TYPO Berlin 2013: Studio NAND interview

We caught up with Steffen Fiedler, Jonas Loh and Stephan Thiel – collectively known as Studio NAND – to find out more about their forward-thinking talk at TYPO Berlin 2013

Computer Arts: Give us an overview of your talk ...
Studio NAND:
The talk had the title: Handling Multidisciplinarity. We are a studio that's especially concerned with bringing together experts from different fields: we work with linguists, synthetic biologists, people from technology domains. And, as designers, we try and bridge the gap between all of these expertise and create interesting design products, services and experiences that communicate knowledge or show the potential of technology.

CA: Do you think a callaborative approach is better than a mutidisciplinary one?
SN: I think it's about both. We call it T-shape: you have an overview of all the disciplines, and then you have the points where you dig in deeper. It's about adopting roles quickly. We can't be an expert in every domain. So it's a mix of both. Finding the right balance. Not getting tapped by specialising in a certain domain. Staying open to all the other things. It's really important for us to get our hands on the technology ourselves, and not just consult other people: 'You do this. You do that.' If you're able to deal with the technology yourself you have a different perspective.

For example, the maker movement and DIY culture: tutorials about how you can build your own satellite or how to work with synthetic biology. This is really important. It's a good thing. We don't think it's a question of whether we're having a third industrial revolution; it's more a question about how can we restructure the role of the access to knowledge. We see ourselves as a kind of interface between all of these kinds of disciplines, bringing them together in a broader context, trying to have a more holistic approach to design.

CA: The maker movement and DIY culture aside, have you noticed any other themes developing?
SN:
Quantified self, as a general topic. Then making everything interactive and how it influences the technological landscape. And speculations: creating stories that engage people in a certain topic. We really think it's important that we deliver access to technology before it turns into a product – so that you have a broader discussion about the technology that we actually want and in which context it could be useful.

CA: How did you approach 'touch', the theme of TYPO 2013?
SN:
We didn't have to think about it much. The whole touch theme is always a huge part of our work. One of the biggest challenges in technology-driven design works is getting them to touch people. Most of the stuff in generativity or experimental data visualisation artwork is always so driven by the possibilities the technology brings, being able to draw really complex forms or being able to visualise massive amounts of data, it doesn't have any real point. It's just tinkering around and being excited by what is possible. It doesn't really touch a broader audience. It's a big challenge: how can technology be applied so that it really touches a broad range of people, not just the ones excited about technology in the first place? So we thought about touch not in the direct sense but touch as in reaching people.

CA: What's the best thing about events like this and what do you learn from them?
SN:
The most important part, for us, is to have discussions. It's nice to watch talks. But it's really good to watch talks that are more open, showing the process of the work. Sometimes, it would be nice to have more time for discussion so you can engage with people and see what you think.

Check out more from Studio NAND and read our full coverage of TYPO Belrin 2013 in the next issue of Computer Arts.

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