Bill Buxton: Sketching and Experience Design

Welcome to a seminar at Linköping University:

Sketching and Experience Design

William BuxtonPrincipal Researcher, Microsoft Researchbibuxton [at] http://www.billbuxton.comAbstract: We might not all agree on the answer to the question, "What is design?" Yet, we will neverthe-less likely come to a strong consensus that sketching is fundamental to the process of design, however we may think about it.So why is this important?Think about the Apple iPod. Make two sketches - one that captures the physical object, and the other that captures the experience of interacting with it via its user interface. Even if you lack all but the most fundamental drawing skills, it is likely that your representation of the device will be recognizable. On the other hand, regardless of how skilled you are with a pencil, your second sketch will be a pale shadow of the first one in terms of its ability to capture the essence of what you are trying to draw. Yet, this aspect of the design - that which is the hardest to draw - is as (if not more) important in terms of shaping the overall user experience. So what? If the real outcome of the design is the experience and not the object (especially with technol-ogy-based products), then does it not make sense that our tools to design the experience should be equal to, or exceed, those for designing the object?But this leads to a problem. We know that sketching is fundamental to design. And we know how to sketch things. But if I am right in what I just said, and it is experience that we are design-ing, then how do we fit sketching into the process? How do you sketch experience?Well, that is what this talk is about. I argue that it can be done, why it is important, and using lots of examples (images and videos) demonstrate how it can be approached. Compared to the technologies which are emerging, the blinking clock on the VCR, or the indeci-pherable microwave oven are going to look like children's play. That is, unless we learn how to harness the beast and turn it to our, and our cultures', advantage. I think that informed design has a new and critical role to play in this, and this talk is intended to help lay some of the foundation for doing so.Bill Buxton is the author of the new book, Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design, published by Morgan Kaufmann. Trained as a musician, Bill Buxton began using computers over thirty years ago in his art. This early experience, both in the studio and on stage, helped develop a deep appreciation of both the positive and negative aspects of tech-nology and its impact. This increasingly drew him into both design and research, with a very strong emphasis on interaction and the human aspects of technology. He first came to prominence for his work at the University of To-ronto on digital musical instruments and the novel interfaces that they employed. This work in the late 70s gained the attention of Xerox PARC, where Buxton participated in pioneering research in collaborative work, interaction tech-niques and ubiquitous computing. He then went on to become Chief Scientist of SGI and Alias|Wavefront, where he had the opportunity to work with some of the top filmmakers and industrial designers in the world. He is now a prin-cipal researcher at Microsoft Corp., where he splits his time between research and helping make design a fundamen-tal pillar of the corporate culture.For more information, visit

Thursday, June 7, 2007, 17:15