Aesthetic Electronics: Designing, Sketching, and Fabricating Circuits through Digital Exploration

Joanne Lo, Cesar Torres, Isabel Yang, Jasper OLeary, Mira Dontcheva, Wilmot Li, Danny Kaufman, Eric Paulos
ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (2016)

Abstract

As interactive electronics become increasingly intimate and personal, the design of circuitry is correspondingly developing a more playful and creative aesthetic. Circuit sketching and design is a multidimensional activity which combines the arts, crafts, and engineering broadening participation of electronic creation to include makers of diverse backgrounds. In order to support this design ecology, we present Ellustrate, a digital design tool that enables the functional and aesthetic design of electronic circuits with multiple conductive and dielectric materials. Ellustrate guides users through the fabrication and debugging process, easing the task of practical circuit creation while supporting designers' aesthetic decisions throughout the circuit authoring workflow. In a formal user study, we demonstrate how Ellustrate enables a new electronic design conversation that combines electronics, materials, and visual aesthetic concerns.