Aesthetic Electronics
Designing, Sketching, and Fabricating through Digital Exploration. UIST '16
Overview
Aesthetic Electronics is a research project that I assisted with in the Hybrid Ecologies lab under Professor Eric Paulos. The paper was headed by two graduate students collaborating with affiliates at Adobe Research. The paper contributes a design tool to allow novice users design aesthetic circuits in new mediums, for example, silver ink and planar LEDs on papers. My role in the project was testing the design tool on users and processing the resulting quantitative and qualitative data.

[Link to paper will be released after UIST '16 on October 17th.]
Research Contribution
As interactive electronics become increasingly intimate and personal, the design of circuitry is correspondingly developing a more playful and creative aesthetic. Circuit sketching and design is a multidimensional activity which combines the arts, crafts, and engineering broadening participation of electronic creation to include makers of diverse backgrounds. In order to support this design ecology, we present Ellustrate, a digital design tool that enables the functional and aesthetic design of electronic circuits with multiple conductive and dielectric materials. Ellustrate guides users through the fabrication and debugging process, easing the task of practical circuit creation while supporting designers' aesthetic decisions throughout the circuit authoring workflow. In a formal user study, we demonstrate how Ellustrate enables a new electronic design conversation that combines electronics, materials, and visual aesthetic concerns.
My Role
The goal of our formal user study was to conduct a usability evaluation of the tool, specifically observing how circuit design constraints influence the visual aesthetic and how fabrication assistance influences agency. I helped conduct the study and document users' actions.
Below are the some of the users' final designs, which show show examples of different circuit-drawing aesthetics. Part of my work on the paper was coding and characterizing these types of aesthetics to better understand how designers navigate the constraints of circuits while maintaining an aesthetic. We coded designs into the following categories: a) functionalist, b) mimetic, c) constructive, and d) symbolic.
Quantitatively, reponses on the Likert scale show that users felt that the tool improved their agency in designing circuits.