Technology is many things to many people. For some it is a tool to achieve corporate success, for others it provides a way of furthering knowledge. For new-media design company ART+COM, technology is a design tool, but it also serves as a medium to convey meaning and foster interaction with others.

Driven by curiosity and the desire to explore how the personal computer could be used to communicate and interact with humans, former visual communications and film student Joachim Sauter – together with a diverse group of architects, designers, programmers, engineers and scientists from the Berlin University of the Arts – established ART+COM.
“When we launched in the 1980s, the PC was mainly used as a design tool by designers and architects, but it soon became clear that it wasn’t just a tool, it was also a medium for expression and spatial communication,” said Sauter, the studio’s chairman and head of design, who is also a professor of digital media and design at both the University of Arts in Berlin and the University of California, Los Angeles. “At ART+COM, we explore themes such as computer-designed reflective surfaces and use a combination of computational design and visual experiences to enable surfaces and objects to tell stories and impart messages.”

Often commissioned by museums and companies that want to convey a specific message through spatial experiences, ART+COM’s small, multi-disciplinary teams are accustomed to working within the confines of a specific design brief. Projects can take from a few months to a few years to go from conception to final implementation.

“We will continue to use technology to create intuitive experiences that fire peoples’ imaginations.”

“While technology can inspire form during the design process, we don’t use it to impress; our main aim is to make the audience focus on the message we’re communicating,” Sauter said. “If people are immediately fascinated by the technology we’ve used in the artwork and how it all works, rather than engaging with the meaning it aims to convey, we have failed.”

To ensure engagement, Sauter and his team rely on a fundamental design basic: inspiration from the world around them.

“There is no formula for inspiration, it’s simply something you can find by opening your eyes – it could come from something as small as the reflection of sunlight in a glass of water, or the graceful movement of a manta ray,” Sauter said.

As digital technology becomes more advanced, he said, Art+Com will continue to find innovative and more imaginative ways to incorporate it into art installations. “We will continue to use technology to create intuitive experiences that fire peoples’ imaginations and help them to understand complex facts, as well as giving them a sense of space.” ◆

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  • Kinetic Rain:
  • Located in Singapore’s Changi Airport, Kinetic Rain consists of 608 rain droplets that hang from the ceiling and move precisely by a computer-controlled motor. (Image © ART+COM)