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Meet Claire Puginier

Today we’d like to introduce you to Claire Puginier.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up moving around a lot. My family went from Vietnam to Japan, China, France, Germany and finally to Switzerland before I moved by myself to the US. Changing places means changing faces, languages, and cultures. Understanding the people and place around me was always very important to me and I think that is something that is fundamental to the way I think about design now. When you don’t share language or history design can be a way of learning about someone, about their situation, their sensitivities, and what brings them joy and comfort. Design is the manifestation of our understanding of one another.

In university, I studied industrial design, UX design and graphic design. At the same time, I was also surrounded by filmmakers, musicians, photographers, and people doing all kinds of wild experiments with art and technology. What I learned from them was as much of a lesson as anything I took from my classes. I love music and dancing, and during my time in university, I met a group of people who like me had the desire to fuse their passion for art and design with music. We formed a collective called Dass Untergound and for three years produced events around Savannah, where we were studying. The spaces we created around the music were a collaboration of many creative disciplines and gave us the capacity to create fully immersive experiences. I realized these spaces could enchant and transform the people in them in a very powerful way.

Being in close proximity to people with such varied skills and backgrounds opened up curiosity and appetite for other forms of visual communication. Having learned to model in 3D through industrial design, it wasn’t a big leap to move into the more organic modeling programs used for animation. I collaborated on several music videos and interactive projections before starting work on my own project, which will be released very soon.

These were the precursors to what I do now as an Imagineer for Disney. I work in a studio called Environmental Design and Engineering, a part of Disney that conceives and designs the Theme Parks. It is a very different way of design than what I was taught in school. Instead of creating an object for someone to possess, it is about creating objects and places that will only live on in their memories. These designs have a very strong sense of story, and each one is different and requires the collaborations of many disciplines. With every new project, I am allowed to immerse myself into another story and discover who the characters are and how they would build the worlds they live in. As a result, it allows me to expand my own practice with every project. It is a very special way of designing because a single object has the possibility of bringing joy to thousands of people over decades.

Has it been a smooth road?
Of course, there are things that were not always easy but I was very lucky to be working and living with people I shared great love and creative energy with. The boundary between life and work becomes indistinguishable at times and so even when things get tiring or complicated, it didn’t make sense to be doing anything else. When you can share a completed project with your friends who know your fight to make it a reality and see them proud of you, it makes everything else worth it.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The internet and the spread of collaborative design tools have made it possible for international and multidisciplinary design collectives to form all over the world. Designers must be curious by nature and these tools have opened a door that allows them to leave the silo of their disciplines. Design practice is moving from creating products in isolation to fully immersive product experiences. The objects that make up these experiences become characters in a story, and their meaning and therefor our attachment to them increases. At the same time, technology is being embedded into everyday objects, giving them a new level of enchantment and interconnectivity. When you touch them, they touch you back. As time goes on this technology will become seamless with the objects themselves and fade into the background until our interactions with them become entirely intuitive.

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