Lola Gielen | Neo en Felix
“I want to create things that make people smile. I want to be happy myself and make others happy as well.” As a conceptual thinker and interaction designer, Lola Gielen (1992) designs playful products.
It’s called Felix and it looks like something between a big egg-shaped control knob and a 3D smiley. If you turn it, the color and light intensity change and so does the expression of the two ‘eyes’. “Felix is a happy bot that expresses how you feel", Lola explains. “Research shows that happiness can be positively influenced by thinking about it daily. I designed Felix as a low-threshold device to express your mood. If you want, you can share it with family, friends or others around you, for example through an online platform.” Those others can include, for example, caretakers, since Lola created Felix with first and foremost elderly and people in healthcare institutions in mind. “It's not meant to be a replacement for care and attention but - on the contrary - to trigger personal contact.”
"Eindhoven brings me many useful connections."
Young girl with a telescope
Growing up in Eindhoven, Lola developed an interest in science and technology. On her website, she shows a picture of herself as a young girl with a telescope. But she deliberately chose to study at Design Academy Eindhoven. “I wanted to learn artistic, creative and conceptual skills – the practical and theoretical stuff I could find out on my own, or so I thought.”
As a graduation project, she developed Neo, a kind of cross-over between a sequencer and a board game. “I tried to master the accordion, but realized that a lot of practice is not enough. You also need some talent. So after years of effort to become a musician, I decided to make an instrument that is easy to play.”
By showing Neo at events like Dutch Design Week, she was asked to join the talent development program Smart Design to Market. With a grant and by winning the ASML Makers Award, she was able to develop an improved prototype with the help of the companies ASML, ACE, and Spiccs. “Having an idea like Neo or Felix and developing a prototype is one thing, but developing a concept ready for production and market is another thing. It takes a lot of time, energy and money.”
Change of environment
In this process, it’s also important to find the right people and parties and connect with them, says Lola. “You simply cannot do everything by yourself. That is what's so good about Eindhoven: you can find all kinds of professionals here with all the knowledge or skills that you need.” It was even the main reason for her to move back to the city where she grew up. “I moved to Tilburg during my studies – after so many years in Eindhoven, I wanted a change of environment. But some years later, after a lot of commuting, I realized that Eindhoven brings me a lot of useful connections so I decided to move back to become part of the innovation breeding place.”
Social design projects
Lola loves to cooperate with other creatives and specialists. She is part of the team What if Collective that created the award-winning interactive installation MGNT for the STRP Biennale 2017. She is also working together with PLYGRND, a team of city makers that creates social design projects in the urban space with a focus on health, well-being and bringing people closer together. “We let the local residents have a say and inspire us about their wishes and needs. That’s much better than a municipality dumping some devices.”