 to life. LMN Architects evolved the challenging space into one well-suited for experimental performances, while Meyer Sound technologies and Jaffe Holden acoustic engineers provided the equipment and expertise to deliver immersive, incredible sound quality.

Additional project details, photos, and video documentation are available here.

 

Belle & Wissell’s new interactive media experience—the Tribute Wall, located at UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering—invites the next generation of innovators to the new Bill & Melinda Gates Center. The video wall’s distinct ambient and story modes welcome visitors of all ages and interests.

The Tribute Wall’s abstract visualizations provide a tranquil, yet active, backdrop for the Center’s bustling foyer. When a visitor approaches, story cards (prompted by embedded motion sensors) automatically appear, offering engaging narratives with the tap of a finger.

Bill Gates views Tribute Wall content during the new Center's Dedication Event in February 2019.

Bill Gates views Tribute Wall content during the new Center’s Dedication Event in February 2019. Credit: Matt Hagen/Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering

 

Visitors can explore a vast selection of stories pertaining to Computer Science & Engineering (CSE), sorted into five themes: CSE at the University of Washington, Diversity in the field, Innovation in the Pacific Northwest, and the accomplishments of Bill & Melinda Gates and Paul G. Allen.

These final two topics trace a familiar Pacific Northwest history. Though it was founded in Albuquerque, Microsoft was born and built in Seattle. Bill and Paul first met at the Lakeside School Programmers Club, where the boys—then age 14 and 16—bonded over a love of computing. With help from the Lakeside Mothers’ Club, the students purchased a Teletype Model 33 and access to a GE timesharing computer. These early experiences laid the foundation for Bill and Paul’s decades-long collaboration. 

Bill Gates addresses attendees, retelling his and Paul Allen's early exploits at the UW Computer Science & Engineering Department.

Bill Gates addresses attendees, retelling his and Paul Allen’s early exploits at the UW Computer Science & Engineering Department. Credit: Mark Stone/University of Washington

 

Listen to an excerpt from Bill Gates’ remarks here.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Center was made possible by a group of local philanthropists and early Microsoft employees, affectionately dubbed the “Friends of Bill & Melinda.” Their investment will help the Allen School continue its work furthering diversity in the field. Already the Allen School is a leader among universities, with twice the national average of women graduates in CSE. Outreach to K–12 students, programs for disabled, Eyes-Free, and hard-of-hearing or Deaf communities, and women’s mentorship groups are some of the ways the Allen School is building a more representative field. 

Some smaller visitors learn about CSE at the  Tribute Wall.

Some smaller visitors—perhaps future Allen School students—explore the Tribute Wall. Credit: Hank Levy/Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering

 

Belle & Wissell built a CMS to allow for easy updating and additions to Tribute Wall content. Stories refresh every quarter, including news from the Allen School on the undergraduate community, award winners, and new research from graduate students and faculty.

Learn about what drives Belle & Wissell’s work, as the studio’s founder presents at the Society for Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD) Exhibition and Experience Design Conference.

In this 30-minute workshop titled “Expanding the Experience (Through Collaboration)”, Gabe describes what he learned from experiments in collaboration at Born Magazine—and details Born’s impact on Belle & Wissell’s work for SFMOMA and Understory (at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle).

On Thursday, September 6, Belle & Wissell hosted a crowd of clients, collaborators, friends, and family to celebrate its fifteen year anniversary. The event’s primary theme was focused on the phases of The Moon, the passage of time, and the collaborative works that the studio has completed since its inception. Of course, the event included some further peppering of self-initiated projects from the studio’s history, focusing on experimentation with new technologies and narrative (many of which relate to time and space travel.)

A series of artful media installations celebrating these themes were presented throughout the studio’s new offices, prototyping space, and shared home at Oxbow—a lively arts compound dedicated to cross-disciplinary collaboration in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Oxbow regularly presents site specific installations from its artist-in-residence program, but also contains offices and fabrication shop for design-build partner BEMA, as well as three restaurants (Ciudad Grill, Bar Ciudad, and Lorena’s Kitchen).

Media installations peppered the studio's new facility in Georgetown

Media installations interspersed the studio’s new facility in Georgetown

 

A highlight of the evening was an experimental multimedia performance, with concert pianist Cristina Valdés as the center piece with participation from the Belle & Wissell studio team. The performance was a redux of the rather peculiar, narrative vinyl record project made years earlier, entitled R.H. Wissell’s Lost Recordings. The “story record” included music composed by Wayne Horvitz (produced by Steve Fisk and William Ronan of DCC Experience), narrative voice-over from David Ossman (best known for his work with Fire Sign Theater), and writing by David Drury.

Live multimedia performance

Live multimedia performance incorporated pianist Cristina Valdés’, audio-triggered generative visual sequences, and voiceover monologues.

 

View from the mezzanine of the festivities

View of the festivities (from the mezzanine).

 

Guests captivated by a multimedia "performance"

Guests captivated by a multimedia performance.

 

Guest accessing content from the studio archives

By pressing a button labeled “ACCESS”, guests could retrieve printed data from the studio archives.