May 29, 2019
by Ian André Díaz Granai
If you were to talk about “Design”, you could spend actually DAYS talking about everything that word implies. Design is in EVERYTHING in our lives, the house you live in, the clothes you wear, the furniture that you buy to make your house feel like your home, the car you drive, even the computer and cellphone you use to work, no matter what career you have. Design is a lifestyle nowadays. And for Claire Puginier, who is now working at Walt Disney Imagineering, that is exactly what both, Industrial Design and Graphic Design are in her life, more than just her career, Design is her lifestyle.
“Changing places means changing faces, languages, and cultures. Understanding the people and places around me was always very important to me and I think that is something that is very fundamental to the way I think about design now. When you don’t share a language or history design can be a way of learning about someone, about their situation and their stories. Every design is a story, or rather the outcome of a story. Everything that comes before is what really interests me - the exploration and discovery and problem-solving.”
Claire was born in Germany, but ever since her family has lived in Vietnam, Japan, China, France and finally established in Switzerland before she moved by herself to the United States where she went to college at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) in Savannah, Georgia, and graduated in 2018 as both an Industrial and a Graphic Designer. Being surrounded by artists was nothing new when she arrived at SCAD; her life has always been filled with filmmakers, musicians, photographers, and people doing all kinds of experiments with art and technology for as long as she can remember. This nurtured her love for art and design as much as her classes at college since she could see first hand how much of an impact design and art have on someone’s life. She even recalls how her love for music and dancing played an important part throughout her college life, she tells us how her roommates and she would host parties at their home and decorated in all kinds of ways with anything they could find. This created a space where she could watch people at their happiest when they felt free and beautiful and outside of themselves. And this is what Claire holds as the most important factor each time she designs something.
“I would like the things and places I design to have that kind of power. They should make people feel understood and welcome to be themselves - whatever form that takes.”
At first, she was very interested in working with natural materials, such as wood, cork or even fruit. Some of the things she made were more sculptures than actual, working gadgets, but we all know that everyone has to start somewhere. In her opinion, working with organic materials is a wonderful process because it requires you to understand the nature of the material, the history, its growth and how it was formed to better shape it. She then became interested in technology and how a layer of interactivity could not only be an upgrade for any object but also enhance the experience that comes with interacting with such an object.
“Technology is magic in that when you touch it, it touches you back.”
She loves experimenting with this ability that technology provides, to be closer to one another even when the physical bodies can be far apart. Claire is really passionate about envisioning and designing immersive environments and experiences guided by physical and digital product interactions. In the future, she would love to dwell deeper into interactive environments development. Or as she likes to put it: finding ways to make technology dissolve into the objects that embody them. This was the focus of her thesis project in 2018, titled “Poch, Poch”. Poch poch in German is the sound you make to describe someone knocking on a door, but it is also the sound of a beating heart. “Poch Poch” is a pair of mechanical necklace pendants. The pendants are mechanical hearts, each fitted with a servo-motor, a pulse sensor and a Bluetooth chip that transmits the pulse data to and from the wearer’s phone. The hearts on the necklace expand and contract to the actual heartbeat of the person wearing the other pair of pendants. In this way, implicit emotional changes in a loved one could be sensed across long distances in real time.
Digital technology and networked devices have become mediums through which humans express and experience love. As a society, we navigate a variety of instant messaging, emoji and photo sharing apps as vehicles to communicate with those we love. The architecture of these platforms, and the behaviors and exchanges they enable or neglect, shape the landscape of our emotional lives. “At arm’s length, we use technology to create relationships and protect ourselves from them simultaneously. While tethered to the individual surroundings of our physical selves, increasing the amount of times spent alone together; and less together alone.“
According to Claire, network media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, provide us with the opportunity to produce, curate and simulate ourselves through personal profiles. By submerging ourselves in the digital self-portraits we forge, we deny ourselves that which remains beautifully elusive and in a permanent state of metamorphosis. As we communicate our feelings digitally, we revise them, we purge them; losing natural conversational momentum. We no longer cultivate the ability to be alone and reflect on our emotions in private, and begin to shy from the real vigor of things that unfold with time. Poch Poch was one of the many projects in Claire’s repertoire that gives back a little of this power of reciprocity and synchronization to humanity, allowing us to share the imagined intensities of our unconscious, inner experiences, free of revision and ego performances.
“I believe the process and the recipient of an object should determine its final form to fully evoke its story. An object with no story is a dead fish no matter how pretty it is.”
At the moment, Claire is working at Walt Disney Imagineering, in a studio called Environmental Design and Engineering. This is the Disney office in charge of designing the Theme Parks. Working at this office has been some kind of a challenge for Claire because it is a very different design method than that which she was taught at SCAD because instead of creating an object for someone to possess, it is about creating objects and places that will only live in their memories. These designs need to have a strong sense of “story”, and each one is different. With every new project, she is allowed to immerse herself into different stories, and discover who the characters are, and how their world would be.
“It is a very special way of designing in a world where most objects are disposable and not often made to create joy for people over many years. I would like to continue designing in this way for the rest of my life.”
She acknowledges the fact that some aesthetics do come to her more naturally than others. But this was only possible after so many years of working on her style and adapting everything and everyone who has influenced her along her career. Many people have influenced her, she says that – some because they knew a lot, others because they did a lot, and others, simply because I loved them and had eyes for nothing else. – She likes to think that these people are called “muses”. In her mind, the objects she creates are gifts or testaments to one’s thoughts about a person.
“Creating something around the image of someone you love is one of the most beautiful things in the world. This is something that happens every day. It's something you do as a parent, or a lover, or as a friend. You don’t need to study design to be a designer. Design is just the process of creating something around your understanding of someone else. It is human.”
It is for this reason that she doesn’t believe there is ever an end on how much she could grow as a designer. For her, design is an organic process, and as the needs of humanity develop, so must the need for Design to be a fundamental part of our lives. As long as we remain sensitive to the changes in the world around us, one can always discover the potential for design. This is something she keeps in mind when she goes through times of self-doubt, or what her future might look like.
“The only way to stop imagining, and working and growing is to stop living. If you chose to live and learn and see and experience new places and people, the rest will come naturally.“
We asked Claire to share a bit about some of her most amazing projects. Some of them have been rewarded with important awards such as the IDSA Student Merit Award for the South District. (Industrial Designers Society of America,) So, here are some of our favorites:
TEDDY AR AMBULANCE ASSITANT:
In hospital care and transport, a patient’s health and well-being are not determined solely by the quality of medical intervention but are also influenced by mental, emotional, and social factors. ‘Teddy’ is an augmented reality experience that utilizes human-computer interaction to alleviate stress and emotional trauma, focusing specifically on the context of children in emergent transport. Within the augmented reality, Teddy, the AI paramedic bear accompanies and provides children in ambulances with emotional support, reassurance, and distraction; allowing the child to perceive their environment in an altered, calmer form. The physical design of the AR glasses additionally supports the paramedic in their task of monitoring the patient’s vital signs using biometrics and establishing pain levels and patient responsiveness through motion tracking. Through verbal and physical interactions and prompts, the AI of Teddy refines its own patient-specific dialogue structure by developing and synthesizing knowledge about the patient and their condition. The digital manipulation of environmental psychology informed by an interactive AI is what makes this a unique approach to HCI and research-by-design.
This project allowed Claire to pursue her interest in the intersection between digital, tactile and spatial interactions. Spark is an interactive projector for personalized, in-home physical therapy. She talked her team through her vision of an interactive projection mapping software through the creation of a prototype in virtual reality. She managed through a combination of software like Solidworks, Cinema 4D and After Effects, to design the physical product of Spark and created a visualization of the projection system in an immersive proof on concept. This proof of concept allowed her to communicate the potential of their design when it was selected as a finalist at South by South-West (SXSW).
“I believe that great products require great stories. Both in the way that they are communicated, and in the way they are designed.”
This was the foundation of her work as a user-experience designer for the speculative design concept of “Spaceport Hashima”; a thriving interplanetary terminal surrounded by a world-class luxury destination resort, research and development facilities, museums, world-renowned restaurants, and lively nightlife. Allegedly located just a few miles off the coast of Japan, Spaceport Hashima would be an epicenter of both traditional and modern Japanese culture. To craft a compelling narrative for the Spaceport, it was important to understand and ground each and every design decision within the historical and cultural context, as well as the projected context of the year 2030. Thereby, the products and their interactions became characters that were both justified by and coherent with the overall narrative.
The Spaceport, apart from being the heart of the new industry on the island that draws scientists and tourists to Hashima, also promotes innovations and opens up new opportunities for Japanese citizens. The Spaceport is a unique design in that all spacecrafts would be launched from large floating barges. These barges dock into the terminal for boarding and then cruise out to a safe distance for launches and landings. Additionally, Earth’s global community and Japanese architecture inspired the Intergalactic Terminal. In which you can also find some of the most modern interactive technology and onboarding platforms, such as the Holoport, Gubo and the Astrowatch.
The AstroWatch is issued to every guest upon their check-in, this watch will serve as their all-in-one remote and access pass to Hashima’s Facilities and attractions. The AstroWatch connects to devices such as the Holoports and GuBo. The central element of the watch acts as a scroll wheel, which connects via Bluetooth upon touching it to a Holoport’s sensor, and enables users to interact with the displays. Furthermore, the AstroWatches are customized to each of our guests, allowing them to charge food and merchandise directly to their travel accounts.
The Holoport serves as a way-finder and information point, and are distributed throughout Hashima Island and the Intergalactic Terminal. The displays can be used to call up maps and flight information, update travel itineraries, carry out the check-in and reservation changes and discover more about the history and hidden wonders of Hashima. To create the holographic display, water is condensed and collected out of the surrounding air. When a guest connects to the display sensor using their AstroWatch, the water is evaporated into cool steam using ultrasonic technology and compressed before being propelled out of the perforated surface. RGB lasers at the center project into the curtain of compressed steam, forming a three-dimensional visual display.
And lastly, there’s GuBo, the robot who helps guests find their way through the island. This sweet and friendly guide bot is personalized for each individual guest. GuBo’s functions include taking you around the island and talking about the rich history of the Spaceport. Additionally, he is programmed to answer any questions you might have regarding your stay and travel in your native language.
This project was conceived by the Team Spaceport Hashima from Savannah College of Art and Design, and created for the 2018 Walt Disney’s Imagineering’s Imaginations Design Competition. This competition is a way for students and recent graduates to showcase their talents and for Walt Disney Imagineering to identify new talent and bringing new and fresh minds, such as Claire’s into their Imagineering Team.
Claire Puginier is one of the most wonderful, kind-hearted and talented humans we have had the pleasure to come across, and personally meet. The way she talks about design is so poetic and romantic, that it makes you want to fall in love with art and design, too. And here at scuro, we believe that is people like this who can actually design the world as a better place.
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible” – Walt Disney