UX Magic of engineering

Discussion Forum Design & UX UX Magic of engineering
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Chief Designer, Global Design
SAP SE

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So how do computer scientists and artists get together to produce some of the most stunning installations around the globe?

I was a creative director at Sony when I first saw one of the installations from Art+Com Studios. The piece was for BMW, and I certainly did not know the company then. You might have seen it − metal spheres, the size of a golf balls, hang on thin, almost invisible wires, from the ceiling. It’s like a sheet of spherical objects free floating in the air. But the magic starts when the computer starts to pull the strings, making the spheres move up and down, sometimes as separate entities, sometimes as a cohesive unit in an undulating, synchronous flow. The result is a stunning visual illusion. Yes, it’s hard to understand by reading about it, but it is magical when you see it:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Pb4lUd2zO3w

The design team at Sony got inspired by this. We tried to figure out why BMW spent big bucks on an elaborate art installation. Then we started to break it down. It was beautiful, amazing, magical, perfected, crafted, engineered, precise. There is tension and speed. All the attributes a great car company would like to be associated with. To invest in this piece of technology which is at the same time an art installation conveys everything BMW stands for.

The founders of Art+Com came together in the 80s to explore the possibilities of technology. What is inspiring is the fact that architects and artists connected immediately with computer folks to explore possible new applications and spaces of this new medium. At SAP, we believe, as many others in the technology sector, that the convergence of human values and the power of technology can bring amazing experiences to the market.

Art+Com relies on interdisciplinary research. They work together with the customer to reach their objectives, and it is interesting how business-minded they are about it. Very few projects, although they do exist, are pure pet projects. Art+Com did start with lots of experimentation and commission projects, however. And that is very common; the nature of innovation and creation is to question and experiment, something that has been exercised in abundance at Art+Com. Here also lies a core – once you learn, which is the objective of experimentation, you start to inject your knowledge, not only in the projects you manage, but also in the processes and above all in the whole culture of the team. Today Art+Com experiments and prototypes within the frameworks of the business and customer engagement. It is a perfect example of how innovation processes and diverse skill sets marry well with business, if, and only if, you nurture the culture of the people.

Not surprisingly, there are titles and roles at Art+Com that we never heard before, like computational designer. The teams meet weekly to indulge in design sessions around the project and exchange cross-insights about the work, each project is a learning platform for the next. It‘s a powerful formula for innovation and success. Today there are customers ranging from Germany to Hong Kong. You can get an overview of their projects here:http://artcom.de/en/department/communication-en/

When I returned to Art+Com Studios recently, this time with colleagues from SAP, we arrived early in the morning, pretty tired, took the tiny elevator up to their office, in silence, with what little energy we had drained by the gray Berlin sky. after a couple of hours, we thanked them for the warm welcome, the same bunch of SAP colleagues stepped into the same, tiny elevator, but this time, there was a loud conversation, questions, quotes being shared and smiles on our faces – we were inspired, we learned and we knew that connecting across tech and art is really great business, and extremely fun. Try it!

Please share with us! We all need to learn what works best. How do you set up for innovation in your business? Where did you make room for experimentation? How do you bring idea association and cross-disciplinary product planning into production?

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