As she returned from traveling to four continents and beyond 14 cities in one month with the hope to bring back the origins of knowledge in her suitcase, the Willy Wonka of Design and Science- Dr. Ben Hayoun- stopped by in Gothenburg to share some of the mysteries behind her practice and production of the impossible.

Somewhat a little alien, a little homo-sapiens and a real dreamer, Dr. Ben Hayoun, a Wired Innovation fellow, activist, designer of experiences and the world’s best speaker according to The Drum, is not one to shy away from any challenges. Get a jolt of power packed energy and join her in a roller coaster of ‘monstrous’ large-scale projects, understand the practice of the Design of Experiences and ask her some wild questions!

The audience heard about astronauts playing music with The International Space Orchestra; asteroids impacting the earth with Disaster Playground, extreme forms of life on our planet and beyond with Space Viking and finally tuition-free universities under nightclubs with the University of the Underground. Dr. Ben Hayoun also presented some behind the scenes of her latest project I am (not) a Monster an impossible pursuit- looking for the origins, mechanics and power dynamics behind knowledge.


About Nelly Ben Hayoun Ph.D.

  • Best female speaker in the “Top 50 of the best female speakers list”, the Drum, January 2018
  • One of the “Top 50 Creative Leaders driving change in the world at large”, Creative Review, June 2017
  • One of the “Top 50 inspirational women in architecture and design”, Dezeen, March 2017
  • Nominated 3 times as one of the “150 Female Creative Leaders 2017, redefining the creative industries”, The Dots, March 2017
  • Dr. Ben Hayoun has a Barbie doll and a Lego made of herself
  • Director and founder of the postgraduate University of the Underground- world’s first tuition free university and charity based under the urban space teaching unconventional research practices; Design of Experiences and connecting ‘dreamers of the day’
  • Research Director at the design institute A/D/O in Green point, Brooklyn, NYC since 2017
  • Dr. Ben Hayoun has two doppelgängers who work with her to appear at multiple places at the same time
  • Indiewire SXSW Highlights Women filmmaker, 2015, Indiewire
  • Nominated for a VISION Award at SXSW 2015, SXSW
  • WIRED Innovation Fellow 2014, WIRED
  • United Nations Advisor since 2015
  • Chief of Experiences at WeTransfer since 2013
  • Member of the Space Outreach and Education Committee at the International Astronautical Federation since 2013
  • Member of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Permanent Committee The International Academy of Astronautics(IAA)
  • Vice Chair of the Committee for the Cultural Utilisation of Space (ITACCUS) at the International Astronautical Federation (IAF)
  • Associate Fellow at the Hannah Arendt Centre, Bard College for Politics and Humanities.
  • Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London Teaching Award, 2016
  • Woman of the Year Achievement Award, finalist 2015
  • SETI Institute Designer of Experiences since 2013
  • Best of The Year 2016 and 2017 by the Metropolitan Museum (MET), 2016 and 2017
  • Advisory board member at AIGA (American Institute for Graphic Arts) in Los Angeles since 2015
  • Director and founder of the International Space Orchestra in NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute since 2011
  • One of the 50 international designers ‘shaping the future’, ICON 2013


Dubbed the ‘Willy Wonka of Design and Science’, award-winning Director and Designer of Experiences Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun is a critical explorer and a fearless and passionate provocateur. 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 Dr. Ben Hayoun as one of the 50 international designers ‘shaping the future’. Additionally, in 2015, she was nominated for a Women of the Year Achievement Award which rewards, since 1955, women ‘who have made a significant achievement’ and ‘are being recognised for their strides in making the world a better place’. Nelly is Designer of Experiences at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, Chief of Experiences at WeTransfer, a member of the Space Outreach and Education Committee at the International Astronautical Federation, a United Nations Advisor to the UN VR (Virtual Reality) labs, an advisory board member at AIGA (American Institute for Graphic Arts) in Los Angeles, she is the Research Director at the Design Institute A/D/O in Green point, Brooklyn and a visiting professor at the Royal College of Arts and the Architectural Association. In 2016, she was awarded with Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London Teaching award.



Nelly assembled and directs the International Space Orchestra (ISO) – the world first orchestra of space scientists and astronauts from NASA and through this has collaborated with Grammy award-winning musicians such as Beck, Damon Albarn, Bobby Womack, The Prodigy, Penguin Café, Ed Banger Records, Savages and most recently Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós.

She is a keynote speaker and has spoken worldwide about the value of experiential design practices in the context of outreach, community and education. Her work has been exhibited at the National Museum of China, MOMA, V&A and other leading design institutions.

Dr. Ben Hayoun is the author and director of two feature length movies. She was awarded one of the UK largest artistic awards, The Arts Council England Exceptional Award for her feature-length movie Disaster Playground. Disaster Playground is following the chain of command in place in the event of hazardous asteroid impacting the earth. It was nominated for a Vision Award at SXSW 2015 and is distributed worldwide on Netflix North America and other digital platforms. In 2018 Dr. Ben Hayoun has completed her latest feature length film, I am (not) a Monster.

Nelly and her studio have also worked and consulted for the likes of world-class clients including NASA, BBC, Lego, Airbnb HQ, XL Recordings, AIGA (American Institute for Graphic Arts) and Mattel amongst many others. Her latest project; The Life the Sea and the Space Viking, bringing together space scientists and Vikings in a boat to collect form of life for outer space colonisation was selected as one of the Best of The Year series 2016 by the Metropolitan Museum in NYC.

In 2017, Dr. Ben Hayoun has launched with academic partner the Sandberg Instituut and long term collaborator WeTransfer, the University of the Underground, a free postgraduate university based in the underground of the urban spaces in London and Amsterdam, composed of dreamers of the day and supporting unconventional research practices.

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. Dr. Ben Hayoun and her doppelgängers currently split their time between Mountain View, London, Amsterdam and New York City.




Arranged in collaboration with Iaspis, The Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s international program for Visual and Applied Arts.