And the winner is…

by Pierre

This week’s Monday was a special Monday!
We are proud to announce that our littleBits Pop-Up Store just won a prize in the Branded Environments category of Fast Company’s 2016 Innovation by Design Award!

A big shout-out to our partners in crime who helped bringing this project to life: SSSVLL, studio Pilote, Mister Jaune, Art Domantay, Emilie F. Grenier, David Drury.

Check out  the official announcement here

littleBits, an educational electronic toy company that had previously sold exclusively online, commissioned us to design their first pop-up retail shop. The motivation behind this move to a brick and mortar location was to allow the company, over the course of 6 months, to better understand the relationship between their customers and their products; to create a place for creativity and experimentation. The space was to function not only as a commercial entity but also as a workshop, a laboratory, and a venue for collaboration; allowing the public to inspire and be inspired, to make, and to share their inventions with the world.


This led to a unique store layout, that first introduced visitors to the products and how they are used, then, displayed pre-assembled examples along with simple instructions for replicating them, and finally, revealed a large workshop space, where they could create their own projects. The goal of the workshop was to dissolve the barrier between the technology we consume and the technology we invent. With the many product components, props, materials and recipes available, visitors were free to invent anything, big or small.


In the spirit of open-source, they could then leave their creations for others to remix and remake, or, they could buy them on the spot. Shoppers became inventors.

In order for the project to succeed, users of all knowledge and ability levels would have to be able to engage without feeling confused or intimidated. An objective therefore became designing an experience that democratizes the invention process. Clear and well integrated signage, instructions, and usage examples throughout the space provided beginners with an easy entry point. In addition, the large shared tables in the workshop facilitated collaboration and knowledge sharing between visitors, and staff stationed at each worktable were always ready to assist at the call of an electronic page button.


The large-scale touch activated musical wall, as well as the kinetic window display (both created using the retail products) provided further opportunities to connect, hypothesize, and inspire more advanced projects.


Because of the temporary nature of the store, and to accommodate the potentially changing needs of the company as they learned more about their products, all of the interior furniture was designed to be modular to allow for re-organization, project showcasing and redeployment.

One solution was the custom pegboard, which became an important design element creating a recurring motif throughout the retail space. Custom modular plexiglass shelving, along with standard pegboard hardware were mounted to the giant pegboards, providing all of the necessary storage, display fixtures and functionality of traditional workshops. All other furniture was similarly designed to be multi-use and adaptable.


The littleBits pop-up store served as a lab for consumers and as a classroom for littleBits, allowing them to further reinvent themselves, the retail experience, and the world around them.

McLarena at IN Light IN Festival

by Pierre

We recently came back from Indianapolis, where we were invited by our friends at Northern Lights.mn to show McLarena as part of IN Light IN, the city’s very own light festival held from August 26th to 27th.

Two years after its original presentation in Montreal, we were looking forward to being able to bring the collective Canon experience back to life, this time to our neighbors in the US!


Despite the Midwest’s capricious weather (ie. tornado warning, thunderstorms and heavy rain up to 30 minutes prior to the opening) the event was a big success and brought thousands of visitors to the city’s Cultural Trail and gorgeous Central Canal area.

Over two nights, more than 160 people contributed their best moves to reproduce collectively the original Canon choreography.

Here is a little best of:
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Psst: We invite those of you dear readers who might have missed it to check out this two-part behind the scenes story about the project.

Many thanks to all the people who made this possible: Joanna Nixon & all the IN Light IN team, Steve Dietz & Northern Lights.mn, Quartier des Spectacles, NFB, CREOS.


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Reimagining Public Spaces at New Cities Summit 2016

by Melissa

Written by MELISSA, FADY, and SARAH


As part of continuing work on collaboration in public spaces, we were invited along with our sister company Infinite City to host a workshop at the 2016 New Cities Summit held in Montréal. Surrounding the theme ‘The Age of Urban Tech’, the summit attracted 600 world-leading civic innovators and provided a diverse exploration in urban innovation at the hopes of empowering citizens in the thick of technology.

The challenge: urban spaces and cooperation

Can we create cooperative experiences where people dare to do something new and celebrate a collective pride of their cities? What kind of impact do these projects generate?

For our workshop ‘Reviving public spaces through cooperation’ we gathered a group of urban enthusiasts from a diverse set of backgrounds and had them imagine their own solutions for activating a public space through collaboration. Zooming in on the urban narrative of cooperation, we used The Swings as a benchmark for a project that has earned a proven track record to positively impact public spaces. We presented hard data that was generated from sensors located inside the swing seats and both soft data and evaluation criteria from an impact study we commissioned the CLUE Group to do in West Palm Beach and Detroit.


Sunshine research and ideation

Using the space as context to collectively imagine a project, we brought a group of 50 participants to Quartier des Spectacles to survey the site, the people and the stories. Former home of the city’s red light district, the area encompasses 8 public spaces with cultural programming, 80 cultural venues and 450 cultural enterprises. The site receives a large amount of foot traffic yet lacks a layer of human connection and playfulness.

Participants were split into two type of groups – site and people – to observe the space and engage with passersby. Fresh groups were then formed to brainstorm site-specific urban scenarios of cooperation based on their investigations. We also encouraged participants to create their unique set of criteria and to imagine the potential impact of their ideas.

Brainstorming highlights

Quick and dirty ideas were put forward, such as collaborative BBQs and communal food events in which members of the community take turns cooking for each other, the development of a site-specific platform between locals and tourists and greening pre-existing urban furniture and landscape in the area (made primarily of concrete). All groups agreed that bridging the physical to the digital is a compelling and much-needed exercise. All in all, the workshop proved the potential in bringing people together to collaborate on a common endeavour.


Want more?

Join us in Austin, TX for round 2 this October at SxSW ECO.

Hé, nos amis francophones! LaPresse ont parlé de l’évolution des balançoires et du concept de l’atelier. Lisez l’article ici pour en savoir plus.

Psst: Shoutout to John Marcicky, Director of Public Space Activation & Placemaking at Rock Ventures LLC (and key player in bringing The Swings to Detroit this winter) for being an excellent undercover workshop participant.