Illumination Aesthetics: Light as a Creative Material within Computational Design.

CHI'17 Illumination Aesthetics: Light as a Creative Material within Computational Design. César Torres, Jasper O’Leary, Molly Jane Nicholas, Eric Paulos. ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Paper | Video
Best Paper Award


Recent digital fabrication tools have enabled new form-giving using a wide range of physical materials. However, light as a first class creative material has been largely ignored within the design of our electronic objects. Our work expands the illumination design space by treating light as a physical material. We introduce a digital design tool that simulates and visualizes physical light interactions with a variety of materials for creating custom luminaires. We further develop a computational design and fabrication process for creating custom secondary optics elements (SOEs), which provides additional handles for users to physically shape and redirect light to compose, fill, and evenly diffuse planar and volumetric geometries. Through a workshop study with novice electronic designers, we show how incorporating physical techniques to shape light alters how users view the role and function of LEDs and electronics. We produce example pieces that showcase how our approach expands the electronics aesthetic and discuss how viewing light as material can engender novel, expressive artifacts.

My role

I joined the Hybrid Ecologies research lab 3 weeks before the CHI deadline. In one of my first lab meetings, César asked if I’d help out with this paper he’d been working on for months. Jumping right into this project was an awesome way to get started with research: if you have a chance, I highly recommend getting involved with existing research when you start. I picked up a bunch of new skills and it really helped to get my hands dirty (so to speak) working on a research project. With only a few days before the deadline, César trained me in how to do the user study, which I ran. I was also responsible for Synthesizing themes and writing the user study section of the paper (specifically identified by reviewers as high quality).

© 2023 / Molly Jane Nicholas / email

© 2023 / Molly Jane Nicholas / email