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“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

– Steve Jobs

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Short Biography

Consultant, interaction Designer, Educator, Creative Technologist with over 30 years experience in startup, corporate, research, and educational positions. Interested in the intersection of AI, tangible interaction, media, networks, and the new ecologies these create. Designs interactions for a range of platforms including mobile, AR/VR, interactive spaces and the Internet of Things. As an Educator at ArtCenter College of Design, van Allen is pursuing new educational models, technologies and tools for teaching and learning. Current research focuses on animism as an interaction design metaphor, and tools for designers such as the new AI Toolkit for Designers.

Long Biography

Philip van Allen is an interaction designer, educator, researcher, and technologist with more than 30 years experience at the intersection of technology and the creative arts — in fields ranging from sound recording to interactive media installations. He is a Professor and Core Faculty member in the Graduate Media Design Practices department at Art Center College of Design with research interests at  the intersection of tangible interaction, media, networks, and the new ecologies these create.

van Allen began working in the emerging field of digital media in 1988, joining Philips to help develop Compact Disc Interactive (CDi), the first consumer multimedia platform. At Philips, he was Senior Producer and helped develop the first interactive, enhanced music CDs (CDi-Ready) with titles for James Brown, Luciano Pavarotti and Mozart. He founded his interactive design company, Commotion, in 1993 and has worked on CD-ROM, Web, mobile, and interactive exhibitions with a range of clients including USC, George P. Johnson (Infiniti, Acura), The Huntington Art Collections, Interval Research, Philips, Yahoo, Nestlé, yU+co, U2 and Yoko Ono. In 1994, Commotion was contracted to develop one of the first digital publications, Launch CD-ROM Magazine. And in 1996 van Allen founded the Web magazine that focused on the contemporary visual and literary arts in Los Angeles. In 1997, van Allen began an extended contract with Interval Research, Microsoft founder Paul Allen’s research group in Palo Alto. There he worked on design and business development for interactive music and Internet connected book projects with Joy Mountford’s group, and received two patents.

Prior to his work in digital media, van Allen built a recording studio where he recorded a range of Los Angeles talent, including early punk bands such as the Germs, Dils, and Controllers. He was also a software developer, and worked on Nuclear Reactor safety monitoring software for General Electric. He then returned to school to continue his undergraduate studies and graduated in 1988 from the University of California Santa Cruz with a BA in Experimental Psychology (focus on Cognitive Science), highest honors, and a graduation speaker.

van Allen has been involved in education throughout his career, opening Santa Monica College’s first time-sharing computer lab at in the early 1980s, guest teaching at McGill University, and returning to Santa Monica College in 1998, where he was an Associate Professor and Assistant Chair in the Design Technology department. In 2000, he began teaching part-time in the Graduate Media Design program at Art Center and in 2002 became a full-time core faculty member. van Allen has created an innovative approach to teaching interaction design with the NETLab Toolkit, a system that enables students and designers to quickly design and build working projects that integrate media with tangible interaction using sensors, motors, and the Internet of Things. He is also active in campus service work as the past Co-Chair of the Faculty Council, participant in Art Center’s strategic planning process, and currently a member of the Faculty Commons group promoting innovations in teaching and learning.

Recent client projects include Slot Car Holiday Heats for Acura/Razorfish, an interactive installation for the A+D Museum, an interactive website on charter school performance for USC, interactive museum kiosks for the Huntington, and award winning interactive exhibitions in the major auto shows for Infiniti and Acura. Philip is also the lead author of the transmedia publication (book, website, mobile, and a poster) The New Ecology of Things. As part of van Allen’s ongoing research, the publication explores the emerging world of ubiquitous networks, smart objects & spaces, and approaches to design practice that embrace mythology, meaning making, and embodiment. He recently published the article “Animistic design: how to reimagine digital interaction between the human and the nonhuman” in the journal Digital Creativity, and presented work at the Sketching in Hardware  2015 conference.