An Interview with Interactive Designer Camille Scherrer

Camille Scherrer is a swiss designer that perfectly combines augmented reality and with graphic design resulting in projects that are both cutting edge and elegant.

Currently working at the EPFL+ECAL lab, Camille likes to say that she plays at the intersection of technology and art, and she agreed to answer us some questions about her work.

– Can you tell us something about yourself and how you got started?

CS – I grew up in the mountains in Switzerland (surrounded by cows, chalets and fir trees..), then I went to ECAL (university of art & design in Lausanne (lake Geneva area)) to study interaction design. I wasn’t sure about this choice, first I wanted to become a clown.. but quite soon I found it was the right way. After 4 year at ECAL, bachelor in my pocket, the EPFL+ECAL lab gave me the opportunity to continue working on the same type of installations as my diploma work (mainly augmented reality)

What inspired you to start working in interactive design?

CS – .. hum.. hard to say, maybe the fact that I had loads of images and feelings I wanted to communicate in a different way than traditional visual communication, plus I’m really really curious and as soon as I find something new and challenging I jump into it.

– What obstacles did you initially face and how did you overcome them?

CS – Mainly it was the technical side, first I wasn’t geek at all, but I had to put my hands into hardcore C++ coding to achieve my ideas. So little by little I found the keys and the right people to help me, it was really hard some times, like when I started my diploma (Le Monde des Montagnes) nobody in my school could help me (and also nobody believed I could make AR ; ), I had to search hard for 6 months.

– Can you name some of your favorite books /sites or blogs?

CS – Maybe the swiss-miss blog, because Tina Roth Eisenberg, like me, pushes swiss design abroad, and she’s a proud swiss “ambassador”.
And for the books I’m a fan of Charles Ferdinand Ramuz. He wrote books that makes you feel you’re in the swiss mountains. When I’m abroad I love reading “La grande peur dans la montagne” for example, makes me feel I’m home..

– You work very closely with computer science engineers, how does this partnership work? Could you explain the process behind building an interactive project?

CS – It’s very difficult to find the right balance in such partnership, the language is not the same, I had to find the right words to explain him what I wanted. (sorry : him = the computer vision engineer Julien Pilet I worked a lot with him for my diploma and the other AR projects). I think both sides, designer and engineer, have to be very careful not to “overlap” the other. I mean the designer shouldn’t ask only a “service” to the engineer, it has to be more “ping-pong” style. I learned so many things working with him.
To start an interactive project, I first came to Julien with a specific idea, then we talked and tried many things. We found solutions that I thought were not possible , (like I say I always asked him the moon and thought he could code it in two lines!), and the project was little by little growing and becoming my diploma for example. It’s important not to come with a project that is too “closed”, you have to be flexible to enjoy such partnership and make it fruitful.

– Design has in general a strong component of experimentation and failure. How does this work for the creative processes when you add another layer with programming that requires an accurate logic behind it? Do you feel any kind of left/right brain conflict?

CS – Hum.. the only problem when I deal with crazy programming and design is that I have to keep the design side to the end, so I turn geek for a while and then again I can take my pencils out!
It’s also quite hard to work only by imagining how it could look when reading C++ code, I always have to be able to visualize in my mind a lot before I can really try the software. Design and programming don’t have the same timings, you can find the perfect design in two hours but with programming it takes much longer.

– Amongst your projects can you choose a favorite one? What makes you feel that way about it?

CS – I have to say my diploma because it make me travel a lot and gave me lots of work opportunities. And also it was great doing it because I decided to make something for me only (with images of my family) and not to care about teachers etc.. finally people liked it! And it was the first time I made something really easy to use, children and old people could enjoy it without help menu… than was a great achievement!

– And what about the Art, Fashion and Architecture, by Louis Vuitton? Can you tell us a little about it?

CS – A producer from Louis Vuitton called me, asking me to do something for them in the same universe than my diploma work. They liked the way I could make thing come out from the pages of a book. So I did a short video with their book, it was really fun, they let me so much freedom in the design.

– What are your future plans to taking your work to the next level?

CS – I have lots of idea I want to realize, I have to take each one at a time, I just finished a project with an embroidered pillow that has cross stitch animations coming over when you press on it, it’s augmented reality with some “add-on”. Now I’m working on a new project, I put a random ceramic plate on a turntable and with a camera  I read the patterns of the plate and then I generate music.. I have fun with it these days!


Thanks for sharing Camille!

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Also make sure you check out her portfolio!

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