Designing Interfaces for Creativity Symposium

3rd and 4th November 2016, University of Sussex

The Designing Interfaces for Creativity (DesInC) Symposium took place at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, on November 3rd and 4th 2016. As computational technologies become increasingly embedded in the physical world, designers and makers of interfaces for creativity are bringing skills and expertise from progressively wider fields and practices into their work. What and how can designers of creative technologies learn from practitioners in broader design disciplines, past and present? The symposium will explore interdisciplinary and historical perspectives on the design of tools, interfaces and instruments for creativity, including (but not limited to) sound, music, video, film, crafts, visual arts, software arts and gaming. Members of creative technology communities joined practitioners from wider interdisciplinary design fields and experts in historical design practices, for two days of workshops, keynote presentations, demos, discussions and performances. The event seeked to reach across and beyond academia, and welcomed contributions from industry, maker and artistic communities, and beyond.


  • Designing instruments, tools and interfaces for creative applications
  • Historical design practices for creative tools and instruments
  • Hacking/making approaches to design for creativity
  • Knowledge and skill preservation in design
  • New techniques and technologies for creativity
  • Interdisciplinary approaches to designing creative interfaces
  • Future directions in design and creativity

Keynote Speakers

Andrey Smirnov, Moscow State Conservatory

Andrey Smirnov (1956) is an interdisciplinary artist, independent curator, collector, writer, composer. He is a researcher and senior lecturer at the Centre for Electroacoustic Music at Moscow State Conservatory, and a lecturer at the Rodchenko School for Modern Photography and Multimedia where he teaches courses on history and aesthetics of electroacoustic music, sound design and composition, new musical interfaces and physical computing. In 1992-2012 he was the founding director of the Theremin Center in Moscow. He has conducted numerous workshops and master classes in the U.S., Europe and Russia, and participated in various festivals and conferences. Since 1976 he conducts research on the development of electronic music techniques and gestural interfaces. His collection of the historical documents and original electronic musical instruments has been combined with extensive research into the history of music technology with broad experience in composition, interactive performance and curatorial activities, resulted in a series of exhibitions "Sound in Z", "Generation Z", "Pioneers of Sound". He is the author of the book "Sound In Z: Experiments In Sound and Electronic Music in Early 20th Century Russia", (Koenig Books, London/Cologne, in partnership with Sound and Music, London, 2013).

Michael Doser, CERN

Michael Doser is a research physicist at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland, who has specialized in working with antimatter, using it either as a tool (to study the strong interaction), or as an object of study itself (formation of anti-atoms, study of matter-antimatter asymmetry, measurement of the gravitational interaction between matter and antimatter) and is the spokesperson of the AEgIS experiment at CERN. In addition, he lectures on antimatter, and is editor of Physics Letters B and of the Review of Particle Properties. He is also involved in numerous outreach activities, both locally and internationally (Europe and Asia), speaking to a wide spectrum of non-specialist audiences, from school children to decision makers, often also at art-related events

Ruby Steel, Smart Design

At 17 Ruby met someone living with HIV and was deeply affected by the lack of empathy they received from others. That day Ruby decided she would help people isolated by circumstance. Ruby later graduated from Kingston University and then went on to gain a Master’s degree in Innovation Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College of London. Today, with more than eight years experience of designing products, services and experiences, she has remained true to her 17-year-old self. As Senior Design Strategist at Smart Design, Ruby is committed to making people’s lives better through the power of design. She works across a variety of industries, with an emphasis on healthcare. Ruby has been awarded two Helen Hamlyn Design Awards for Creativity and Inclusive Design, and received honourable mentions from Core77 and the RSA for design solutions combating issues such as social isolation in older people.

Alexander Bone, Mettle Studio

With ten years experience and three masters degrees in product and innovation design, Alex has a broad spectrum of understanding in the subject. He is a founding member of Mettle Studio, a design and innovation consultancy that work at the intersection of hardware and software, bringing together a wide range of skills from machine learning and AI to user centred design. He also works as a visiting Lecturer in experimental design at the Royal College of Art, where he previously studied and has worked as a consultant on the Future of Water and Transport. Alex has awards from the RSA and The Royal Commission of 1851.


10:30 - 17:00, 3rd November

Mini Oramics (Tom Richards)

The original Oramics Machine, which is now in the collection of the Science Museum and is unfortunately beyond repair, was an ambitious electronic graphical score reading sequencer/synthesiser created by the composer and technologist Daphne Oram in the mid to late 1960s.

As a main component of a PhD research project, an evaluation, re-imagining and subsequent construction of a later design of Oram’s was undertaken. Oram dubbed this later design ‘Mini-Oramics’ (circa 1976). Oram’s intention to simplify and miniaturise her drawn sound device seems canny, given the relative success of similar ventures undertaken at the time by companies such as Moog and EMS. Unfortunately Oram was unable to complete this later design due to lack of investment. The construction of an operational prototype was therefore intended to provide further insight into the question: ‘what if a Mini-Oramics product had been commercially released?’

This new prototype has been created to provide insight into the feasibility of Oramics as an interface: to enquire whether the painstaking nature of programming such a machine was worth the extra degree of compositional nuance it might have provided, given the tools available to the early/mid 1970s electronic musician. It is also hoped that composers will embrace the challenge of working with Oramics for the first time in forty years.

The workshop will begin with a short talk. Particpants will spend some time making a piece for Mini-Oramics, and will also be asked to provide feedback pertaining to the feasibility and ergonomics of Oram’s interface.

Graphical Authoring of Interactive Applications with I-Score (Jean-Michaël Celerier)

The workshop presents the use of the i-score ( temporal interaction design software. It will first present the challenges and the rationale that led to the creation of the software, that is, the lack of dedicated tools for precise temporal design. Then, the construction of a score will be detailed on practical examples involving audio and video features and interaction with a familiar creative coding environment.One of the core goals of this project is to make most features accessible without resorting to program- ming. This is meant to maximize usability by designers who may not have a computer science background, as often required with other creative environments.

Participants will be able to use the i-score software autonomously by the end of the workshop.

Performing Sensory Cartographies (Jonathan Reus)

In this workshop we explore possibilities for mapping out lived experience, using the body as an autonomous sensory organ – a real-time log which constantly rearranges and reimagines itself in response to the environment. Together with participants we will collaboratively develop a series of customized worn, real-time biometric synthesizers and exercises to destabilize sensory conditions and aestheticize the non-conscious inner movements of the autonomic nervous system. We are not directly in control of such movements, however they are in a constant conversation with the surrounding environment and with the physiological life of the body material.

We will speculatively consider performances involving body extensions and sound material which remap relationships between the senses and environment, in order to activate these flows and compose sonic events where authorship of the compositional process is not singular, but somewhere in between where our biology meets the environment.

Autonomous Objects (Anton Mobin)

Participants will make a small instrument into two parts connected by a guitar string. Each of the two elements can be held in one hand. The first element consists of a fan, a switch and a 9v battery. The second part consists of a piezoelectric contact-microphone and a spring fixed on a board (3D printed). The guitar string create the link between the two elements, like a bridge between two towers, attached to both a fan blade and the spring at its end. Ignition of the fan drives the guitar string in a wide rotation and engages vibrations on the spring. Obtaining sound is by direct contact and pressure with the spring support that produces a voltage which reflects the acoustic waves into an electrical signal.

A basic shape is offered to participants, it's up to everyone to turn and see for yourself another design according to the constraint of the materials we have, but everything is still possible!

The challenge is to show simple acoustic principles and give to participants the urge to appropriate these techniques to produce sound differently and give ideas to create new simple interfaces to play daily objects.

Posters and Demos

ACCA Foyer, Friday, 15:30-17:00

Miha Ciglar: UltraSonic Audio

Staas De Jong: Ghostfinger

Judith Good and Kate Howland: Narrative and programming: Interface support for young game designers

Pollie Barden and Chloe Varelidi: Firefly | A Game of Dark Intentions

Richard Bretschneider: Multi-dimensional sound exploring: Using Leap motion to support divergent creative processes while searching for the right synthesizer sound

Pete Bennet, Duncan Boa, Mike Fraser and Ben Hicks: InstructiBlocks: Exploring Creativity with Ambiguous Physical-Digital Models

Alice Eldrige: Self-Resonating Feedback Cello

Sam Duffy and Marcus Pearce: Steve Reich’s Clapping Music App

Travis West: FM Synth: The Game

Evening Concert

Anton Mobin: Prepared Chamber

Andrew Duff: Vectrex & Eurorack study #X ‘Performance v4’

Atau Tanaka: Myogram

We Are Raw: Live coding

TRASH neurons: Drums and no-input feedback mixer

Alice Eldridge: Feedback Resonator Cello Solo


Thursday November 3rd

9:30 Foyer / Jane Attenborough Studio Registration and Coffee

Tower 2

Tower 3

Workshop Studio

Digital Humanities Lab

13:00 Jane Attenborough Studio Lunch

Tower 2

Tower 3

Workshop Studio

Digital Humanities Lab



Discussion / Workshop reports
18:00 Close

Friday November 4th

All Day Workshop Studio Installation

Cecile Chevalier and Andrew Duff:

9:00 Foyer / Jane Attenborough Studio Registration and Coffee
9:30 Auditorium Keynote: Andrey Smirnov
10:30 Auditorium Keynote: Michael Doser
11:30 Foyer / Cafe Break
12:00 Auditorium Keynote: Ruby Steel and Alexander Bone
13:00 Jane Attenborough Studio Lunch
14:30 Tower 3

Panel: Virtuosity

Chair: Chris Kiefer

Panelists: Pollie Barden, Miha Ciglar, Ben Roberts, Thor Magnusson

15:30 Foyer Posters and Demos
17:00 Tower 3

Closing Panel

Chair: Sally-Jane Norman

Panelists: Maggie Boden, Andrey Smirnov, Alexander Bone, Chris Kiefer

18:00 Jane Attenborough Studio Buffet Dinner
19:45 Auditorium Concert

This event is funded by the British Academy, and supported by the Sussex Humanities Lab.

For more information, contact