Play Pen

The Wacom Experience Center: Portland’s new high-tech hub of collaboration and innovation

In April, the 34-year-old Tokyo tech business Wacom (1455 NW Irving St, 855-699-2266,, which creates cutting-edge pen displays and tablet styluses, moved their US headquarters from Vancouver, Washington, to the Pearl District. But Wacom (in Japanese, wa means “harmony” and com means “computers”) didn’t just sneak into the neighborhood. It burst onto the scene, opening an innovative and sleek office on the top three floors of the brand-new Pearl West building. And on the ground floor, Wacom unveiled the company’s first Experience Center, which it intends to be “the living room for Portland’s creative community.”

Megan Davis, Wacom’s Experience Center manager, says the company moved to the Pearl to be in the trenches with that creative community. “When we look around, we see our clients.”

The Experience Center is well worth checking out, even if you don’t work in the tech industry. Visitors can use pens that have 1,050–8,000 points of pressure sensitivity and are wielded by the artists at Pixar and Disney. There are thousands of brush types, colors, and mediums you can choose with just a click. But beware that once you sit at a work station, an hour can turn to three hours just like that.

“It’s equal parts event space, art gallery, classroom, think tank, and workshop space.”

In keeping with the classic Pearl District style, the Experience Center is minimal and contemporary with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. Wacom’s products are set up in this airy space for the public to experiment with. It isn’t a retail space—rather the rows of computers and tablets are meant to support and build the creative community. The room is easily converted into a lecture hall as well. Teachers can arrange to visit with their classes, the space hosts guest lecturers, artists display their works here on First Thursdays, and the space might even host a raucous party, like last September’s kickoff gala for Rose City Comic Con.

“I like the flexibility of the venue,” Davis says. “It’s equal parts event space, art gallery, classroom, think tank, and workshop space.” –Ellee Thalheimer | Photo by River Bell