“When we say the work comes first, we are saying that things work best when everyone – client and agency alike – are focused on whether or not this is great damn work. Politics aside. Egos aside. Is this hot shit, or not?”
The work comes first. When Wieden+Kennedy asked us to create a permanent installation with these words, our response was to make sure we meant it. It needed be a demonstration of the ingenuity, creativity, and patience for tedium that goes into truly great work. Not just another projection screen or the newest new trick–something interactive but handcrafted. And handcrafted by us.
We proposed that we build a wall made up of parts you can pick up at any hardware store: a couple pegboards and a bucket of screws. We’d spell out “The Work Comes First” by placing screws in the pegboard and manipulating them with 3D-tracked hand movements. It would be fun to play with, to touch, to hear. It would be a couture piece of technology with a blue-collar aesthetic.
In typical W+K fashion we had a great idea, but then realized that we weren’t entirely sure how to make it. The collective experience of the team at Wieden+Kennedy’s Creative Technology department put us in the realm of possibility. But we had to start small. We knew where we needed to go, but had only a rough idea of how to get there. We figured the screws didn’t need to travel an enormous distance. The sound would be cool and the right lighting would probably give us shadows that would accentuate the movement.
Our first real prototype was a small brown pegboard controlling nine screws with a LEAP sensor. To help move from the prototype to the final installation, we enlisted the help of Mark Keppinger from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). We moved from a perfboard for nine to an array of custom designed and printed circuit boards which each operate thirty-two solenoids. Design was finalized and colors selected. We flushed out our Cinder app to work with two 3D sensors and control an arbitrarily large network of physical pixels.
To help figure out just how the hell we’d build this structure and mount our cluster of components, we called Rob Off. The sixteen foot wide wall was cut and the custom pegboard CNC’d. Nearly nine hundred solenoids were modified to attach the screws. Over two miles of wire were hand split, cut, and soldered to attach each solenoid to the circuitry. Thousands of tubes of heat shrink-wrap were shrunk.
The wall was shipped back across town in four sections to the gallery space at Wieden+Kennedy where it was reassembled and tuned for the space. And as people arrived, what at first appeared to just be a nice-looking motto began to respond to people’s movements. “The Work Comes First” is a permanent installation on the fourth floor of the Wieden+Kennedy Portland office. It stands as a testament to what the mantra means and the handcrafted approach that we take with all projects within the agency.
Stephen Schieberl, Evan Cordes, Zhao He and Mike Latzoni : Creative technology, electronics, software, and fabrication
Ben Sellon & Krystle Mortimore : Producers
Ayse Altinok : Art Director
Joe Paganucci : Design and fabrication
Tamar Berk : Project Manager
Karrelle Dixon : Account Director
Rob Off : Fabrication
Mark Keppinger : Electronics
David Potter : Camera and Edit
Michael Gersten : Music