Designing Interfaces for Creativity Symposium

A fascinating research opportunity on creative interfaces, theory and practice appeared via Dr Chris Kiefer at the University of Sussex and their wonderfully programmed ‘Designing Interfaces for Creativity’ symposium. The symposium brought together artists, musicians and product designers with the following approach and motivation behind the schedule:

“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 will join 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 seeks to reach across and beyond academia, and welcomes contributions from industry, maker and artistic communities, and beyond. Themes of the symposium were:

  • 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”



As well as the fascinating keynotes from Michael Doser from CERN discussing graphical representations of particle collisions and data, and Andrey Smirnov’s keynote focusing on Russian Projectionism and avante garde musical interfaces from 20s and 30s; there were discussions around the notion of virtuosity; practical approaches for designing interfaces around a specific human need from product designers Ruby Steel of Smart Design and Alexander Bone of Mettle studios who discussed user centered design and universal design and talked at length about the process of creating an interface for expressing emotions.


Of particular interest for Noise Orchestra was Tom Richards Mini-Oramics, for his PHD Tom has used Daphne Oram’s original schematics and notes to create from scratch her idea (never actually built) for a Mini-Oramics version of her Oramics machine. Oramics is a drawn sound technique designed in 1957 by musician Daphne Oram. The machine was further developed in 1962 after receiving a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation. The technique, similar to Yevgeny Sholpo’s “Variophone, involves drawing on 35mm film strips to control the sound produced. Oram’s composition machine consisted of a large rectangular metal frame, providing a table-like surface traversed by ten synchronised strips of clear, sprocketed 35mm film. The musician drew shapes on the film to create a mask, which modulated the light received by photocells. Although the output from the machine was monophonic, the sounds could be added to multi-track tapes to provide more texture. The original machine was exhibited at the Science Museum in London between 2011 and 2015.

dsc_0035Tom had interestingly used Oram’s notation as an over-riding base for the machine but in some instances he had had to alter some components and update to 2016 functionality to make this work; as it had never been built before. Myself and other members of the workshop were allowed to test out the machine draw and listen to pitch, rhythm, volume – it really was an impressive feat to have created the machine. Tom had also developed a wave shaping and effects unit, tat he plans to take into production. he now wants to further refine the machine and has worked with other musicians to create musical pieces and performances.

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