Today’s post was written by Phillip Tiongson, creative director at Potion.
Potion is a design firm, first and foremost. We believe that good design integrated with technology has the power to amplify humanity. We strive to express ourselves by bringing story, art, design, architecture and computation together to deliver memorable and empathetic interactive experiences for our clients. The experiences we create range from beautifully designed mobile applications, to site-specific interactive installations in museums, cultural centers, healthcare, retail and hospitality environments.
We specialize in creating interactive experiences rooted in storytelling. Unlike traditional services and software consulting companies that create products for any context, we challenge ourselves to make every experience that we build for our clients a bespoke, custom and original piece of software that uniquely conveys their story. Because of this, Potion’s creative process is built around creating a shared vision with our clients of what their original concept will look and feel like, how their stories will inhabit that concept, and how our unique approach to interaction design will bring it to life.
A critical moment in our projects is when Potion first begins to understand and articulate a client’s story. We conduct interviews, hold kick-off meetings, and gather examples of the stories they want to use in the interactive installation or app. Those stories take many different forms and touch on different emotions—from global issues to the human experience. For example, for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, we created an immersive physical installation designed to speak to the story of energy at the epic scale of a complex human city—how it is consumed, generated and most importantly, conserved. Moving from epic to personal scale, we created an interactive exhibit table that allows visitors to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum discover the stories of individual immigrants’ lives—who they loved, where they worked, and how they survived to build their families and fortunes. Potion dives deep into the details of each client’s story so that we can effectively express their message through a bespoke interactive experience.
Once we begin to collect our clients’ stories, Potion faces a challenge of communication. Clients do not think of their stories as “content” to be managed or “sample data,” but rather a collection of material that together conveys a larger narrative. These stories come to us in many different stages of completion, from preliminary notes and images to final drafts ready for visitors. Because content is so integral to the interactive experience that we ultimately create, we start exploring it with our clients from day one—at a time when we are not yet ready to build the final physical installation, but when we need a way to communicate that we understand their story. At the same time, we’ve found that our clients also need a way to visualize their own stories to see the potential of the stories they actually have.
How Sway fits into our process
Over the past 10 years, we have tried almost every type of document sharing that exists with our clients. From email attachments to Word docs to custom websites—we have been looking for a way to share and present the clients’ own stories back to them in a well-designed package that is also time-efficient for us to work within. Sway allows us to gather and organize stories in a clear, coherent form that represents Potion well as a design firm but is also highly collaborative. We can work together on a story with a client that has minimal design skills, but strong narrative ideas, and allow them to incorporate those ideas in a real-time way with us.
Because Sway allows us to work in the cloud, it eliminates huge pain points of working collaboratively with clients, such as dealing with incompatible versions of software, desktop or mobile platforms, email attachment limits, document versioning and technical support. But just as important to us as the practical improvements is the fact that our clients’ stories are represented in a professional, well-designed format that presents their stories with visual respect and impact. Although we have the option to create custom web pages or detailed presentation decks to describe the stories, Sway is more efficient for us to communicate our ideas quickly for feedback and iteration. And best of all, Sway then allows us to continue co-creating stories with our clients.
Potion’s process in creating our interactive installations and apps can take place over months, and is a constant evolution from storyboarding to designing to writing code. Sway has the power to fill an important gap that exists in this process, from the first days when we gather content, to the final phase when content is live in the interactive experience. Sway provides us a place to share, play and collaborate with clients throughout the process, using a form that we are proud to share and express ourselves in. In our first exploration of Sway, we used it to share the story of creating the permanent interactive installation Future Energy Chicago, with the Museum of Science and Industry.
The museum exhibit Future Energy Chicago is an all-digital, immersive gaming environment that gives audiences control over the direction the world is moving, by offering students and citizens the tools for making smart decisions to save Chicago’s future. It’s a multi-faceted project, with five interactive games, an overhead LED lighting sequence, and an animated scoreboard. Sway gives us a platform that allows us to tell the story of Future Energy Chicago in a dynamic and compelling presentation. As a Sway, we bring the case study to life, revealing how the interactive environment behaves and reacts, and the creative process that got us there. We are very proud of the work, and hope that our story inspires you to use Sway to tell your own stories, either to your clients, or to the world.
Keep in touch with us, and our future Sways: @potion_design