Publication date: 2024-02-27

Alumni Spotlight: Ilse's immersive worlds

In 2019, Ilse Pouwels traded her Dutch clogs for Swedish snow boots, as she travelled to study at the IxD Programme in Umeå. Today, she works at the design studio Tellart in Amsterdam, where she weaves her imagination into pixels and prototypes, crafting tech-driven experiences.

Text: Frida Endertorp
Ilse Pouwels works as an experience designer at Tellart, a design studio that, with the help of technology, creates new ways to experience the world.

Ilse Pouwels works as an experience designer at Tellart, a design studio that, with the help of technology, creates new ways to experience the world.

Image:Quentin Schaub

Ilse Pouwels is originally from Wijchen in the Netherlands. After high school, she decided to study design, a choice that came naturally to her.

I just really enjoy making things and exploring what things could be. I realised that a design education suits what I’m naturally good at

Ilse pouwels

After earning her Bachelor’s degree in industrial design at Eindhoven University of Technology, Ilse chose to apply for the Master’s Programme in Interaction Design at Umeå Institute o Design. Her choice of school has helped her a lot in her working life.

"The job market in the design field is competitive. However, if you’ve studied in Umeå, companies tend to really want you. The school is well known in the field. Having been to Umeå really opens doors for you."

Crafting Connections: UID's Global Network

Ilse is also very happy with the content of the programme. With a high quality of the education and a good structure, it fulfilled her expectations.

"We got lectures from interesting teachers. Sometimes they would fly in freelance teachers that are doing cool things in the field. The school provides a network of people that you become part of, which is powerful. And having the playground of the school building, the workshop, the whole place, it’s really set up for you to thrive."

Ilse prototyping during her UID degree project

Ilse Pouwels prototyping her UID degree project "Undermine Through Design", a nomad server holding a digital design manifesto that is continually and collectively being written.

Ilse has also made many friends through her education. She and her course mates got along well, in large thanks to the tight community at the Arts Campus.

"We were always working together, helping each other out, having fun, cooking together, having beers together after studying."

Ilse keeps in touch with many of her course mates. Though they now live in different countries, they have met up after graduation and plan to see each other again soon.

Sculpting digital wonderlands

After graduation, Ilse moved back to the Netherlands where she got a job immediately. She now works at the design studio Tellart in Amsterdam as an experience designer. Tellart presents new ways to experience the world with the help of technology. Projects that Tellart produces include museums and experience centers.

"We start with a small team, and we figure out what’s the core of the thing we want to tell. Then we develop that further to how that’s going to feel in a space, what people will touch, and smell, and hear. To make a cohesive whole. While we’re doing that, we believe in the art of discovery. We try out some things, build a lot of prototypes, play around with new technologies, and see how we can push them to create experiences that people will really engage with."

For Ilse, no day is the same. She works with creating narratives for the studio’s projects. Her education has helped a lot in her work.

We learned a lot about how to deal with complexity and design for that complexity

ilse pouwels

"I always worked pretty hands on, which I still do in my work. Because we learned how to deal with complexity you quickly understand clients and what they need. You figure out what’s the most important to focus on is. We also worked a lot in teams in Umeå, which reflects how we work at Tellart as well."

Designing without borders

Despite the studio being located in Amsterdam, Ilse rarely works in the city, but often travels with her job.

"We mainly do projects abroad. I’m now doing a project in Japan. We do a lot of projects in Dubai. We barely work in the Netherlands."

Tellart’s latest project is The Netherlands Pavilion at the World Expo in Osaka 2025. The project will present the Netherlands’ contribution to solve the climate crisis, by presenting different technologies that can harness power in water. Through an engaging, interactive narrative, visitors will learn about this potential new future.

What’s the best thing with your work?

"Sometimes it can feel a bit like a playground – and that’s really fun. Together with fun and talented people here, we’re trying to push the limits of technology and enable experience that might have not been possible before."

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to study the IxD Programme at UID?

"Just do it. If you can, I would recommend doing it. It broadens your perspective on design, and it lifts your career. You’re going to have fun. It increases your skills and understanding of the whole design field, and it will open doors for you as well."

About Ilse

Age: 29 years old.
Originally from: Wijchen, the Netherlands.
Lives: Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Education: Master’s Programme in Interaction Design, graduated in 2021.
Job: Experience designer at Tellart in Amsterdam.
Hobbies: Climbing, hangs out with friends.
Umeå in 3 words: Nature, calm, tight community.
Myself in 3 words: Active, driven, enthusiastic.
What I’ll be doing in ten years: Still tackling challenging societal problems with a design approach.