Catalyst for the Future of Design | Interview with Anne Asensio
“Design has seen a strong evolution, a real metamorphosis, moving from being a well-established discipline, mostly among artists and engineers, to something that is more of a way to help us live within the human habitat. Designers today are ultimately the mediator, the conjurer of life experiences in our society.”
Anne Asensio, Vice President Design Experience at Dassault Systèmes is an influential figure in the design & automotive industry. Having worked with Renault, General Motors in the past, she has been awarded “Woman of the year” in 1997, “100 leading women in the North American Auto Industry”, “Women with the most influence in Michigan” and many more.
MiND delved into design right before the Milan Design Week 2019 with Anne Asensio, a curator of ‘Design in the Age of Experience’ by Dassault Systèmes at Superstudio Più, Milan, who will be discussing the pressing topics of our time.
“You may know me as a car designer, but that was a long time ago. Back then, I mostly focused on car design and the product experience – but as a designer I was attracted to the fact that I can think in a design context – in a more systemic and holistic way. At that time design used to be recognized as ‘product design’. As a matter of fact, we did not take the approach of design into account which is what we call the ‘experience’. Every designer designs for the reception, this is experience – to deliver an emotion, a sensation or impression to the user.”
She points out that this is the reason she moved from a car company to one that designs virtual universes leveraging digital data, info, and 3-D models that are artificial simulations of models.
“I think Dassault Systèmes is a perfect place to reflect on design’s role in a world that is becoming artificial, and also access new technologies to experiment and imagine how we can make a better world.”
Elaborating further, she adds, “In the past, we used to make strong distinction between natural and artificial – the things made by man – houses, streets, cities etc. Whereas today we have been living in a hybrid world where everything is combined with nature, and there is nothing like a completely artificial world designed by man. Natural resources, materials, processes and systems are a new contract with industry.”
HoloOak mixed reality innovation display by Dassault Systèmes’ Design Studio, at Design in the Age of Experience 2017
“Designers have the capacity to improve the way we interact with nature, with machines, with ourselves.”
So the question is, could we create a harmonious vision of our well-being, a vision without any negative impact on what surrounds us?
Design in the Age of Experience will investigate exactly the same. It’s an important moment where people will reflect on some of the things we do, that we no longer provide as a final product.
When we say Design for life, it is critically a play on us, because design is always for a life, a better life. We do it by designing the experience, we interact with the world and we are organize the dialogue and our perception of the world.
Anne further explains what we can expect from the exhibition. She says, “The installation this year is designed to trigger questions, not just to deliver answers. The big shift in the industry right now is bringing the design thinking to be critical and ask questions. That is more important that just delivering solutions, which was mostly a 20th century engineering approach.”
“There were topics such as climate change and waste management that we were trying to resolve using technology. However, we didn’t know what to do next as one problem raised other problems and they each raised 10 other problems, and we were just completely lost.
So now we have come up with the concept of regenerative design; thinking of the impact and effect of everything we do in virtual simulation, which means that we don’t just design the product and hope it will be ok. Instead we can simulate the full life cycle of the product, so it gives us the opportunity to act and be responsible for our decisions. So, it’s deeply sustainable to design virtually, not just from a philosophical stand point.”
And how does this approach help them stand out?
“We work & design in a circular approach which means we are not only meaningful but also mindful. We have an incredible quality in expressing the uniqueness of human nature (about cleaning the oceans or about imagining drones that could help check the biodiversity on remote lands) The tools we provide at Dassault Systèmes are efficient.”
“We innovate on a responsible level that touches ethics and politics because we now have the possibility to grasp incredible tools that used to be reserved only for scientific purposes."
In a short amount of time, we have discovered the acceleration of the digital world that we live in. It started with design thinking but for business purposes. When you design for life, you go all the way to the heart of the human. That is what it takes when a human creates, and the creation is all about what we do. The deeper you go, the further you develop your abilities.
Modul’air scenario for urban regeneration with Eiffage, POMA, Pierre Gautier Architecture and Dassault Systèmes’ Design Studio
"Design is completely changing because it can take the scientific tools to place the design thinking on the forefront."
Lastly, we were curious to know why Dassault Systèmes chose Salone del Mobile as a platform for this exhibition. Anne’s response was, “Milan is one of the biggest design cities, completely in charge of its design. I used to come to Milan to gather trends and incredible design. It was diverse and completely unpredictable. That uniqueness comes from the resistance of the design community to provide anyone with the possibility to see what they have to say.
“It’s a place that provides opportunity to try to look around, to highlight the people who are doing a great job, with a design-thinking methodology. Also for designers, who have great ideas but have no idea that we may be able to help them, so it is political in that aspect, because we really want to help them to have the ability to make their concept/idea into reality.”
“Going to Milan is not just about showcasing our solutions and projects, I want to have a dialogue with the community. What I would like is to understand every company’s take on the language of design.”