Staying Relevant in a Constantly Changing World with Matthew McNerney

Matthew McNerney’s projects are rooted in a deep respect for content. Rather than a set of aesthetic choices—color, materials, typefaces—Matthew looks at projects from a holistic view: How do staff members greet visitors? What’s the guest’s experience after their visit? How can seasonal programming change or preserve an institution’s voice? Honoring these nuances result in strategic solutions that are site- and client-specific.

At the 2017 SEGD Xlabevent, Potion’s Director of Design will share his insight on what disruption means for immersive environments and how he has integrated new platforms to enhance the user experience. Here, Matthew discusses his session on Disrupted Storytelling ( sponsored by xibitz), his approach to design and what it takes to lead innovation.

How do you approach design?

I’m obsessed with content. Great design is born from truly knowing your client and their ecosystem. We’re in an age of derivative everything—film, music, design. We’re one click away from hundreds of previous examples of solutions. Deep research and surrendering to the particular content of your client ensures unique and—most importantly—enduring solutions.

The theme of the Xlab event is "Experience Design in the Era of Disruption." What does "disruption" look like to you?

Disruption—for me—is about creating the conditions for someone to be present. When an experience is successful, everything else melts away for that moment; successful disruption demands full attention. That’s a tall order.

Devices are buzzing, feeds are refreshing, new cat videos are being uploaded every second—everything is screaming “Look here!” As an experiential and environmental designer, it’s my job to craft experiences that cut through the noise—or sometimes even harness those impulses for another purpose.

What are some of your favorite Potion projects that showcase innovation?

By definition, every one of Potion’s projects are bespoke solutions—we’re in a constant state of innovation. But my favorite Potion projects are defined by their outcomes more than their designs.

For the Tenement Museum, we brought physical objects to life and let them tell their own stories, but the real innovation was how it enabled intimate, meaningful conversations among strangers.

At Wexner Medical Center, we created a magical forest where their youngest patients were able to adopt a digital pet. But the real innovation was how doctors were able to be more effective healers because the children were less stressed.

And for our new work with the Cleveland Museum of Art, we created a 75+ foot panoramic projection with over sixteen custom gesture-based games—but the real innovation was how it drove art-shy visitors deep into the museum’s galleries.

Please describe your session.

Spoiler alert! That’s no fun. Let’s just say it’ll be a hearty mix of theories, stubbornly-held opinions, case studies and prognosticating about the future of mixed reality in public spaces.

What do you hope attendees will take away from your session?

The lasting impression? That an agnostic approach to technology and experience design enables us to stay relevant in a constantly changing world.

What will participants get to see on your tour?

It’s hardly a tour—it’s more of a workshop! Sure, you’ll be able to stare at the piles on our desks, but we’re inviting people to Potion for a hands-on workshop that showcases how we ideate on new projects.

We’ve been developing a Concept Toolkit over the past few years; it helps us collaborate with our clients to develop critical framing questions for our projects. We’ll run some of those activities, as well as have some fun demos and prototypes up for attendees to try—including some of the projects I’ll be presenting at Xlab!

What are you most excited about for the 2017 SEGD Xlab event?

Xlab is where the best minds in digital get together to take the pulse of a rapidly evolving industry. We’re a unique tribe, scattered across the country. So no matter how synthetically connected we are online, being together in person always brings a different energy, new possibilities for collaborations, new friendships. That’s priceless.

Join Matthew at 2017 SEGD Xlab, November 2 (event) and 3 (tours) in New York City. Space is limited—register now!

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