Smarts Fabric Conference (2013)


Extract from my keynote presentation at Smart Fabrics Conference held in Barcelona last 31th October 2013.

‘How to communicate research in smart textile design’

How do people know about wearables? Most of the innovations in smart textile design are normally open to a professional audience and a few of them are lately presented to a broad audience. Which are the communication channels between these innovations and society? and how is doing it?

One obvious channel is internet. However internet does not allow us to have our senses involved as we discover these wearables. So in reality, how many people know about wearables in a more physical way? some of them do it through the existing exhibitions. Wearables are slowly becoming a popular topic in design and art museums, but how are they actually presented?

If we have a look at the latest exhibitions that have had most media attention, we see that they often use mannequins to exhibit wearables. But mannequins are rigid and static, so visitors have to imagine how it would be to wear one of those interactive garments. To bring closer this missing interaction between the wearable and visitor, Pretty Smart Textiles exhibition showed a textile sample to which visitors get to interact. On the other hand, Technosensual offered several performances that allow people to watch the wearable running in person’s body. So, what else can we do to make them more meaningful? I propose the following guidelines to exhibit a wearable design project:

1) Put the project in context: not just the possible application scope of the final prototype but the starting point of it, the concept behind the project.

2) Show the iterative process design: that means to explain main steps between first and last prototype. By showing it, people understand deeply how the designer came up to the final design.

3) Allow for experience: wearables are performative artefacts designed to fit the body. The body is an essential element that holds it up and makes it works. Therefore, experience becomes a key factor that connects the wearer to the wearable through an intimate act that expands his/her body senses. So, allow, as far as possible, that people can experience wearables on their own bodies.

4) Perform the design: people can perceive the wearable on movement and how the performer expands the possibilities of the artefact, in terms of creativeness.

5) Contribute to change behaviour: this last statement is related to third one. It is about letting visitors design their own experience by interacting with the exhibition elements in a free way, so that they create new meanings and ways to use them.

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Designer and researcher