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Experimental Design

Xiaotong Wang

Xiaotong Wang is a multimedia artist and graphic designer from China.

Passionate about using different media and materials to create art, Xiaotong in recent years has explored the relationship between technology, power structures and emotions through video, interactive installations, workshops and design fiction. Her current work focuses on speculative design and explores alternative futures by using visual narratives and design fiction to provide an immersive experience for audiences that will allow them to critically reflect on the problems of our society.


University of Science and Technology Beijing | Visual Communication Design | 2016-2020

Royal College of Art | information experience design | 2020-2022

Technology is gradually moving from the laboratory into our lives as well as the consumer culture therefore pushing the boundaries of morality and ethics. With each penetration of this technology into our lives, our power, culture and social structures are being reconfigured. What scenarios might happen in future when capital applies technology to the human body and makes it meet the needs of governments to run society?

The project Cyborg Supervisor uses design fiction as a basis to situate current controversial technologies within a viable social vision and to create interaction and dialogue with the public about this future world through design artifacts, design scenarios and animations, to promote critical thinking around the concepts presented in the project.

Welcome to London 2084.

With the support of the government and capital, biotech companies have legalised human modification techniques. The cyborgs, who have an advanced sense of smell after screening and electronic device implantation surgery, will work in some key government departments to protect the city's security and maintain the well-being of its citizens, and they are called the new supervisor.

The cyborg supervisors, with their advanced olfactory systems, can access and analyse a wealth of private data on the physiology, state of mind and whereabouts of the citizens, contained in the scent information (pheromones) emitted by citizens. However, not everyone wants the help of cyborg monitors, so some residents have started to look for "illegal" sources to buy goods to mask their scent, i.e. their identity and whereabouts.

The project takes "The Boundaries of Cyborg Power" as its starting point and uses scenarios and animated stories to further lead the audience to consider the social crisis that arises when technology, power and human nature intertwine and become alienated.

Storyboard 01
Storyboard 02
Storyboard scene 01 — On Monday night, Cyborg supervisor Cleo waited at the intersection for Nathan's car to pass by.
Storyboard scene 02 — The car accident on Tuesday night.
Cyborg Supervisor Storyboard — Some storyboards are spliced together in narrative order in the form of video. The final complete story will be displayed in the form of animation.

The story takes place in the aforementioned futuristic world and is divided into three main characters, Nathan, a male politician who uses his natural citizenship as a point of contention to run for government organizations, Cleo, a female cyborg interviewer who relies on special smelling water to hide her illness, and Patrick, a pharmacy owner who is forced to make special smelling water to make a living due to a failed implant procedure.

Nathan chooses to hide the accident he had a few days ago to pass the interview, but his scent betrays his state. In desperation, Nathan approaches the mysterious pharmacy owner Patrick and tries to purchase the "perfume". Meanwhile, Cleo, who also relies on the "perfume" to hide her health condition, is ordered by her leaders to find a way to remove Nathan from the list of candidates. All three characters have different positions, but all are subject to human nature and the rules that have been given to the current society by technology.

Where will the story go next?

The story will eventually be shown to the audience as an animation. The story aims to better guide the audience through the future concept of the design fiction project, enhancing the sense of immersion and providing a narrative for the design artefacts and scenarios.


Digital painting & video


Collection of materials 01 — As the characters and scenes in the story are mostly related to the natural environment, I went to locations similar to the scenes in the story to gather some materials.
Collection of materials 02
Perfume experimental 01 — Animal insane: Nathan's scent started to change after that accident.
Perfume experimental 02 — Real Cleo: Cleo's scent before she became a cyborg supervisor.
Perfume experimental 03 — Nathan's new identity: Patrick has created a new scent identity for Nathan.
Perfume experimental 04 — Ideal Cleo: Cleo covers up her physical condition with this perfume made by Patrick.
Collecting perfumes — Pour the finished perfume into a 10ml glass bottle.
Scent test — Test by placing a drop of perfume on a perfume test strip.

The scent is the main thread and medium of presentation throughout the project.

I have experimented several times to simulate the scents that appear in the story, aiming to provide an interactive and multi-sensory experience for the audience. In the future, I will create other narrative artifacts to give shape to this fictional world, while the final design scenario will present the home laboratory of Patrick, a character in the story.


Mixed liquids