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Designer Interviews: Nelly Ben Hayoun, experience designer

Fri, 10 May 2013 00:00:00 -0700

This article was first published on WGSN-homebuildlife, the online trend forecasting and product design tool provides analysis, research and global creative intelligence for the fashion and apparel industry.

Shortcuts Originally trained in Textile Design at ENSAAMA, Nelly Ben Hayoun graduated with an MA in Design Interactions from the RCA in 2009 She is now a lecturer for Central Saint Martins' Textile Futures MA course, and participates in conferences and events all over the world as well as regularly running workshops Ben Hayoun is currently touring her International Space Orchestra film, which will be presented at Design Indaba and is also on show at Z33's latest exhibition Space Odyssey 2.0 Read WGSN's new experience design report, Dematerialised, for more on where this trend is heading for consumers

Nelly Ben Hayoun specializes in designing large-scale and transformative experiences, often with a connection to space science. Her projects to date have included research proposals for future meats, forming an orchestra of scientists and futurists to perform an opera inspired by ground control, inventing a chair that simulates a rocket launch, and creating the experience of being inside a massive sonic boom.

Car Design News How would you describe what you do for a living to someone you had just met?

Nelly Ben Hayoun I would say that I design experiences where you can become an astronaut in your living room, watch a volcano erupting in your back garden. I don't think my work is that complicated: the thing about experience design is that you can build in many different layers. So you can go through Super K Sonic Booooum and meet with a scientist, but you might not want to know about his job; and that's fine, you can still go through the installation and have a physical experience. Engaging at that stage is okay by me. But if you want to know more about the science, you can interact with them. That's why I'll always involve scientists as part of a project, so they can be actors as well as part of the installation. There are many different layers.

I will look at a more speculative area and think, what will this technology give us in the next ten years? And then I will generate a platform for discussion. So you will always have an installation followed by a debate or discussion, that you may or may not take part in. It depends on how much you want to know.

Everything that seems impossible, I will try to do: that's where I design an experience. If you want to be there when the Hadron Collider is switched on, you're not a scientist so you can't do that. But you can have a metaphysical moment in your kitchen. That's how all projects start off: with an impossible problem, and then figuring out the different ways in which I can make it happen.

I am a designer, but I'm also a director, producer, writer, so there are all these different layers. You have to be all these things at once if you want to design experiences. You have to understand interior architecture as well, and health and safety. There is a massive risk element: my projects are maybe 90% risk and 10% me being rational and believing that when the curtain comes up, things are going to be fine.

CDN Why do you think experience design is becoming so important? It's now an entire field of design.

NBH Design is intimately about dynamics: human dynamics, and interaction between people. I call it design experiences because I now, most of the time, work with installations and large-scale scenarios. It's not so much about the product, but expanding the scale of it, to architecture, and so on. That is how I think we should consider design nowadays: not as developing a product, but developing the overall experience.

There is a need to challenge the way we communicate to the public when we launch a product. Experience design means that you interact physically with something, go through a physical emotion using a technological tool.


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By Sarah Housley, WGSN-homebuildlife