Like Magic: A New Era of Design


"Bill Buxton bears a striking resemblance to Doc Brown from Back to the Future—more strapping than you’d expect for a mad scientist, his bald head rimmed with a snowy hedge of hair. In conversation, he can be piercingly intense. And just like Doc Brown, in 1985 he unleashed a breakthrough. Buxton, a lifelong musician who has also worked for Xerox PARC and Silicon Graphics, created one of the world’s first multitouch interfaces when he turned an electronic drumhead into a tactile synthesizer control. That drum was a progenitor of every touchscreen in use today.

In the mid-aughts, Buxton wrote a journal article that helped define a new discipline called experience design—a focus not on products or devices themselves but on the impact they have on people’s lives.As an example, he wrote about two orange juice presses—an electric model and a manual lever press called the OrangeX. The electric juicer had flimsy plastic buttons, and the motor screeched to life with an annoying whir. The OrangeX required a bit more effort but also sported an inverted rocker crank that gradually transmitted more force as you pressed down. Buxton’s point was that the OrangeX created a feeling of tangible mastery that helped him enjoy the juice more. Designers didn’t shape just gadgets but behaviors and visceral responses around those gadgets."

Read it at WIRED.