Tessellate’s Emily Conrad on Designing Spaces to Encourage Exploration
Co-founder and president of Tessellate Studio, Emily Conrad spoke to Doreen Lorenzo in an interview for her Designing Women series in Fast Company. Tessellate is an integrated design and technology studio where Conrad and her team think about design for museums, exhibit spaces, and how visitors are going to interact in physical space in ways that are meaningful for them.
Conrad recounted her interest in design beginning at a young age when she got the chance to visit a product factory and likened the full creation process to a “magic show.” That interest led to her eventually moving to New York to work as a sculptor for many years, but after a poignant visit to the Whitney Museum where she saw their bitstream digital media exhibit on display, an interest in technology and interactivity sparked in her and she began to think that her sculptures could come alive in a really different way.
She then attended ITP, the Interactive Telecommunications Program founded by Red Burns, an important influence on Conrad. Burns once pulled her aside and told her, “Emily, I want you to know something. As a designer who is understanding technology, you’re going to be faced with a lot of engineers and people who are going to tell you that something can’t be done. You just have to look them in the face and tell them that it can.” She recalled this unforgettable moment as the greatest piece of advice she ever received.
Tessellate is often tasked with designing a whole space. Conrad explained how their job is to determine what the master narrative is and design the best way to convey and teach an idea. Projects of theirs like BioBus and Mobile Food Lab have brought the thrill of discovery to children by sparking their imagination through unconventional environments curated for exploration.