Our Story

Building secret portals for ordinary moments since 2009

Waiting for the doctor. Checking out a book. Stepping out of the elevator. People don’t realize they’re about to discover another dimension of human potential. 

For public spaces wanting to create memorable moments, we make art for the public to make art with.

This is difficult to do in public spaces.

Interactive art must be multi-generational, multi-sensory, and multi-user.

Every barrier to creativity must be removed–including removable parts.

The story of Hero Design

Hero Design specializes in human interaction design for public spaces. For more than a decade, we’ve been developing durable, interactive installations for people of all ages.

We see art as a portal.

We design products to allow collaboration while celebrating the individual contribution.   

Over the years, we were drawn to projects that let us solve these problems.

For instance:

  • iPad stop-motion animation stations for a multisite kids camp
  • Rube Goldberg-inspired machines, from small-scale interactive contraptions to an enormous traveling roadshow
  • Kid-designed STEAM furniture for a library
  • Self-assembling musical contraption individually sculpted and then “orchestrated” by students
  • Top-secret James-Bond-inspired briefcases that popped open to reveal a case of wonders
  • Cardboard karaoke playhouses to give kids some privacy, with plastic windows so they could still be observed
  • Algorithmically-generated Voronoi bookshelf program that anyone could use to design their own Voronoi bookshelf, which was then flat-packed and shipped to them
  • Kinetic marble runs designed to be both simple and engaging 

When asked for a proposal to build a giant light brite, we wondered, Is there a simpler way to do this? We imagined a streamlined machine for creativity. 

The Everbright: The early years

You can’t have growth without pain and reflection, and you can’t build a highly durable product without solving some problems in public spaces.

The first Everbright took a very long time to make. The next one took longer. We had created something wholly new, and we encountered some wholly original problems. Each problem was solved and integrated as a solution into our core design, as well as implemented in the field whenever possible.

The Everbright will always be a labor of love. We’re grateful for the opportunity to make each one, and proud of the history and the quality behind it. 

Our obsession with
simple design + durabilty

is why the Everbright holds up to millions of visits
& keeps delighting each person who discovers it

Consistency equals durability.

When you are creating something for humans, you don’t want to lose the feeling that a human was behind it. The material must be durable, without giving up the warmth and the tactile satisfaction of a handcrafted object. We wrestled with this balance between touchability and durability. In the end, we decided to use injection-molded parts for the internal components that needed to be perfectly consistent and durable, while continuing to hand-craft every other element.

We took these steps to evolve the Everbright into a durable kinetic art installation for public spaces:

Precision-molded parts to withstand millions of visits

Customizable luminance, so owners can wirelessly lower the brightness

Intentionally under-driving high-quality LEDs to maximize their longevity over many years

Prioritizing human touch and interactivity over light shows and high-intensity displays

Generous ventilation and cooling fans to provide both passive and active ventilation

Automatic erasing after custom intervals of inactivity

Animations to inspire creativity without overstimulation

Wireless upgrades to open up the potential for a new experience every day

Quality craftsmanship takes time and requires patience. We produce a limited number of Everbrights each year
so that we can maintain our high standards for optical clarity and workmanship.

Leadership

Alan Rorie

Partner, Director of Design

“Keep it simple.”

Trained as a scientist with a PhD in Neuroscience from Stanford University, Dr. Alan Rorie has been featured in the science journal Nature, the technology and culture publication Wired, and an array of blogs and web-pages. His scientific work has been published in Science, PLoS and The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. He has been a fellow at The Exploratorium, the museum of science, art and human perception, and a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health and New York University. The Everbright incorporates much of what he believes as an artist, a scientist, and a maker.

Kelly Parkinson

Partner, Director of Content Experience

“We want to deliver modern, colorful creativity machines that spontaneously induce moments of flow.”

Prior to joining Hero Design in 2015, Kelly spent ten years perfecting a playbook for producing novel and appropriate ideas, under the guise of running a creative services business as an Addy-award-winning marketer and copywriter. Her work life began as a medical writer for a healthcare search engine. After developing interactive health maps for cancer to asthma to anaphylaxis, she joined the Peace Corps, where she designed lesson plans to engage (and teach) classes of 100+ students at a time in Guinea, West Africa. Raised when there were more chickens than houses in Cucamonga, she migrated north to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she wrote and slept at the student newspaper. After graduation, she continued north to San Francisco, where she has lived ever since.

About the Everbright

The Everbright by Hero Design is an interactive light board composed of hundreds of color dials that turn endlessly in either direction through the color spectrum. The entire board erases with the press of a button, removing every obstacle to creativity. Designed to be an elegant re-imagining of the giant Lite-Brite–without removable parts, the dials twist easily by people of all ages and abilities, so people can create together and experiment with color, patterns, and geometry.

About Hero Design LLC

WE LIGHT UP
creativity & curiosity
hope & imagination
we bring magic into
simple everyday experiences

Hero Design LLC is a human interaction design and fabrication studio based in West Oakland, California and led by neuroscientist-designer Alan Rorie, PhD. We design physical, embodied interactions that require the use of human hands, eyes, and bodies, that are imbued with the sense of touch. We believe that physical, embodied interactions are required conditions for a meaningful experience of creativity. And that creativity is a required condition for the experience of every human. Creativity is embedded into the structure of the human body. The brain evolved through the coordination of the hands and the eyes, working together. Nothing is more satisfying to the brain than the manipulation of an object with the hands, while the eye is beholding it. We believe in putting this interaction at the forefront.

The Everbright is designed, engineered, and individually fabricated by Hero Design LLC

Site Design Rebecca Pollock
Branding Braid Creative
Site Development Alchemy + Aim