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Tali Krakowsky is the founder of experience design firm Apologue, Inc. Fascinated with all things immersive, she has been dedicated to creating spaces that seamlessly infuse storytelling into digital media, architecture and technology for over a decade. Born in Israel and raised in Hong Kong, Krakowsky has a BFA in communication design from the Parsons School of Design and an MA from UCLA’s School of Architecture. Merging passion, theory and practice, she continues to publish articles and speaks frequently on the topics of design, architecture, and innovation through collaboration. Krakowsky has worked with clients all over the world such as Victoria’s Secret, HBO, Timberland, Sephora, MoMA NYC, and Qualcomm.

11.26.13

The Art and Science of Designing Experiences

How did you learn about experience design and get started in this profession? I had the good fortune to be a part of a team of finalists for the redesign of the World Trade Center, a combination of designers and some of the finest, most avant-garde architects in the world. We were given a space in New York City’s Fashion District and spent about three months locked away, contemplating and developing a vision for the towers. Unlike the typical design process, driven by formal agendas and aesthetics, this process was driven by storytelling and envisioning how audiences would experience the towers. It introduced me to the fascinating intersection of space, technology and design, and the art and science of designing experiences.

What’s the strangest request you’ve received from a client? The strangest, and most frequent, is to create something that has never been built before, but also to provide evidence and visuals to demonstrate exactly how and why it has worked successfully in the past. It’s the irony of the nascent universe of experience design: people want to innovate and minimize risks at the same time.

What is the greatest immersive design project (not by Apologue) that you’ve seen? Yayoi Kusama’s “Fireflies On The Water” and James Turrell’s Aten Reign are some of the most incredible spaces I’ve ever experienced. They fold you right into them, to the point at which you forget where the architecture, technology, light and story end and you begin. It’s the best kind of ‘lost’ I can think of.

What was your riskiest professional decision? That’s easy: starting an experience design company at a time when no one really understood what we were trying to do, in a world that was just recovering from the 2008 recession and was eradicating any ambiguities from budgets. For the first two years I didn’t really know what I was talking about, and then for the next three most of my clients and colleagues didn’t know what I was talking about. What’s thrilling is that in the last two years everyone is not only starting to understand what experience design is, but clients are also growing huge appetites for the amazing things that can happen at the intersection between the digital and the physical.

Apologue is headed by three women: you, Marissa Levin and Beth Elliott. How do you think being a female-run agency affects your work, your environment, and Apologue’s position in the industry? I think Apologue both adds and removes something important in terms of the business of design. We bring a strong sense of empathy to our relationships and work, a sensitivity that enhances our collaborations and is necessary, from a design perspective, in order to imagine spaces and experiences that don’t yet exist. What we remove is a fascination with ego. We have no interest in it. It’s not about whose idea it is or who made what—it’s about creating the best possible work together. I think that’s an inherently female trait that we naturally breed in Apologue’s culture.

What emerging technologies will have the biggest impact on how you design in the next few years? The evolution of display technology. As it becomes more modular, more organic, more deconstructed, more seamless and less expensive, it will start to catch up with Apologue’s imagination.

How does your experience of growing up in Hong Kong and Israel affect your work? Israel taught me about passion. Everyone who knows an Israeli knows what I mean. I learned to articulate what’s important to me in all things: what I want, what I love, what I’m ready to work hard for, when I’m ready to fight, what my goals are and how to always keep things flavorful. Hong Kong taught me about intensity—scale, pace, abundance, density and ambition. Both taught me to be hungry to learn new things every day because the world is just so interesting.

What excites you about experience design right now? I love that it is a discipline designed to be in flux. The process remains fundamentally the same and yet the result is always sculpted in new ways, with new materials, new thoughts and new experiences.

What tools do you find indispensable for your work? Amazing minds. Everything else money can buy.