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Everything's Getting Easier to Use Yet Life is More Complicated Than Ever

Bill Buxton

November 17, 2017 at  10:00 AM
McConnell Engineering Room 437


In the past 10 years, we have gotten much better at delivering digital products that are affordable, desirable, useful, and not just usable, but delightful to use. That would seem to be good news, and it is … in a way. But it also gives rise to a problem. Using architecture as an analogy, we are great at designing houses, and therefore there are way more of them. But in the process, if we neglect urban planning, our cities risk becoming unmanageable. Likewise, our digital ecosystem. It is argued that we have to make some significant changes in direction or suffer serious consequences. Discussing what such changes might be, and why, is the core of the talk.


Bill Buxton is a relentless advocate for innovation, design, and especially the appropriate consideration of human values, capacity, and culture in the conception, implementation, and use of new products and technologies. In December 2005, he was appointed Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research. Prior to that, he was principal of his own Toronto-based boutique design and consulting firm, Buxton Design.

Buxton earned his Bachelor of Music degree at Queen's University, then studied and taught for two years at the Institute of Sonology, Utrecht, Holland. Designing his own digital musical instruments led him to the University of Toronto, where he completed an MSc in Computer Science, and subsequently jointed the faculty. It is also the path that brought him into the field of human-computer interaction, which is his technical area of specialty.

From 1987-89, Buxton was in Cambridge England, helping establish a new satellite of Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (EuroPARC). From 1989-94 he split his time between Toronto, where he was Scientific Director of the Ontario Telepresence Project, and Palo Alto, California, where he was a consulting researcher at Xerox PARC.

From 1994 until December 2002, he was Chief Scientist of Alias|Wavefront, (now part of Autodesk) and from 1995, its parent company SGI Inc. In the fall of 2004, he became a part-time instructor in the Department of Industrial Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design. In 2004/05 he was also Visiting Professor at the Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI) at the University of Toronto.