FUSE 2011 Speaker Spotlight: Lianne Yu, Founder, Immersive Journeys

In the weeks leading up to FUSE 2011, we're going to be hearing from the speakers! This week we have Dr. LiAnne Yu, Founder, Immersive Journeys, who will be part of the Cultural Anthropology, Insights & Trends track at FUSE 2011. To learn more about FUSE, download the brochure here!

Listen to our brief podcast interview with LiAnne here
, or read on for some of her thoughts on design, trends and cultural anthropology.

1. Tell us about a project you are working on or recently completed that you are proud of?
I am launching Immersive Journeys, Kitchen Stories this year, focused on food and memory among immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area. My clients will have the opportunity to spend time with a San Franciscan immigrant family, create a meal together, and in the process, uncover their host family's life histories, memories of the homeland, and how food connects to their personal stories. We will then work together to craft these experiences into an ethnographic story, using words, sounds, images, or a combination. This experience gives my clients, who may be travelers to San Francisco or residents interested in ethnic culture, the opportunity to practice ethnographic skills and develop their own ethnographic account of their visit. I am especially proud of this offering because it highlights the diversity of cultures we have here in the Bay Area, and gives people of all backgrounds the opportunity to learn ethnographic skill sets in a fun and meaningful context.

2. Think ahead 5 years, what major changes for design do you see?
Storytelling will become a more significant part of the entire design process, but especially in the early stages. As we all know, the most powerful brands tell a story, and that story resonates with consumers on a fundamental level, even if they don't explicitly agree with the story or understand it. To take an example, I would argue that one of the most powerful brands today is Lady Gaga. Everything she wears, does, says and performs is part of a larger, overarching story she is trying to convey. While some may view her as off the wall with her random outfits, what's really going on is that she is art directing all of her public life - all of her brand touch points, so to speak. As storytelling becomes integrated into earlier parts of the brand/product design process, I believe we're likely to see more screen writers, film makers, and others with storytelling skills become integrated into the design process.

3. What inspired you to get in the field? What keeps you motivated?
I worked as a design ethnographer for a market research consultancy for many years. What I loved most about my work was the ability to bring my ethnographic skills into a business context, and to work with designers on modeling and expressing information. The inspiration for my new company, Immersive Journeys, was the realization that people are seeking new ways to experience different cultures and to get away from the touristy aspects of travel. I am constantly hearing people tell me that they wish they could just go into someone's home when they travel and experience locals' actual lifestyles, instead of just hanging out in the tourist ghettos. Coaching people on the fundamentals of anthropology and traveling with the intent of creating ethnographic stories is my passion, and keeps me motivated.

4. What is one thing you’re excited about for this year’s Fuse?
Seeing how companies and brands have weathered the economic downturn of the last few years, and how they may be changing strategies to be more nimble in their design process. And this is my first time attending FUSE, so I'm just generally excited and honored to be part of this community.

Immersive Journeys is an experiential travel service dedicated to providing people of all backgrounds the opportunity to:
• Have authentic, 1:1 encounters with locals, learning their life histories, spending time in their homes and participating in their daily activities
• Develop skills for digging in and experiencing cultures from the inside
• Create ethnographic stories reflecting your unique encounters, making use of your natural storytelling style
For more information, visit www.immersivejourneys.com, or follow LiAnne on Twitter at @lianneyu



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