An award-winning multidisciplinary designer, Simon began his career as a graphic designer but quickly switched to game design, creating images, scenarios, and interactions at the places where multimedia, objects, and space intersect. Since joining GSM Project in 2015, he has been developing the interactive components of our experiences in museums and attractions around the world.
In a brief interview, Simon shared a bit about his day-to-day as an interactive designer, his thoughts about collaboration with other GSM Project expertises, and his motivations for creating innovative interactive installations.
Simon: The amazing side of my job is that every day and every project is unique. In my opinion, the role of an interactive designer is to be a kind of Swiss Army knife: it takes a lot of versatility! Depending on the phase of a project, I can work on high-level, abstract ideas, for example the overall scenario of an experience or how the environment of the experience will be gamified by steps, or I can work in a very concrete way on the smallest detail of an interactive installation and how its interface will respond with users. Each time, I try to understand precisely the different learning stages of an exhibition and to translate them into the user experience. Interactives aren't just screens, so I'm looking at how a user will communicate with the environment and the interfaces within it. I have to create coherence between the physical experience and the digital experience. That brings a lot of constraints and opportunities! You could say that my daily mission is to help our clients and partners understand what the experience we are developing for their visitors will be.
The first time's always special. What was your first GSM project?
Simon: One of my first projects where I learned the most was for the new permanent exhibition of the Bank of Canada in Ottawa. There are more than twenty interactive installations in this visitor experience! The approach was definitely oriented towards game design and interaction design, including the creation of an avatar by each visitor at the beginning of the experience. It was a great playground for me to learn the specific language of museology, as well as scenography and architecture. I had to learn the creative process specific to physical space design and distance myself a bit from graphic design formats (which are so often 2D!), in order to plunge into environment and user experience development. I really felt free to explore multidisciplinary design specific to museology.
I’d also like to point out that one aspect common to all GSM employees is our curiosity — maybe a big part of what makes our projects successful! There’s an enthusiasm we all share to learn new skills and discover new fields, like economics or science or cultural stories, etc.
What projects are you currently working on?
Simon: Over the last few years, I took on the role of lead interactive designer for a major project that will open in 2024 in Asia. The project will be a mix between the best of theme parks and the world of museums, with a great gamification element. I am fortunate to be able to benefit from the mentorship of my colleague Erika Kiessner, senior interactive designer, who is also working on the project. She has been with me since my beginnings at GSM. I must also say that there’s a real spirit of family within our team; we have cultivated a culture of support and solutions. The knowledge of each department, whether in content, graphic design, or scenography, complements and multiplies the others. The more we link our fields of expertise, the more we succeed in producing innovative creative propositions. On other projects, we also collaborate externally with developers and studios specializing in interactive design, who speak the same language and thus increase our possibilities tenfold!
What are your inspirations? What’s a project that has marked you recently?
Simon: I have a love for very simple ideas. I like "low-tech" interactives and creations in contemporary art. I admire the work of several designers here such as Vincent Morisset and Caroline Robert from Studio AATOAA. For me, a successful interactive is one that contains a touch of magic, which interweaves a digital device with a mechanical device and thus becomes hybrid, surreal.
Where will you be next?
Simon: Mainly in a classroom! I teach a course in interaction design in the graphic design program at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQÀM), in partnership with Stéphane Vial. I will also be at the Education Summit of interaction21, on January 31 and February 1, with my colleague Erika Kiessner. We will be giving a workshop on interactivity in a museum environment in order to familiarize with the methods and processes of interaction design.