Nelly Ben Hayoun, award-winning director, designer of experiences and dubbed the ‘Willy Wonka of Design and Science’ talks about designing the impossible. In 2014 Wired magazine awarded her with a WIRED Innovation Fellowship for her work to date and its ‘significant impact on the world’ whilst in 2013, Icon Magazine touted Ben Hayoun as one of the 50 international designers “shaping the future”.
Learn more about her work in the video below:
Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian PhD is an award-winning designer of experiences, the director and producer of three feature-length movies (The International Space Orchestra, 2013; Disaster Playground, 2015; I am (not) a monster, 2019); who creates multidimedsional experiential projects at the intersection of film, science, tech, theatre, politics, and Design.
Wired awarded her their inaugural Innovation Fellowship in 2014, and Icon magazine recognized Dr Ben Hayoun as one of the top 50 designers “shaping the future”. In 2018, Nelly was distinguished as the first on the list of the top 50 women on the speaker circuit by The Drum Magazine; while in 2017, Creative Review named her one of the Creative Leaders 50, selecting 50 creatives they felt were “driving change, not just within their organisation but in the world at large”, Dezeen selected her as one of the ’50 inspirational women in architecture and design’.
She is the founder and director of the International Space Orchestra, the world’s first orchestra of NASA space scientists and astronauts; and the founder of the tuition-free university, University of the Underground, which includes board members and activists like Prof Noam Chomsky and Prof Arjun Appadurai, this tuition-free educational and cultural programme is supporting plurality of thinking, free and transnational teaching, and unconventional practices in the basement of nightclubs. Her roles include Director of Nelly Ben Hayoun Studios Ltd., Designer of Experiences at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, Senior Fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center for politics and humanities, Chief of Experiences at file transfer service WeTransfer, Vice Chair of the IAF (International Astronautical Federation) Technical Committee on the Cultural Utilization of Space (ITACCUS), a member of the IAF Space Education and Outreach Committee (SEOC), and a member of the IAA (International Academy of Astronautics) Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) permanent committee amongst others.
When she is not making films, Nelly is a keynote speaker and has spoken worldwide about the value of experiential design practices in the context of nightlife, outreach, community, and education. Her design work has been exhibited at the National Museum of China, MOMA, V&A, the MET and other leading design institutions. Ben Hayoun-Stépanian is also an amateur boxer who trains at the legendary Gleason’s Gym in NYC in the fighting crew of trainer Hector Roca. She has two doppelgangers who work with her to appear at multiple places at the same time, a Barbie doll and a Lego made of herself. Nelly received her MA with distinction from the Royal College of Arts in Design Interactions, she holds a PhD in Geography (Human Geography and Political Philosophy) from Royal Holloway, University of London.