Michele Gauler is a cognitive psychologist and interaction designer who combines her unique background in cognitive psychology, software development, interaction and critical design with her love for art and illustration to give shape to thoughts.
Some of her work has been on display at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA), at Art Basel and at Fendi Spazio during Salone di Mobile, Milano. In 2010, together with Eyal Burstein, she was awarded with the Design Miami Designer of the Future Award. She creates images, objects and experiences that invite us to engage with topics like death & data and perception, as well as gives shape to the intentions and ideas of others as a self-employed coach and designer.
Born to a Portuguese mum and German dad in 1973, she lives and works in Berlin with her husband, their daughter and their dog.
- 2006 // Master of Art (RCA) in Design Interaction (with distinction) at the Royal College of Art, London
- 2000 // Dipl-Psychologin (German Psychology Degree comparable to an MA)
Jobs & Employment
- 2006 to now // Self-employed, giving shape to thoughts
- 2017 to now // Co-Founder of Conscious U*, an online-training company
- 2014 // Faculty member of The School of Life, Berlin
- 2009 // Co-director of Beta Tank, a conceptual design agency
- 2000 to 2004 // User-experience expert at IBM Development, Germany
Exhibitions & Awards
- 2010 // Design Miami Designer of the Future Award (together with Eyal Burstein, when we co-directed Beta Tank)
- 2010 // Taxing Art at Art Basel, Basel
- 2010 // Fendi Spazio, Milan
- 2008 // Digital Remains and Eye Candy in the ‘Design and the Elastic Mind’ exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA)
Why I do what I do
(Apart from because I am obsessed with pen, paper and ink.)
When I was working in my corporate jobs, I was sometimes shocked about the amount of times I sat in meetings and conversations and had the clear sense that the majority of people in the room did not exactly know what was being talked about or didn’t feel it had anything to do with them. – After these kinds of meetings and conversations, naturally not much was put into action. There were the work horses that did something in any case and then, usually when deadlines loomed, the tension increased and the immediately necessary things were quickly implemented – most of the time without checking in with each other. Looking at the products, services and other things that were created in such ways, I always felt that this lack of human consensus and clarity was palpable. Features, functions, words and images sometimes hung loosely next to each other.
I then went to art school (the Royal College of Art in London) and experienced something quite different: Here, people were fully engaged in their projects. They were able to condense a complex amount of information, thoughts and feelings into this one piece of design or art and let it express their thoughts, as well as be a starting point for new conversations. I myself learnt how to take on this way of working, where you constantly give shape to your thoughts, over and over again, until what you see or hold in your hands does justice to what you think and want to say. So, this is when I started to give shape to thoughts and conversation in a more conscious way than I had before. When I was young, at school, I had always produced very visual notes but now I became crazy about giving all kinds of shapes to thoughts. I produced Illustrations, combinations of words and images, paper sketches, mini sculptures, stand-alone words, photo stories, comics, films, audio pieces, 3D-prototypes, etc and by doing so this way of ‘thinking with my hands’ became my second nature. Up until today, this approach forms a wonderful co-existence with the more playful, open-ended, divergent methods of my creative process.
Over time, I more and more often also gave shape to the thoughts, ideas, intentions and projects of others. I had people naturally gravitate to this skill of mine to have ‘shaping conversations’ where I deeply listened, quickly grasped information and gave shape in a way that allowed them to see, develop and sharpen their thoughts. I learnt that bringing thoughts to the surface by visualising and shaping them allows for joint engagement. The image or object focusses an individual, as well as a group of people on a topic. It is always openly visible to everyone what the topic is and where the conversation is at. So it solves the problem of aimless meetings that I experienced at the beginning of my career. – This is why I love creative and visual methods that can be applied to a conversation or process and that give shape to thoughts. And because I have experienced countless times how satisfying and motivating it is to have clarity on your own or joint intention, I have specialised in this way of working.
There are always two sides of me at work:
Firstly, with my background in psychology, usability, user-experience and critical design, I naturally take on the perspective of you, your team, your clients and students:
- What is the essence of your thought? Which feelings are present?
- How will you or they perceive an image or experience?
- How can an image, object or experience express the core of a thought and at the same time spark an insight or engagement
And secondly, with my love for drawing, illustration and design, I listen and think with my hands, usually with pen & paper:
- How do the words and concepts I hear translate into visual metaphors, structures and stories?
- Which patterns emerge?
- How can I or we together create something meaningful from this? Something intriguing, delightful and beautiful that draws people in and touches them on a deeper level?
While writing this, I notice that I often hang around in the areas where two mindsets meet, for instance at the intersections of:
psychology & art
logic & intuition
structure & play
thoughts & images
I like Instagram
Instagram is the social platform I am most active on. I mainly post my self-initiated projects and pages from my sketchbooks.
In the beginning, I found it really scary to post my work on Instagram. Over time I noticed, how these tiny steps out of my comfort zone moved me forward regarding my illustration style. Today, I use Instagram to test out new things. – If you have a creative outlet in your life, I can highly recommend finding a medium-scary place to share your work in order to grow!
Send me an e-mail so we can have a chat
about bringing the essence of your thinking to the surface!