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Caroline Claisse

MA Information Experience Design, 2012–2014

I am very lucky to have been able to study in lots of different places. My first degree was in Paris, where I studied visual communication for two years. When I moved to London I did a BA in Graphic and Media Design at the London College of Communication, during which I took a year out to pursue something called a Diploma in Professional Studies. As part of that diploma I got an internship at MoMA. It was there that I completely fell in love with museums, with their space, their design and their visitors. When I came back to London I realised that I wanted to open up my practice a little more. Graphic design can be quite a specific discipline: I wanted to experiment a bit more and work across disciplines to push the boundaries of my practice.

When I finished my BA, I started working in exhibition design with a design collective where we translated stories into engaging and playful experiences through museums and heritage sites. I loved it, but I also wanted to ground my practice in research, and give myself a firm theoretical framework. I saw that the RCA was starting a new Master’s programme that seemed to offer the exact thing I was looking for: some time and space to think, play and ground my practice in research while learning more about interactive design.

I learnt such a lot from the course. It provided me with a whole new spectrum of tools and approaches. I also learnt a lot from the other students. We had a real mix of people: archaeologists, biologists, people from a coding background. My interest was in museums, but other people were interested in data visualisation, in inclusive design, physical computing and in other things that I’d never even thought about until then.

In the first year I felt that my work was going in every direction. It definitely didn’t feel easy, stable or safe, but I think that was a good thing. There’s a noticeable shift from a BA; you do much more reading, much more research, and perhaps a bit less making. It can be scary. I think that the first year is about finding your path. In the second year you have the chance to pursue your own self-directed project. Then it’s really about staying focussed.

One of the brilliant things about the course is how supportive the tutors are, and how keen they are to push you in new directions. My tutors suggested that I present the research from my first year dissertation at a series of conferences. I have presented my research at Nodem in Stockholm, at the PLAY festival in Copenhagen, and at the Constructionism and Creativity conference in Vienna.

For the final show I made a series of ‘curious objects’ displayed in a cabinet of curiosities. It was based on the surrealist game of ‘exquisite corpse’ and used radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag technology so people could carry on each other’s stories, inspired by the objects. I’m interested in objects in museum settings and their role in stimulating meaning-making and imagination. My work was selected by Tim Marlow (Director of Artistic Programmes at the Royal Academy) to be part of an upcoming exhibition in Manchester. He said my work was taking ‘surrealism into the digital age’! I was very pleased with that.

I’m looking forward to carrying on more research-based work, maybe in collaboration with a museum or cultural organisation. For now, I am working on a few exhibition projects and I feel very pleased to be going back to the RCA as a visiting lecturer on the IED programme.

Caroline Claisse, Exquisite Cabinet
Exquisite Cabinet, Caroline Claisse 2014
3D printed objects

"I learnt such a lot from the course. It provided me with a whole new spectrum of tools and approaches. I also learnt a lot from the other students."
Caroline Claisse
Caroline Claisse