Job offer


Date: April 7th, 2018
Domain: Human-Computer Interaction
Topic: Generative Design using Instrumental Interaction, Substrates and Co-adaptive Systems
Group: ExSitu, INRIA Saclay, Université Paris-Saclay
Location: Bâtiment 650 (Ada Lovelace)
Supervisor: Wendy E. Mackay, Research Director (DR0), Inria
Lab director: Bertrand Braunschweig

Seeking a Ph.D. candidate (or Post-doctoral Fellow) with a background and experience in graphic design (or related field), programming skills, and an interest in exploring a generative design process based on our concepts of instrumental interaction, substrates and co-adaptive systems.


The Ex Situ group is exploring the design of novel interactive systems, with a particular focus on creative professionals, e.g. designers. We have developed a theoretical foundation that enables us to reinvent design technology that retains simplicity while adding power, to empower the user. We build on three conceptual foundations developed in the group:

  • Instrumental interaction separates the tools used to manipulate objects from the objects themselves. Using the principles of reification, polymorphism and reuse, we can transform actions into instruments, with which users can compose in their own way, within a distributed, collaborative, and/or multi-surface environment.
  • Information substrates are software artifacts that embody content, computation and interaction, effectively blurring the distinction between documents and applications. Substrates create a malleable medium that can be manipulated in a variety of ways, naturally supporting instrumental interaction and co-adaptation.
  • Co-adaptation is the process by which users adapt to the tools they use as well as adapt the tools to their needs. Systems that support co-adaptation are discoverable, appropriable and expressive.

The goal of the thesis is to design and develop interactive tools to support designs, based on a combination of empirical studies with users and the application of co-adaptive instruments and substrates as a theoretical foundation.

Specific Activities

This Ph.D. involves three main types of research activity:
• empirical studies of creative professionals, including graphic and other designers. Research methodolgy includes structured observation, critical object interviews and participatory design.
• technical development of novel interactive system(s) that are prototyped, implemented and tested with designers; and
• theoretical exploration and testing of the principles of co-adaptive instruments and substrates, with a special emphasis on the process of appropriation.

Expected Results

The thesis will result in novel interactive tools and techniques that help users express and explore complex creative concepts in a a design field, such as graphic design. The thesis will also test the potential and the limits of co-adaptive instruments and substrates.

Required Skills

The ideal candidate will have a masters degree or equivalent experience in graphic, industrial, architecture or other design field, as well as training in Human-Computer Interaction. Solid programming skills and experience with Java, Javascript, C or C++, Processing or web programming are important. Fluency in written and spoken English is essential.

  1. Beaudouin-Lafon, M. (2000) Instrumental Interaction. In ACM/CHI 2000 pp. 446-453.
  2. Beaudouin-Lafon, M. and Mackay, W. (2000) Reification, Polymorphism and Reuse: Three Principles for Designing Visual Interfaces. In ACM/AVI 2000 pp. 102-109.
  3. Ciolfi Felice, M., Maudet, N., Mackay, W.E., and Beaudouin-Lafon, M. (2016) Beyond Snapping: Persistent, Tweakable Alignment and Distribution with StickyLines. In ACM UIST 2016 pp. 133-144.
  4. Garcia, J., Tsandilas, T., Agon, C. and Mackay, W. (2012) Interactive Paper Substrates to Support Musical Creation. In ACM CHI 2012 pp. 1825-1828.
  5. Klokmose, C., Eagen, J., Beaudouin-Lafon, M., and Mackay, W. (2015) Webstrates: Shareable Dynamic Media,
    In ACM UIST 2015 pp. 280-290.
  6. Leiva, G., Maudet, N., Mackay W. and Beaudouin-Lafon, M. (2018) Enact: Integrated Representations for Designer-Developer Collaborative Prototyping. In submission.
  7. Mackay, W. (2000) Responding to cognitive overload: Co-adaptation between users and technology. Intellectica. Vol. 30 (1), pp. 177-193.
  8. Maudet, N., Jalal, G., Tchernavskij, P., Beaudouin-Lafon, M., and Mackay, W.E. (2017) Beyond Grids: Interactive Graphical Substrates to Structure Digital Layout. In CHI 2017 pp. 5053-5064.
  9. Maudet, N., Leiva, G., Beaudouin-Lafon, M. & Mackay, W. (2017) Design Breakdowns: Designer-Develop Gaps in Representing and Interpreting Interactive Systems. In ACM CSCW pp. 630-641.

To apply send a resume, a letter of motivation and the names of two references to :, with a copy to
Contact us at this same address if you have any questions.