Claire Puginier, S/IDSA


While most of the young competitors in the IDSA Student Merit Awards—held annually at the District Design Conferences—showcase their top projects to the audience, Claire Puginier, S/IDSA, took a different path—and it may have helped her earn the IDSA Student Merit Award for the South District.

At IDSA’s South District Design Conference 2017 held at the University of Houston in April, she told an allegorical tale of a girl named Lilou who did not know which door to choose—until she had opened all of them. Aptly, Puginier illustrated her story with examples of her work in industrial design, graphic design and interaction design. When her name was announced as the winner, she was overwhelmed with emotion.

Puginier graduates in December 2017 with a BFA in industrial design and user experience design from the Savannah College of Art and Design. The senior was born in Germany, then moved with her family every few years—from Ho Chi Minh to Paris to Munich; from Tokyo to Basel to Shanghai. While globetrotting, she found that empathizing with people in order to appreciate their culture and way of life was the best way to find contentment and happiness, no matter where she lived. “Approaching others with the intent to figure out how to meaningfully contribute to their lives—knowing my time with them is limited—is something that defines me as a person as much as a designer,” she shares.

Puginier always wanted to pursue a career that would allow her to shape her own path and discover and express what fascinates her about people. At first, she thought that path would be through fine art—specifically sculpture. But then she learned about industrial design. “I found it was a way of sculpting that directly manifested all the things I could learn about another person’s life, hopes and sensibilities.”

She adds, “Designing for another person is a lot like being in love—it can only be truly great if you can give up on trying to convince them of who you are and learn to see them in their entirety. Through my work, I am allowed to imagine better futures for those I love. What more wonderful thing could I be doing with my life?”

The designer is fascinated by the “immersive and enchanting” qualities of the Internet of Things (IoT), social machines, augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI). “Prototyping experimental human and computer interactions allows me to imagine and probe new ways in which we can relate to and be engaged by the machines that enable our lives. I feel responsible for designing products and interactions that integrate into our lives intuitively and unobtrusively. My goal is to meaningfully augment the ways in which we are able to perceive and respond to our environments.”

What’s ahead? “My hope is to join a company that is pushing for the democratization of powerful technologies, such as AI and the IoT through design, and is working to imbue the physical world and artifacts with delight and interactivity. Speculating about the interactions and bonds we will have with the objects and services of tomorrow is what drives my curiosity.”