During this year’s iteration of Salone del Mobile in Milan, Google Design Studio presented “A Space for Being”—a multi-room installation at Spazio Maiocchi. Created in collaboration with Muuto, Reddymade Architecture, and the International Arts + Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins University, the project explored how thoughtful design can impact our lives and well-being through a series of rooms containing different designs, furniture, colors, lighting, sound, and other stimuli, measuring each guest’s response through a bracelet.
To learn more about Google’s experience at Salone, “A Space for Being,” and what to expect in the future, Whitewall spoke with Ivy Ross, jewelry designer and Vice President for Hardware Design at Google.
WHITEWALL: This is your second year participating at Salone del Mobile. What were the most important things you learned last year?
IVY ROSS: Something wonderful is that it seemed like the headlines featuring Google turned out surprisingly human. We were just being ourselves in terms of the design studio putting forth an exhibition surrounding the way we think about design, the products, and the spirit in which we want to see them in the home. The reaction was very positive and, for most people, very surprising.
The takeaway was that we should just keep being ourselves and being a thought leader in the industry. Because this fair is not about selling our products, as much as it is about continuing to show up as a thought leader in the industry.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about the concept behind Near Aesthetics, and in particular, what you’re creating in each room?
IR: This exhibition is almost a large-scale experience of what we at the Google design studio think about in terms of thoughtful design. When we’re designing products, we consider how something feels, looks, and how it smells. The neuro static principles (how neuroscience is proving what we as designers know intuitively) say that everything affects our physiology. And that’s where the choices we make matter.
Some people have asked me if there’s one room that is better than the others, but it’s not a judgment. It’s really to give the guests a mirror into how their body feels in certain environments, and the point is to show you how individual it is.
At the end of the experience, you get a printout indicating which room your body suggests you are most at ease. There are many different emotions, so we pick this idea of most calm or most comfortable. With some people, we’ve seen differences between what the mind says, (“I love this room”) and what the body is saying, (“Well, I’m more comfortable in a different room”). And for some people it’s absolutely aligned.
There is no right answer. The point is that you, your body, and your senses have a reaction to everything you surround yourself with.
WW: Is this going to become a tool that can be utilized by interior designers?
IR: We haven’t thought that out. I think the world would not be very beautiful if you had to overthink this—nor would I ever want something that is constantly analyzing us.
It’s more of an experience to remind you, in a life where people are often stressed and looking for a sense of calm, that things like design can aid us in that way.
WW: How did jewelry help you get to where you are today?
IR: I started in jewelry and now I’m in technology design, and I think it actually makes sense. It’s really about the process of design and making magic—making something out of nothing. I can apply myself and my leadership to either of these categories.
WW: What are the next steps for the hardware product division?
IR: We are continuing to evolve in all the categories that we’re currently in, launching new products every year, and that’s all I can say.