Introducing Jayne Vidheecharoen

The Near Future Laboratory is going through a revamping and an expansion of sorts. There’ll be some changes for #2012 — new people, new projects, new initiatives, new strategies for global domination in the realm of thought-provoking unprofitable improbable unbuildable designed things.

First, we are all pleased to welcome Jayne Vidheecharoen to our little design laboratory. I had the pleasure of helping Ben Hooker teach a class Jayne was in at Art Center College of Design’s Media Design Program last Spring. Then we had Jayne as one of our summer interns at the Advanced Projects Studio at Nokia, which was tons of fun. She’s a really thoughtful playful designer now in her last moments of grad school at Art Center.

I’d like to say we sat down to chat cause we’re in the same city. But, as it turns out — we’re on opposite sides of the 5 freeway so we just did a little introduction Q&A by electronic mail.

> Q: Hello?

> Q: Where’s home for you?
It was St. Louis. Then Seattle. Now it’s LA.

> Q: Describe your creative background? Where did you go to school? Do you consider yourself a designer? An artist? A maker-of-things?

I got my BFA in Visual Communication Design from the University of Washington, but then I also got into motion graphics after I graduated. And now I’m in the process of getting an MFA in Media Design from Art Center. So I like to consider myself a designer-illustrator-animator-maker-speculator, but maybe when I graduate I can just consolidate and call myself a Media Designer.

> Q: What’s the last book you read?
The last book I actually finished was “Hackers & Painters” by Paul Graham. But right now I’m in the middle of Jane McGonigal’s “Reality Is Broken

> Q: What’s the last “thing” you read?

Does checking my Facebook feed count? Otherwise, probably The Fox is Black blog, although I mostly just look at the pictures 🙂

> Q: Screen or sketch book?

Definitely sketchbook for thinking. (I’ve been using these sketchbooks for about 10 years and have gone though almost 30 of them so far..)

> Q: Who’s the last creative-type you creatively or intellectually fawned after?

Jonathan Harris! This summer, I got to spend an amazing week with him at his workshop in Colorado. After that I decided he’s my official creative and philosophical guru.

> Q: If you had a favorite color that would also be an ice cream flavor if you asked for an ice cream by color..what would it be?

Mmm. Tastes like magenta.

> Q: There’s a strong undercurrent of wry humor in your work. Where does this come from? Is it a conscious creative influence or way of addressing complicated, sometimes formative terse topics? Or does it help with the nervousness many people have with the subjects that you seem to deal with — life, technology, community, interactions with things and people?

I just like to make things that make me happy, and try not to take world too seriously. I also think a lot of the things we just accept as normal in life are pretty absurd or full of alternate potential. So sometimes just tweaking something exposes our expectations and ends up being kind of funny as a side effect. Plus, I think being a little silly makes these ideas a bit more approachable.

> Q: What do you imagine yourself as when you finish school?

Hopefully after school I’ll still be making fun things. I’d love to work with at a start up for a while, and maybe start something new with some other people eventually.

> Q: Is there a person who you consider a creative influence?

Everyone I meet influences me!

> Q: Do you have an influence that isn’t a person?

The Internet. I love the internet. Probably too much.

> Q: Is there a model for doing creative work that you like to think of while you’re doing, you know…creative work? Can you describe how you go from an idea to its materialization?

Sketch some things. Pick whatever idea won’t leave me alone. Prototype it. See what I think. Be sort of underwhelmed. Find an interesting nugget to save. Put the thing aside. Talk to some people. Look at some interesting things. Repeat as necessary until I’ve collected enough interesting nuggets to make something else from those nuggets.

> Q: How does your imagination work?

Mix cartoons I grew up with, videogames I use to love, and a dash of feminism.

> Q: Are you working on a curious project now?

I’m figuring out what to do for my thesis project so I’m sort of just quickly experimenting with a lot of different things. I’m still collecting nuggets so I can’t exactly describe it. Lately, I’ve been playing around with some of the amazingly boring things we take for granted every day: like email, presentations, google street view, and shared docs. I’m trying to liberate them from their “jobs” and see what other things they could be used for and what type of values I can promote through them. I think every experience we have online (even a really banal one) has the potential to be a “magic circle” and make our lives more enjoyable.

> Q: Tell me about Souvenirs From The Internet — those fantastic commemorative plates and pillows and stuff you did? Where’d that idea come from?

To be honest, I’m pretty sure the seed was planted several years ago after watching Harry Potter. Dolores Umbridge’s office walls were covered in plates with moving cats. And I remember thinking how amazing it would be to have my favorite internet-famous lol cats on plates like that. Fast forward to this spring where I started working on a project about the current excitement about 3D printing. I’m fascinated with it but at the same time it’s like we’re just getting excited about being able to make more plastic junk faster. But the fact that these printers are connected to the internet means they could print anything, which opens up a whole realm of possibility.

At first I imagined people would use it to print spam, like a 3D fax machine. Or, since every print is machine made and the craftsman’s mark is completely removed, maybe printed objects would be dated and valued by the type of internet junk embedded in them. Maybe not junk but actual internet memories. Maybe these objects could help us remember that time we went to the internet and saw that really interesting thing. And even though we all saw the same thing at different times and from different places, it’s like we were all there together. And that seemed significant enough to put on a plate, by commemorative plate standards at least.

> Q: Tell me about this Customer Service Romance project? How’d the idea come about?
It probably stems from my own relationship with my phone. I had a “dumb” phone at the time and I didn’t particularly care about it much. I would leave it at home all the time, rarely answer it, and forget to charge it. I sort of felt a little bad, like it might have felt like I didn’t love it. At the same time I was reading about Attachment Theory and how ambivalence could result in especially needy behavior from other people. I imagined my phone would probably come off as being pretty needy if it could communicate to me. And it seemed like the only way phones are really able to communicate to us is through the phone tree. But phone trees weren’t typically used to convey emotions and personal problems. So I thought, what if it was?

> Q: When you did Customer Service Romance, did you know you were basically prototyping what will happen when Apple’s Siri begins to suffer ennui?

I like that Siri is already pretty cheeky, I’d love to see what the “I’m too good for this job” Siri is like.

> Cool. Thanks Jayne. Welcome to the Laboratory.