Bill Buxton

The Design Eco-System or How Can We Design Great Products if we don't First Design our Environment?

Great ideas are not enough. In many ways, they are the easy part of design. The hard part is seeing those great ideas through to reality. But the weight of that hard part can be significantly lightened if one has the right tools, the right team, and is working in the right physical and cultural space. While this sounds obvious – banal even, the reality is that in the technology sector, the eco-system in which much design takes place is not conducive to the task. Designers are generally significantly out-numbered by technical staff. Unless proper attention is paid to details, the resulting physical and cultural eco-system will be determined by those with the larger numbers. The end result pays the price.

This result is not due to any sinister objectives, rather than to human nature. The objective here is to point out the dynamic, what gets lost in the process and provide some thoughts on how to bring about change that benefits all.


Bill Buxton

Bill Buxton is a designer and a researcher concerned with the human aspects of technology. His work reflects a particular interest in the use of technology to support creative activities such as design, film-making and music. Buxton's research specialties include technologies, techniques and theories of input to computers, technology mediated human-human collaboration, and ubiquitous computing

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, where his time was split between working for clients, lecturing, and trying to finish a long-delayed book on sketching and interaction design. He is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, where he still works with graduate students.

Buxton began his career in music, having done a Bachelor of Music degree at Queen's University. He then studied and taught at the Institute of Sonology, Utrecht, Holland for two years. After completing an M.Sc. in Computer Science on Computer Music at the University of Toronto, he joined the faculty as a lecturer. Designing and using computer-based tools for music composition and performance is what led him into the area of human-computer interaction. 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 was 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. And from January through April 2005 and 2006, was a Visiting Researcher with the Computer-Mediated Living Group at Microsoft Research, Cambridge England. He currently splits his time between Redmond and Toronto.

Buxton has always maintained a strong connection to both pure research and applied work. He has consulted to a number of technology companies and had a long association as a consulting research scientist with Xerox PARC. He has also lectured at, and collaborated with leading research labs and universities around the world.

In 1995, Buxton became the third recipient of the Canadian Human-Computer Communications Society Award for contributions to research in computer graphics and human-computer interaction, and was given the New Media Visionary of the Year Award at the 2000 Canadian New Media Awards. In 2002, he was elected to the CHI Academy and Time Magazine named him one of the top 5 designers in Canada. In 2001, The Hollywood Reporter named him one of the 10 most influential innovators in Hollywood. In October 2005 he and Gord Kurtenbach received the 'Lasting Impact Award' from ACM UIST 2005, which was awarded for their 1991 paper Issues in Combining Marking and Direct Manipulation Techniques. In June 2007 he was named Doctor of Design, Honoris Causa by the Ontario College of Art and Design.


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