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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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Consultant, interaction designer, producer, and entrepreneur with over 30 years experience developing commercial and experimental media, computer and interactive projects. Focus on projects related to artificial intelligence, tangible interaction, and the Internet of Things. 

Educator experienced in teaching, administration and curriculum development in graduate and undergraduate settings.

Researcher developing new approaches for the design of intelligent systems, including Animistic Design. Also building new tools so AI systems can be easily prototyped and tested.

Biography available here.


Current Affiliations
  • Professor Interaction Design, Art Center College of Design – Core Faculty within Graduate Media Design Practices, MFA Program
  • Founder, Principal, Commotion.AI – AI Consulting, tools, interaction design, research
  • Member, ACM – Association for Computing Machinery
  • Member, IXDA – Interactive Design Association
  • Member, AAAI – Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence



Reimagining the Goals and Methods of UX for ML/AI /AAAI Spring Symposium Series
Designing the User Experience of Machine Learning Systems, Stanford

Three Clues for an Apple AR Ecosystem / Medium
Design foresight piece on the potentials for an iPhone based AR system

Rethink IxD / Medium
Proposes that interaction design needs a new approach in an era of AI and IoT

Animistic design: how to reimagine digital interaction between the human and the nonhuman
Co-Authored with Betti Marenko
Digital Creativity, Volume 27, Issue 1, 2016, Special Issue: Post-Anthropocentric Creativity

“Reimagining Interaction Through Animistic Design” / Participatory Innovation Conference
Explores alternative models of interaction between humans and digital objects beyond the constraints of user centered design, solutionism and blackboxism.

“The Things About Design: Of Ghosts, Spirits and Material Practices” / DRS
Giaccardi, E., Speed, C., Grossen, J., van Allen, P. (2014)  In Redström, J., Stolterman, E., Valtonen, A., & Wiltse, H. (Eds.) Companion to DRS 2014: Design’s Big Debates, Umeå University, Umeå, p.175.

“AniThings: Animism and Heterogeneous Multiplicity” / SIGCHI
Co-authored with Joshua McVeigh-Schultz
Proposes animism as a metaphor for creating an ecology of interactive objects, each with it’s own personality.

pdf: ACM DL Author-ize serviceAniThings: animism and heterogeneous multiplicity

Philip van Allen, Joshua McVeigh-Schultz, Brooklyn Brown, Hye Mi Kim, Daniel Lara
CHI EA ’13 CHI ’13 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2013

Imagine Change” / Art Center DOT Magazine, Issue 19, Page 10.
Essay that imagines a future approach to art and design education.

Slabs, Sofducts, and Bespoke Objects” / Johnny Holland Web Magazine. May 19
Essay on the landscape of emerging systems & products and implications for design

The Limits of Control” / Art Center DOT Magazine, Issue 18, Pages 6-7
Interview about teaching new forms of design and the future of designers.

The New Ecology of Things (NET) / Media Design Program Imprint
Transmedia publication on ubiquitous computing that includes a book, website, mobile phone content, and poster. Lead co-author. With Bruce Sterling, Anne Burdick, Holly Willis, Nikolaus Hafermaas, Brenda Laurel.

Thinking About Interaction Design for Online News Delivery” / USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review.
Article that explores different approaches to online news

Productive Interaction” / Research Paper for Southern California Digital Culture Group
Presented at the Annenberg Center for Communication, University of Southern California.

Designing the future: writing, design and research on NOT-linear interaction” / DIS 2004
Symposium & publication on Designing Interactive Systems – DIS 2004 Conference, ACM ISBN:1-58113-787-7

1995-1996 / Commotion New Media, Publisher
Web magazine about the literary and visual arts in Los Angeles. Featured original interactive projects by major artists and writers. Conceived, designed, and produced the magazine.


Grants & Sponsorships

Media Design Practices, Art Center College of Design
Summer research project: “Animistic Collaborators in Mixed Reality”

Grant for course participation in Microsoft Design Expo

Art Center College of Design – Faculty Council
Faculty Advancement Award grand to help fund travel to present paper at the PIN-C the Netherlands

Grant for course participation in Microsoft Design Expo

Intel Design School Network
Grant to support development of new HTML5 version of NETLab Toolkit

Intel Research – New Devices Group
Sponsorship of class: Wearable Ecologies

Media Design Practices, Art Center College of Design
Summer research project: “Little Data Wranglers”

Grant for course participation in Microsoft Design Expo

Nokia Research
Grant for research project “Inner Lives, Outer Expressions – An Exploration of Object Animism

2010, 2011
National Science Foundation
Workshop grant supporting the Sketching in Hardware 2010 & 2011 conferences

Faculty Enrichment Grant / Art Center College of Design
For developing the NETLab Toolkit

Sun Microsystems
“The New Ecology of Things” sponsored class.


Selected Talks, Presentations & Awards

March 2017
AAAI Spring Symposium Series, Designing the User Experience of Machine Learning Systems / Stanford
Present paper: Reimagining the Goals and Methods of UX for ML/AI

February 2017
IxDA Interaction17 EDU Summit / New York
Co-present workshop with Molly Steenson: Teaching & Learning Disruptive New Mediums – AR, VR, AI, and IoT

July 2016
Microsoft Design Expo

July 2015
Sketching in Hardware Conference / Biosphere II
Present technical update on NTK

July 2015
Microsoft Design Expo

May 2015
Participatory Innovation Conference / The Hague
Present paper: “Reimagining Interaction Through Animistic Design”

May 2015
Technology Is The New Magic symposium / Central St. Martins / London
Give Talk: “Animistic Design Can Make the Digital Magical”

May 2015
Workshop / TU Delft
Class workshop for Professor Elisa Giaccardi

July 2014
Sketching in Hardware Conference / Berlin
Presentation on HTML5 version of NETLab Toolkit for the Internet of Things

June 2014
Computing Community Consortium / The New Making Renaissance: Progammable Matter and Things / St. Helena, CA
Invited participant in small retreat to create a vision for 2025

May 2014
Design Research Society Conference / Panel: Things About Design / Umea, Sweden
Discussed recent research on animism for design

May 2013
SIGCHI / Paris
Present paper: “AniThings: Animism and Heterogeneous Multiplicity”

March 2013
NETLab Toolkit Workshop / USC Media Arts and Practice PhD program, Digital Studies Symposium
Workshop on using the NETLab Toolkit and student desk crits/meetings.

July 2013
Sketching in Hardware Conference / Palo Alto
Presentation on standards and the future of Internet of Things toolkits

July 2012
Sketching in Hardware Conference / University of Oregon, Portland, OR
Talk describing and demonstrating a new version of the NETLab Toolkit, which allows for drag-and-drop simple creation of tangible interaction projects on mobile devices and computers via HTML5.

Interview, DOT Magazine / Art Center College of Design, Pasadena
The Limits of Control – An interview with me about teaching new forms of design and the future of designers. Art Center DOT Magazine, Issue 18, Pages 6-7.

July 2010
Broadening the Digital Humanities Summer Institute / USC, Los Angeles
“Programming for Humanitarians” Workshop teaching programming to scholars from the Humanities, USC Institute for Multimedia Literacy, in collaboration with Vectors Journal.

August 2010
Sketching in Hardware Conference / Art Center College of Design, Pasadena
Talk describing and demonstrating future capabilities for the NETLab Toolkit. An alpha version of the toolkit was demonstrated running on the iPhone and iPad.

February, 2010
Invited Talk / UC Irvine
“Slabs, Sofducts, and Bespoke Objects”, presented at the Informatics Program & Laboratory for Ubiquitous Computing and Interaction

January, 2010
Jury Panel, National Science Foundation
Served on an NSF grant panel reviewing applications ranging from $200K – $900K

Fall 2009
Invited Talk / Frog Design, Seattle
Interview / Frog Design’s web publication “design mind On Air” Podcast
Emerging trends in the New Ecology of Things and their implications for designers

July 2009
Sketching in Hardware  Conference / University College, London
Presented research on affordances for media designers

Sketching in Hardware Conference / RISD, Providence
Invitation only invitee and speaker at symposium on prototyping physical computing projects

AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers of 2007 Award / AIGA
Award for book design that “Successfully introduces the book to technology in a single form.” for The New Ecology of Things publication

Keynote, FlashBelt Conference / Minneapolis
Keynote presentation on my design and tools development work

Live Webcast Panel Discussion / USC Interactive Media Arts and Practice Program
On The New Ecology of Things publication for an iMAP/Adobe Panel.

Booth, Maker Faire / San Mateo
Demonstrated NETLab Toolkit

Invited Talk / UC San Diego, Cal-IT 2
Talk on “NETLab Toolkit”

Conference Coordinator, Up Next Conference / Media Design Program, Pasadena
Conference Coordinator, speaker

Panel, ACM Designing Interactive Systems (DIS) / MIT, Cambridge
Moderator and author for “Designing the Future” panel, paper in ACM Conference proceedings

“Great Teacher” Award / Art Center College of Design, Pasadena
Awarded by the graduating class “For Having Made an Extraordinary Contribution to Our Education”

Best Interactive Magazine Design, Invision
Launch CD-ROM Magazine

Panel, Digital World Conference
Interactive Music Discussion Panel

Talk, Audio Engineering Society / New York City, NY
Presented “UMix” a consumer music remix project featuring the original tracks of the song “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos with Eric Clapton

Co-organizer, CDISC Conference  / Santa Barbara, CA
Organized 3-day software developer’s conference for the CDi platform. 200 attendees.


Selected Projects, Exhibitions, Products

NETLab Toolkit for Designers
Self Initiated
The NETLab Toolkit is a system for integrating tangible interaction and media. Designed for project sketching and production, the toolkit enables novices and experts to integrate hardware, media and interactive behaviors for products, installations, and research. This free collection of software makes it easy to integrate all kinds of media with microcontrollers like the Arduino. Using a simple drag-and-drop interface, users can create interactive projects that combine sensors, video, text, graphics, sound, lighting, motors and more. These projects can be created quickly, without programming, using the smart widgets included with the Toolkit. // Inventor, designer, programmer.

Acura – Race Your Heart Out – / Razorfish-Acura
Race Your Heart Out was the the 2015 Acura Winter Sales event which was a slot car race broadcast on Periscope. Hearts on Periscope controlled the speed of the cars and they raced. I consulted for Razorfish on this project and created the Arduino interface that controlled the speed of the slot cars. More info from the project website

Creative Leaders Workshop / Razorfish
This event in New York brought together the top creative executives in Razorfish. I ran a 3 hour workshop on the Internet of Things and its implications. This included a presentation and a hands on project where the participants used Arduinos, sensors, and actuators to create a prototype project around the theme of IoT.

New Years Eve Los Angeles, Grand Park / yU+co
Creative consulting on interactive installations and projection mapping.

10th Anniversary Interactive Installation
A+D Museum
Interactive Installation that presents the history of the Los Angeles museum. Featured seven independent projection surfaces, and a proximity sensor that triggered a motion piece across all seven surfaces when the viewer approached the display. // Led design with a team of three graduate students, developed software and technology. Semi–finalist, Adobe Design Achievement Awards. With Brooklyn Brown, Manny Darden, and Rubina Ramchandani.

2010 – 2013
Charter Schools Indicators Interactive Report
USC Rossier School of Education
Project developed for the USC Center on Educational Governance that creates an interactive, Web version of what was previously only available as a printed report. The project allows users to search, sort, select and download datasets of charter school performance indicators such as student performance and academic productivity. // Interactive design, programming. With Liz Burrill, Jamie Cavanaugh.

Interactive Learning Stations
Huntington Library Art Gallery
Two touchscreen learning stations installed in the recently renovated Huntington House on the grounds of the Huntington Library. Working with an education specialist at The Huntington, we developed projects around exhibits on Silver and Porcelain, targeted at 8-12 year-olds. // Interactive design, programming.

The New Ecology of Things Publication
Art Center College of Design
The New Ecology of Things is a research initiative to explore emerging forms of interactive communication brought about by pervasive networks, low cost sensors, and computational capabilities in every object and space. As part of the effort, a transmedia publication was created that includes a book, website, poster and mobile phone content that address the design and educational issues related to ubiquitous computing. The publication is composed of essays, glossary, forum, interactive works, video, and a short story by Bruce Sterling. // Lead co-author, contributing two essays including the key Models section that establishes the conceptual foundation for The New Ecology of Things. Designed and developed the “Words” interactive feature, worked with Anne Burdick on the design and implementation of the website, and implemented the mobile parts of the project.

Objects & Screen Speculations
 / Self-Initiated Research

A video experiment to explore the affordances of various object types in the context of how they might be used to interact with large and small screens and the information on them. In this project, different object forms were made in clay or adapted from found objects (e.g. marbles) – we then video taped a simulation as if these objects actually controlled a video display.

2007, 2008
Acura Oracles
George P. Johnson Company
Interactive multitouch tables for the Auto Shows that promoted the leading–edge technology and design of the Acura brand. An Oracle was also donated to the Media Design program and used in a summer course I taught, and a student project from that course was developed into the 2008 version at the Auto Shows. // Consulted for George P. Johnson and Media Design graduates Nikolai Cornell and Sebastian Bettencourt on the interactive and technical aspects of the project, coordinated MOTO Design as the engineering partner for the optics and technology integration.

Infiniti Interactive Mirror
George P. Johnson Company
Interactive life-sized interactive system composed of 3 mirrored glass panels with 20,000 lumen rear projections for each panel. Installed at the Detroit & Chicago Auto Shows. //Engineered and built the touch-less sensor system that detected when a user selected a link by passing their hand in front of the glass. Provided general interactive design consultation and worked with the team to refine the design. Winner, advertising category Communication Arts Interactive Design Annual 12. With Nikolai Cornell.

Corporate Delicti
Nucleus Gallery
Interactive, multi-user sound installation as part of a group exhibition at Nucleus Gallery themed around corporate disillusionment. This project enabled participants to interact with reengineered office machines in a different ways, resulting in surprising interactions with sound. // Concept, sound design, programming. Collaborated with Colin Owen.

2002‑2003, Web Radio Station
 / Acacia Research was an early Internet radio station startup funded by Acacia Research. // Developed the initial prototype and attitude and hired the creative director and other staff.

Physical Music
A series of self-initiated experimental physical computing projects that explored the potentials for interactive systems that enable non-musicians to create and play with music. // Design, programming, fabrication.

Internet & Interactive Music
Interval Research
A series of interactive music projects for Paul Allen’s Interval Research, with Joy Mountford as the principle investigator. One of these projects, the Bead Box, is mentioned in the book Designing Interactions, by Bill Moggridge. // Led design team, developed prototypes, business modeling.

Yoko Ono: One Woman Show
As part of my company’s Los Angeles arts & literature web magazine, we collaborated with Yoko Ono to create a faux exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art as a 25th anniversary follow-up to her “The Museum of Modern FArt” a previous fake exhibition at New York’s MOMA. The conceptual exhibition was presented on the website as if it were officially sanctioned (it was not). We acquired and controlled first and later gave to the real MOCA, Los Angeles. // Publisher, producer.

Launch Magazine
Launch Media-Yahoo
An interactive CD-ROM magazine about music. The publisher hired my company, Commotion, to design and produce the inaugural 6 issues. We also created some of the first ever interactive advertisements for a Nestle Butterfinger campaign within the magazine. // Producer. Winner of Invision’s Best Interactive Magazine Design award.

ZooTV Interactive Performance
U2 & Philips
Two interactive projects that U2 used on stage for their ZooTV tour. One project allowed signer Bono to select the current city, and have huge videos of himself saying hello to the city. The other enabled guitar player Edge to interactively create a music track as the audience watched the “BeatBox” on large video screens. // Producer and designer.

CD-i Ready Hybrid Music CDs
The first ever series of music CDs with enhanced content, developed by the MusicWorks production group that I led. We designed and produced titles in the CD-i format on Mozart, Luciano Pavarotti, and James Brown. For the Mozart Disc, we created a special game based on Mozart’s “Musikalisches Würfelspiel” (Musical Dice Game). // Senior Producer, interaction designer.

The Germs
 / Sunbird Sound
Recorded The Germs and other seminal Los Angeles punk bands in my garage studio.



2000 to Present (full–time since 2002)
Art Center College of Design / Pasadena, CA
Professor, Interaction Design, Core Faculty, Graduate Media Design Program

> Awarded ACCD Faculty Council Faculty Advancement Award (2015)
> Coordinate Media Design Practices department technology
> Co-founded Faculty Commons group to advance teaching and learning
> Proposed and researched undergraduate Interaction Design B.S., launched 2012
> Faculty Council Co-Chair, serve on Facilities & Technology, IP committees (2008-2012)
> Co-Chaired Curriculum & Pedagogy strategic planning committee (2010)
> Collaborated on writing new MDP curriculum (2008)
> Established The New Ecology of Things research project, created NET Lab Toolkit for students
> Sponsored courses: Intel, Microsoft, Sun Labs, Starbright Foundation, Beatnik
> Awarded ACCD Faculty Enrichment Grant (2007)
> Departments taught for: MDP, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Digital Media, Grad ID
> Courses: Critical Prototyping, Creative Technology, Lab Projects (IoT & Wearables)
> Great Teacher Award (2003)

1998 to 2002
Santa Monica College / Santa Monica, CA
Assistant Chair, Design Technology Department, Academy of Entertainment Technology

> Developed new Interactive Media certificate & curriculum
> Scheduled and staffed over 50 classes per term
> Served on curriculum committee of Faculty Senate
> Developed new forms of teaching that blended online and on-ground methods
> Courses: Digital Imaging, Intro to Interactive Media, Web Design 1,2,3

McGill University / Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Taught multimedia courses to audio engineering students


Work History

2000 to Present (full–time since 2002)
Art Center College of Design / Pasadena, CA
Professor in Interaction Design, Core Faculty, Graduate Media Design program. Specializing in Tangible Interaction/Internet of Things. Participate in curriculum development, educational technology strategy, thesis advisement, tools development. Former Co-Chair Faculty Council. Other Committees: Former Chair Facilities & Technology, Former Co-Chair Curriculum & Pedagogy Committee

1993 to Present
Commotion New Media, Inc. / Los Angeles, CA
Founder and Principal, Interactive Consulting, Design, and Production services for web, exhibition, mobile, tangible interaction, and research projects. Clients include USC, Philips, Nestlé, U2, Yoko Ono, Launch Magazine/Yahoo Music, The Huntington, USC Rossier School of Education, A+D Museum, Interval Research, Infiniti, Acura.

1998 to 2002
Santa Monica College / Santa Monica, CA
Associate Professor, Assistant Chair, Design Technology Department, Academy of Entertainment & Technology. Developed and implemented a redesigned curriculum for a certificate program. Hired part time faculty and scheduled over 50 classes each term. Member of the Curriculum Committee.

1997 to 1998
Interval Research / Palo Alto, CA
Consultant – Designer, Project Manager, Business Development in Joy Mountford’s research team at Paul Allen’s company. Tangible Interaction design and development of products for casual music making, and Web access in printed children’s books. Received two patents.

1988 to 1993
Philips Interactive Media / Los Angeles, CA
Senior Producer, Creative Director, Interactive Designer – MusicWorks Group that produced interactive music titles for CD-i set-top platform featuring CD music tracks, illustrated & narrated artist histories, interactive music games, discographies.

1985 to 1988
GE Nuclear / San Jose, CA
Systems Consultant – Ported nuclear reactor monitoring software to new platform.

1983 to 1985
Prime Computer / Culver City, CA
Senior Marketing Support Analyst – Systems analysis, benchmarking, and customer support.

1981 to 1983
Santa Monica College / Santa Monica, CA
Programmer Analyst II – Administrative computing software, created large computer RFPs, set up and managed student computer lab.

1975 to 1981
Sunbird Sound / Los Angeles, CA
Owner/builder recording studio, Freelance audio engineer – Recorded early LA punk bands (Germs, Dils), mixed live concerts (Ricky Lee Jones, Arco Jazz series), sound technician for events (Ray Charles at Dorothy Chandler, Bette Middler – The Rose premier). Lighting and sound for television shows.



B.A. in Experimental Psychology / University of California, Santa Cruz
Highest Honors, Cowell College Honors, Phi Beta Kappa, Graduation Speaker. Focus on Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence. Senior project on the computer recognition of melodies using neural networks. Research assistant for Professor Dominic Massaro, graduate level coursework in linguistics, courses in Artificial Intelligence.

1976 to 1979
General Education / Santa Monica College
General education courses, sound & stage lighting, programming (punch cards!), electronics, drafting, construction techniques.



Patent 6,164,541 – Methods and systems for providing human/computer interfaces—for Interval Research.
Patent 6,411,994 – Interface system for providing content using context hotspots—for Interval Research.


Technical Experience

Languages: JavaScript, jQuery, HTML/CSS, PHP, Processing, iOS/Swift
Software: mySQL, WordPress, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign/Digital Publishing Suite,  Flash, MAX/MSP, Logic, ProTools, Live, Camtasia
Hardware: Arduino, Intel Galileo, Sensors/Actuators, Electronics, Sound Recording, Lighting
Tools: Milling Machine, Soldering Equipment, Small Machine and Woodworking Tools
Concepts: Database Design, Ubiquitous Computing, Networks, Physical Computing, OOP


Websites & Social Media

philvanallen.comprojects & blog
Delft AI Toolkit – my open source toolkit for prototyping AI
netlabtoolkit.orgsite for my NETLab Toolkit project & news related to IxD documentation and tutorials network – occasional articles on AI/IxD