SHolistic design: Why so many computer-embedded products in the world aren’t designed for people and what we might do to change that

Wednesday 02/04/2014 12:00-1:00PM
Location: SJ008
Speaker: Prof. Steve Gill


Even those of us who know better tend to think of computers as the PCs or laptops we type our emails into. Actually, we also know that computers are in our cameras, iPods, ovens, washing machines, our children’s toys and even in their birthday cards. The phones in our pockets today have millions of times the memory of the computer in the Apollo lunar capsules and this form of computer interaction is arguably more important than the traditional kind. Yet many computer embedded products are deeply unsatisfactory. Steve will argue that part of the reason is that to all extents and purposes we are cave people with senses and emotions evolved to interact with the physical world in complex and overlapping ways and that the design approach to these products fails to acknowledge. Physicality has a mind altering effect on our interactions (so you can't for example properly mimic the interactions with a handheld device on a touchscreen) and also on the design process itself (which means you get worse designs if you don't make three dimensional mock ups). So how do we deal with that?
In this talk Steve will reflect on some of the surprisingly complex design challenges he faced designing one of the most humble products you will have encountered - and you will all have encountered it. He will describe the physicality-based key to the solution (in at least three senses) before discussing his thoughts on why we have so many poorly designed products in our lives and how the situation might be addressed through better tools, combined with a clearer understanding of our inner Fred or Wilma Flintsone. Lastly he will discuss how better understanding of the physical aspects of design might lead not just to a better iPod, but to a better, safer and fairer world.


Steve Gill is Professor of Interactive Product Design and Director of Research for the Cardiff School of Art & Design. He has 20 years experience in industry and academia and has published widely in journals, book chapters and conference proceedings. His research group, PAIPR has a strong record in applied research and specialises in the application of academic research in enterprise and consultancy. PAIPR’s collaborators and clients include a number of household names and leading universities in the UK and Europe.
Professor Gill has played an active role in the design research community for many years. He is a member of the Design Research Society and a recent member of the AHRC’s Peer Review College. He frequently reviews for the Design Journal and Interacting with Computers Journal (which he has previously guest edited) and also for a series of high profile conferences including Computing Human Interaction and Tangible and Embedded Interaction. His funding record includes a major Research Council grants and he has collaborated widely with high profile academics, notably Prof. Alan Dix of Birmingham University with who he is co-authoring a book on the importance of physicality in the design of computer embedded products. In recent years he has given invited talks and keynote, notably in Germany and Japan.