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How did you get started in interactive design? After studying engineering and working as a consultant for a few years, I went back to school to study design and technology. During my time at Parsons, I was able to explore and experiment with interactive design. I joined different communities, like the Harvestworks International Art Collective, where I worked on my first public installation.

As lead creative technologist at experience design firm HUSH, what are the benefits of having a strong engineering background? It provides a great foundation for problem-solving. Creative technologists in the interactive field often have a background in computer science, whereas mine is in aerospace and mechanical engineering. This helps me think about interactive design spatially, which is helpful at HUSH, where the projects incorporate architecture, creative technology and design. With this background, I gravitate towards the physicality of interactive work and push for interactions outside of a screen.

How did you first discover e-textiles, and what excited you about it? When I was a MFA Design and Technology student at Parsons, I was introduced to e-textiles while studying computational craft with designer Liza Stark. The novelty and rawness of the materials drew me in; it was exciting to be able to feel and touch circuits that were also soft. This was something I had never experienced while I was studying engineering formally. It opened me up to the world of interactions and interfaces—there was now the potential to embed circuits into soft materials and objects. It also forced me to think about the physicality of circuits and technology from a different perspective.

How has electronic crafting fed your work or approach? I co-organize eTextile Spring Break, a weeklong art residency of e-textile and electronic craft practitioners held in upstate New York at the Wassaic Project. This community is filled with practitioners who come from incredibly diverse practices—artists, pattern markers, electrical engineers, educators and more. Seeing how all of these practices built an international e-textile community has helped me understand the importance of having an art or design practice that is built out of a curiosity to learn and share skills within collaborative communities and spaces. At HUSH, I’m helping to build a creative technology team filled with diverse skill sets and perspectives that will also foster a collaborative workspace.

I aim to find the technology that best fits a project.”

What led you to cofound the e-textile product line blink blink? blink blink started as a research project to design tools that would break down boundaries that underrepresented groups face when exploring and learning about technology. Ultimately, my cofounders and I created a series of creative circuit kits using e-textile, which was codeveloped with teenagers during a long run of workshops sponsored by 4.0 Schools in New Orleans.

You teach design entrepreneurship at Parsons. What do you hope students will do after walking away from your class? When I started running blink blink as a company selling products, I realized my studies in engineering and design had not taught me much about how to run a company. By teaching design entrepreneurship, I hope students will walk away with a better understanding of how to base their ideas on real user testing, as well as have the ability to implement budgets and schedules.

What new technology will have the greatest impact on your work in the next few years? As a generalist, I don’t lean into any specific technology or trends. Working within a few different creative coding platforms, I aim to find the technology that best fits a project.

What are some resources that designers can use to begin learning how to code? Build a project using technology that is exciting to you. There is a tremendous amount of resources that suit different learning styles, so I suggest leaning into a project you’ve been thinking about making. Creative coding platforms, such as p5.js and openFrameworks, are also great frameworks for visual designers.

What is the best digital experience you’ve enjoyed recently? Richard Mosse’s three-channel high-definition video installation Incoming, which I saw at the Faurschou Foundation in Brooklyn, captured my attention for the entirety of the 52 minutes and 10 seconds of footage. Mosse used thermographic technology to photograph the routes taken by refugees from crisis regions across the Middle East and North Africa. The black-and-white images are striking and unfamiliar, and the sound design brings the textures captured by the camera to life. The sound design and imagery are woven together seamlessly, keeping you immersed.

What advice do you have for someone getting started in interactive design? Invest time in making personal work. Not only is it a great way to showcase your skills, but it’s also an opportunity to learn new skills and meet other people within the interactive community.

Nicole Messier is a lead creative technologist at HUSH Studios in Brooklyn, New York, where she collaborates closely with the design teams, facilitates research and development efforts, and helps build complex projects by simplifying their systems. Formerly at Local Projects, Messier led a range of interactive experiences, most notably the Fashion for Good Experiences—the world’s first museum dedicated to sustainable fashion innovation. She has also built large-scale interactive museum experiences and nano robots, and launched an e-textile product line called blink blink. Messier teaches creative coding and design entrepreneurship at the Parsons School of Design.

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