French Interaction Designer Gael Jaffrezic

Gael Jaffrezic is a French Interaction Designer working for Yves Behar’s studio, fuseproject, in San Francisco. Jaffrezic works specifically on Tangible Interfaces, Industrial Design interactions and experiences — and is currently exploring Virtual and Mixed Reality. Gael has an Interaction Design bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from L’École de Design Nantes Atlantique, France. We sat down with Gael to discuss current trends in UX, and his experience working on the award-winning user experience of The Frame — the new lifestyle television display for Samsung.

What trends are you seeing in design/UX?

Interaction Design and UX are the fastest evolving practices in the design industry as they are mostly tied to the evolution of technology itself. I see two major trends in our industry that will generate many business opportunities in the next few years. First, Artificial intelligence: we can still design the path we want to take and how we want to use it in our daily work, and I see it as tool that can help us in technical aspect of our design process. I believe it will be the designer’s role to define how businesses will utilize AI to create human experiences. I also think that virtual, augmented and mixed reality will play a key role in our daily life and work.

What about your specific background helped inform your approach?

I was exposed to design early with my grandparents working in the field of art in Switzerland. During my childhood, I loved to mingle and participate in one way or another in exhibitions set by my grandfather, who was an art curator. Later I spent months every year in Switzerland painting and reading Swiss graphic design books, learning over time about the Bauhaus and Swiss design movements of the 20th century. I continue to draw inspiration from those memories, as you can see in my work for Samsung on The Frame.

My Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Interaction Design at L’École de Design de Nantes also helped me widen my vision as I worked for diverse companies In Paris, London, and now San Francisco.

What about your approach to design/UX is unique?

I try to prototype my ideas as early as possible in order to validate my concepts, and I continue to iterate ideas throughout the project. I think prototyping is a key part of bringing a meaningful product to market as the design itself will be forced to evolve through client feedback and consumer testing.

Additionally, in the field of Interaction and Experience Design, staying up to date with new tools is critical, and so I take time every month to learn new tools. The opportunity to design in new ways is inherently beneficial, and that’s not just limited to Interaction Design: I’m really interested in 3D modelisation and animation, and learning to create Virtual Reality experiences.

I also believe it is important to find inspirations outside of the design world; biomimicry is a key element for me, as nature holds so many patterns, colors and shapes that we can take advantage of.

The Frame is a new kind of display for the home — what was your process in defining this display and how people will experience it?

For The Frame, our approach at fuseproject was to explore the details of how people experience art both at home and in major museums and galleries. I also learned from local framing experts the proper way of defining the right medium and material to showcase art on the wall.

After outlining precise rules as to how we would display art on the TV, we worked with Samsung engineers to develop the right technology and form our defined user experience for The Frame’s ‘Art Mode.’

We tried to keep The Frame experience the closest to a physical frame you will have in your living room, using motion and light sensors to make the display react to user presence and automatically adjust its light levels/brightness. The ‘Art Mode’ interface is an important piece of the puzzle, as it recreates the feeling of viewing art displayed in a museum with its clean, white, gallery-like space.

What is exciting to you about The Frame?

The Frame was a real challenge because we were defining a completely new television experience.
I love that, at first, the concept seems so simple…but it is actually a complex puzzle with lots of details, from its physical form and how you mount it, to the user experience, and of course, the amazing artwork that brings it all to life.

I’m also excited that this is the first TV with sensors, both to adjust the backlighting, and motion sensors to turn the display off entirely when no one is present. It truly shows that technology in Interaction design practices can benefit greater product experience if used wisely.

What is your dream project and why?

I believe that our design capabilities as an industry, merged with smart usage of new technologies, can truly change our environment and make a positive impact on the future of our planet. Growing up on the west coast of France and spending years sailing and surfing, I feel a strong connection to the ocean and would love to find ways to help protect it. Yves Behar, the founder and Principle Designer of fuseproject, recently launched a sustainable bag made of recycled sails, used neoprene and climbing ropes; I see this as a great example of how we can design with our environmental impact in mind. I also admire Parley for the Ocean work and their growing partnership with Adidas in collecting and re-using ocean plastic for lifestyle products.

On the technology side, I’m currently exploring augmenting reality, virtual reality and mixed reality media, and how it can benefit our design process and create opportunities for designers. As I’m always looking for new technologies, I’m particularly looking forward to two major launches next year: Oculus Santa Cruz that will democratize 6DOF (Degree of Freedom) virtual reality experiences, and Magic Leap’s product that will bring mixed reality to the market.