Our Speaker Spotlight sets the stage to get to know our speakers on a more personal level and connect them with our growing community. Read the mini-interview below!

A bit about Vanessa

Dr. Vanessa Julia Carpenter is the founder and Interaction Designer at Kintsugi Design, a design studio specializing in interaction design, femtech, and creating robust futures. Vanessa is also co-creating Astrid.is, a climate change educational suite in VR. Using her 20 years experience in industry and her PhD in Designing for Meaningfulness in Future Smart Products from AAU, Copenhagen, she challenges the status quo and explores how to facilitate personal and interpersonal self development in our technological futures. Vanessa believes in being a catalyst for change and has launched the Nordic network, “Women in Hardware” and the Icelandic chapter of “Women in Immersive Tech” with her colleague Lemke Meijer; writes for TechTruster.dk and Greater Spaces (ING.dk); and is a member of the Danish Design Council and a part of the Expert Panel at the Engineer’s Society of Denmark.

How did you start out in your career?

I have had many careers in my lifetime so far, some of them occurring in parallel. So I would say that my current career arc started when I was working with artists and interaction designers onboard illutron, a floating collaborative interactive art studio in Copenhagen. Here we challenged the status quo through the creation of large scale interactive art and today, those early explorations with technology and people lend themselves toward how I design new prototypes and experiences.

What are the signs of success in your field?

I believe that success happens when what you make is truly adopted by people, or that they embrace it and celebrate it because it matters to them. Often, we see products come to market that fade away quickly so I might argue that signs of success include design which is thoughtful, meaningful, inclusive and long-lasting.

What is the best and worst thing about your job role?

I never know what I’m making! Part of being an Interaction Designer is dipping one’s toes into many waters but never really diving too deep. I get to learn about a lot of exciting and fascinating industries but I am often just learning enough to work with my clients in a co-creation process so I can extract their expertise and their customer’s (user’s) wants and needs and desires and apply that to whatever it is we are creating. So we might start out with one idea or one design brief and end up somewhere else completely when we learn what it is we’re really dealing with; the end goal can shift wildly and that’s a good thing, that means we’re finding out what matters and designing for that, rather than what was assumed at the start of a process.

What can you advise someone just starting out in your industry to be successful?

Don’t get attached to tools. The understanding of how people work, how they respond to ways of working and being is most important. If you’re using Miro, or Figma, or paper and pens, or card decks, or user personas – none of that really matters; they are all tools. The goal is to emphasise, understand, synthesize and create.  To do that requires attention and thoughtful, critical analysis.

How do you switch off?

Dancing or weight lifting – physical activities that are far from the screen. I actually take an old phone to the gym with only two apps: Spotify and my workout app, so that no one can get to me while I’m there and I can’t get distracted by emails or social media.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would ask her to reflect on why she needs to achieve so much, so fast. I burnt out and it wasn’t fun and my younger self was a person who needed to slow down and savour life but didn’t know that that was important or how to even begin to do it… I’m still learning how. And to invest! Omg. Start investing now!!! (Thank you to www.femaleinvest.com).

What is next for you?

I’ve realized I need to focus on femtech and empowering women. I’m writing and speaking about femtech, and I need to work in this field, in empowering women overall, because this is where the most work needs to be done and I feel that with my life experience (both professionally and personally) it’s important for me to contribute here.

If you could do anything now, what would you do? Why?

I’ve been thinking a lot about going on a retreat – no phones, no computers, just me, exercise, and holistic health. I have been working so hard, for so long and I need to find out who I am in the next phase of my life, focusing on my health (both mental and physical) so I can be strong and ready to shine as I tackle this vital area of femtech and women’s empowerment.

What are your top 5 predictions in your industry for the next 5 years?

  1. We will focus on Designing for Meaningfulness (Is this self-promotion? Yes, but I really believe design and technology will shift to this direction).
  2. We will prioritize health over work
  3. We will work in harmony with AI – outsourcing mundane work and focusing on how to apply our human brains which are so capable, to solving problems that we haven’t had time to focus on yet.
  4. We will incorporate more traditional craft in technology
  5. We will design for non-screen interactions
(These last two are also from my Designing for Meaningfulness work so maybe it is just wishful thinking but I really see some trends moving this way).

Watch Vanessas panel on The Future of Digital Innovation: Emerging Tech Trends here.

Thank you to all our wonderful speakers for taking part in our panel!