X.5 September + October 2003
Page: 4
Digital Citation

The timeless way

Steven Pemberton

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In 1977 the architect Christopher Alexander with a number of colleagues published the seminal book A Pattern Language. This amazing book essentially describes in 253 chapters the design of cities and regions, from the highest level, down through the design of streets, various varieties of houses, rooms, right down to details like the placement of garden seats. It is a delightful book, and particularly great for just opening at random, and reading about the design of some part of a city, street, or home.

In 1993 I happened to learn that Dick Rijken and a number of colleagues were designing a completely new sort of course on interaction design, that included the use of the techniques from A Pattern Language applied to interaction design. It sounded surprising and fascinating, so being at that time the editor-in-chief of the SIGCHI Bulletin, I bullied them into producing an education special section that explained their course, their curriculum, and their techniques. It was published in the July 1994 issue of the Bulletin, and is still a fascinating and enjoyable issue, and as far as I am aware it is the first published material that described applying Alexander's techniques in computer science. (If people bully me enough I will arrange for the articles to be put online.)

Since then of course Pattern Languages have been applied in several parts of computing science, to programming, to object oriented programming languages, and in particular to interaction design where they have become a particularly active area.

In this issue we feature an article on skills and patterns for human centered design in software engineering education, based on eight years experience of teaching courses, and using Alexander's techniques. It is encouraging to see the ideas being more widely applied and becoming a mainstream part of interaction design.

Steven Pemberton

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©2003 ACM  1072-5220/03/0900  $5.00

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