People ProfilesMarch 8, 2024

Meet the designer putting people first in a rapidly changing world

Dassault Systèmes Vice President Design Experience Anne Asensio champions the role of the designer, sustainability and circularity.
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Anne Asensio can’t turn it off.

Always, she has a notebook on hand. Always, she’s writing and sketching whatever idea worms its way into her mind. Often, her pencil scratches paper in the middle of the night. Sometimes, she admits with a smile, it’s exasperating for her family.

“Design is a huge priority in my life,” Asensio says with a smile. “Yes, I’m a wife. Yes, I’m a mother. But I’m a designer first. … Design is my first love.”

That’s no knock on her family. Asensio spent her childhood in France doodling and drawing, filling napkins and coloring books. Many kids doodle and draw, but Asensio was sketching out her career long before she understood becoming a designer was even an option.

Asensio, an influential figure in design, effortlessly straddles the boundary between art and science, redefining 3D modeling as a form of dynamic artistic mediation. The New York Times called her “a rising star,” Design Management Institute put her on its shortlist of Diverse Leaders in Design for 2023, and she’s been called “legendary” and “innovative” by her peers. She’s a maverick in the realm of design, creating what others have only dreamed about.

Asensio considers herself to be a design researcher: studying how design sits between science and society. As an innovator, she constantly thinks about the next big thing, which landed her in roles other designers can only dream about.

After more than three decades in automotive design, working for some of the world’s largest car manufacturers, including Renault and General Motors, Asensio joined Dassault Systèmes as Vice President Design Experience, where she leads the Design Studio. Asensio is also involved with the World Design Organization and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, where she connects with other industry leaders worldwide and advocates for the central role of design and designers in a circular, sustainable economy.

When Asensio meets with these global visionaries, they all speak one universal language, and her first language: design.

Asensio’s design philosophy

At this stage in her career, Asensio strives to protect the role of the designer as AI becomes more prolific and to ensure designing for sustainability and circularity is part of the process. Her vision for a more sustainable future, designed perfectly for life, motivates Asensio to keep working—and is the driver of some of her most creative undertakings at Dassault Systèmes. Asensio embodies the digital renaissance—where digital technology enables a new golden age of popular culture and democratizes access to the cultural marketplace.

Anne Asensio speaking - design - Dassault Systemes blog
Anne Asensio speaking at a design event in Korea.

Her take on design emphasizes its profound role in organizing human-object interactions, delving deep into aesthetic and ethical dimensions. Whether addressing issues of sustainability, inclusivity, or cultural relevance, Asensio seeks to navigate the moral complexities associated with design decisions, fostering a thoughtful and responsible approach that extends beyond the traditional boundaries of the design discipline. By considering artistic elements, she aims to evoke a deeper emotional response from users, elevating design to a realm that transcends mere visual appeal.

“Design is profoundly connected to this history of where we come from as creative people,” Asensio said. “This is something I believe AI will never truly understand and something we need to preserve. Although AI can describe something to you, but it can never live it. It can tell you about your favorite painting, but it will never be able to feel the emotions you get from looking at it.”

She passionately advocates for a world where every individual can savor the simple pleasure of a meaningful existence unshackled by societal disparities – similar to how she approaches design.

Designing for innovation and life

Asensio’s journey into design sprouted from an innate hunger for more—a curiosity about the world around her, constantly questioning the status quo. At a young age, her affinity for the beauty of cars and machinery hinted at an engineering future, yet her heart resided in the art of creation.

This convergence of divergent passions fueled her journey. It led her on a path that allowed her to excel in automotive design with her innovation and determination to create, ultimately reshaping her thoughts on the entire design paradigm. A convergence where engineering met artistry, and innovation danced with imagination.

Embracing scientific methodologies in her work at Dassault Systèmes, she harnesses virtual twins to showcase design’s real-world impact, aiming to shape decision-making for societal betterment. With virtual twin technology, Asensio aims to design everything with a better, more sustainable and inclusive purpose for humanity.

From transforming cities and transportation with innovative solutions to sustainable modular assembly for architecture and industry, in every project, Asensio sees potential to advance human creation and improve humankind.

“Design is becoming more and more important today as we organize the interaction between humans and the objects that surround us,” Asensio said. “Questioning the aesthetic and ethical relationship with these objects leads to a much more profound initiative within the design world.”

Asensio’s design philosophy challenges conventions, advocating for a human touch in a world rapidly embracing artificial intelligence, underlining that “no algorithm can truly tap into that human experience.” Asensio’s mission remains steadfast—to amplify the voice of design, nurture creativity as a catalyst for transformative change, and advocate for a balanced growth that aligns with humanity’s progress.

Advocacy for design’s global impact

Asensio unites designers globally, fostering a community rooted in human-centric values and a collective vision to reshape societal norms through design. Her vision is inclusive and empowers everyone to shape their surroundings and find meaning in their existence.

Anne Asensio sketching - design - Dassault Systemes blog
Anne Asensio sketches a project in the Dassault Systèmes Design Studio.

“What is creativity if not a means to make global change?” Asensio asks.

Asensio’s interactions transcend borders, engaging designers worldwide in a transformative dialogue through in-person meetings, social media conversations, and direct connections with global employees at Dassault Systèmes. Asensio and her global design community discuss everything from the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to how to humanize the design of the International Space Station. From Mexico to Korea, she fosters an invigorating community of designers unified by a human-centric ethos and a collective vision to reshape the world.

This vision isn’t just about reduction but seeking a balanced growth aligned with humanity’s progress. She challenges the industry’s status quo, urging a reevaluation of industry purposes from mere profit to sustainable societal advancement.

Roots of passion and a lifelong sketch

Asensio envisions a world where design is a universal language, empowering everyone to shape their surroundings and infuse life with purpose. Pledging to continue championing its cause, her mission is to bolster the voice of design, ensuring it resonates louder, pierces deeper, and commands a seat at the table of societal discourse.

Asensio’s future endeavors revolve around emphasizing imagination and ingenuity, instilling the belief that creativity, shared by all, holds the key to transformative change. With this, Asensio will continue to mentor other designers, fostering a sense of change throughout the design community centered around humanity, innovation, and connection.

Anne Asensio isn’t the only one helping reshape the world of design. Check out some of the other humans driving progress.

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