Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Inae Song was drawn to the multidisciplinary Interaction Design program at Art Center as a field of possibility, a place to envision the future of design even beyond existing technologies and, she says, to apply without constraint all of her far-flung interests–architecture, computer science, art and digital products. Ultimately, says the co-creator of the Art Center Orientation App, what she’s really exploring is “what an interaction designer’s role in the real world might be.”
The Dotted Line: When did you first learn about Interaction Design as a creative discipline?
Inae Song: It was really hard to decide on a major, due to my wide interests. After I checked out Art Center and its new program, Interaction Design, I researched it and realized that I could combine everything together in this field where designers are not limited by a specific context and can extend their ideas to limitless media. That’s what made me want to come to Art Center.
TDL: What kinds of things spark your ideas?
IS: Observing people and finding interesting behavior patterns. Conversations with other people. Science fiction movies and novels. Everyday things. And I love to put the word ‘interactive’ to anything and think. For example, today I put “interactive” with “hanger” and thought about what if a clothes hanger is interactive and could detect and respond to users or clothes? Combining several words together stretches my brain to think visually.
TDL: You said that you are interested in applying interface systems into interior design and architecture, and you gave as an example how a user might interact with a window, not only in physically opening and closing it, but in changing the opacity of the glass or acoustics based on conditions outside or inside. Can you give another example of what you mean?
IS: What if a virtual window could play a role in connecting two remote spaces? What if we could filter weather, based on our taste? What if we could communicate with others through a virtual window–for example, using a knocking behavior pattern as an interface?
TDL: You mentioned that Interaction Design 3 was one of your favorite classes because it allowed you to present ideas and explore them in contexts beyond today’s existing technology. Would you explain that a little further?
IS: Interaction design is not all about websites or applications, current technology and trends. Even if we cannot make huge screens embed in a building or even a human body in the real world, we can still come up with ideas and show our concepts. In this class, the teacher put us into a real context but did not limit us with specific gadgets or interface frames. We could choose any platform based on new technology or even a technology that doesn’t exist yet.
TDL: How have your Art Center peers and faculty inspired you?
IS: Especially for interaction design, new technology and interface trends are really important to follow, so it’s really interesting to talk about new concepts, devices, interfaces and technology in different ways. For example, when we discussed Google Glass, we shared some ideas about the benefits and also the dangers that may occur when we are put into a virtual world in front of our eyes. Through this idea sharing, I get new information about wide topics and technical, social and visual problems.
As design students, we can be limited by lots of technical stuff that might suppress our creativity. Making things real is important, but learning how to communicate with others to show our vision is much more important to interaction designers.
TDL: What are your career goals?
IS: I want to design new ways of interaction between people and their environment–spaces that recognize users and adapt, based on a user’s mood, condition, task and so on. But not only for commercial and practical things. I also want to design artistic and playful experiences.
TDL: Are either of your parents artists?
IS: My parents are not artists, but I was definitely influenced by them in my decision to become a designer. My father loves to create and redesign machines. He runs an automobile fabric factory and whenever he has time, he tries to change the systems and structures of the factory to make it more efficient. Sometimes my sister and I helped him move heavy stuff by remote control. We also designed a toolbox for him. So I had lots of opportunities to play with machines and tools, which kids generally don’t. Once, instead of buying a new desk, he allowed my sister and me to make one ourselves and go shopping for woods, tools and paints. Of course, the desk made by a 13-year-old kid was not strong enough, so he had to buy a new one, but it was a really inspiring time in my childhood. Those experiences influenced by my parents brought me to the art and design world.
Lynne Heffley is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist who writes about the arts.