Immersive experience design is an exciting field that challenges practitioners to think outside-the-box with every new project they undertake – seeking to discover new ways to connect with people in an engaging and meaningful way. These kinds of projects can range from major business strategies to public art installations and everything in between.
Tiana Plotnikova is an experienced immersive designer who has expertise in both commercial and public projects. Tiana answered some questions about her career and prior work.
What parts of your life do you think drew you towards architecture and immersive experience design?
I think it was a fascination for being able to incorporate both art and science into my work and not having to choose between the two. I could see both of my interests working together in this industry. It is this same fascination that drives my work today. Mathematics, too, can help us with the development of modular structures, whilst nature can teach us a lot about materials and how to make architecture more responsive and adaptive to different environmental conditions. It’s a very interdisciplinary field.
In layman’s terms, how would you describe the role your work has in terms of its relationship with architecture?
Psychology is the thread that ties architecture and immersive design together. My work involves identifying the user’s journey through space first, and then creating a design around that space. It is about incorporating an empathic design approach in every decision you make. When you work on an architectural project, you always need to think holistically about the product you’re creating. You should consider geography, climate, demographics, psychology and so on. Having learned to navigate through large masterplan projects in the past helped me work well with immersive design projects, which are smaller in scale but more profound in terms of impression and the emotion that they evoke.
Are technologies like VR and AR ones that you have used or would like to use in your projects?
Yes, they are incredibly useful tools! In the past we tried to mark up the parameters on the floor with tape or even build 1:1 card mock-ups to help us feel and understand the space better. Don’t get me wrong, physical mock-ups are great and we still use them now, but the speed of building up volumes in 3D, putting on goggles and experiencing the space right away is something else! It is also very helpful in communicating with the client: instead of showing 2D renders, you can just walk you client through your proposal.
How did you end up working on the pyramiden immersive installation earlier this year?
Alternative pathways in architecture, combination of art and architecture have always been a passion of mine. Pyramiden was an installation based on the concept of architectural preservation – instead of preserving the city itself, I emphasised the memories of the people that used to live there. Due to the geographical location, climate and difficulty of accessing the place (island of Svalbard), it was not feasible to encapsulate that historical period by preserving the architecture of the city. I saw more value in preserving the memories and stories of those that used to live there. That is how immersive storytelling became a powerful tool to encapsulate that era.
I also share a personal connection to this story, as I was born in Russia and understand the culture, mentality and the implications of those events.
What was the experience you were hoping to achieve with the installation, and do you think you were successful?
My installation was closely tied to architecture and aimed to recreate the overall feeling of the city through the visual component, showing the vibrant life that people managed to build far away from home. The aim of this project was to encapsulate the never-ending battle between the past and future, the unceasing flow of gain and loss, love and the ephemerality of our lives.
Having to relocate frequently for work or education, many people are living a nomadic lifestyle these days and could relate to the story that I was telling through my installation. I think if people can relate to your work and be touched, it is safe to assume that your art was successful.
What is an example of a challenge or obstacle you faced with the project?
One of my challenges was a technical one – trying to orchestrate the overall experience smoothly. That was a steep learning curve for me as I had mostly just worked on architectural projects. Most of the art installations seem very effortless, but that is because a lot of work goes into establishing the right relationship between visuals, sound and 3D objects in the space.
How does your approach differ when you’re working on an art installation versus when you’re working on a more utilitarian project?
It is always about people, but with architecture and urban projects I put less emphasis on the emotion, and more on the so called “wow effect”. I try to design for the future, rather than for the now. Architectural design needs to be considerate and adaptive to the needs of the future; whereas I think art installations are more about the expression and emotionality of the present. If we speak about the tools that I use for working in both fields, they are mostly the same; the same software and the same user-centric design approach. The main difference is in the lifespan of those projects.
Many thanks to Tiana for her insightful responses.
You can learn more about Tiana Plotnikova’s work at www.tianaplotnikova.com