Ellen Isaacs is a user experience designer and an ethnographer. She uses a rapid video-based ethnography approach to gain an understanding of human practices with an eye toward identifying needs that can be met with technology. She then designs technology to address those needs and works with engineers to iteratively build, test, and revise the designs, using a variety of user evaluations methods. She discusses this highly iterative and collaborative approach in her book, “Designing From Both Sides of the Screen,” which she co-wrote with software engineer Alan Walendowski.
Ellen spent the early part of her career designing and studying technology to support remote communication and collaboration, e-commerce, and social interaction in virtual worlds. She published extensively in human-computer interaction journals and received seven patents for inventions related to this work. She moved from research to advanced development and then into product development, eventually forming her own consulting company where she worked with clients to design the user experience of a variety of products.
Ellen returned to research in 2008 when she joined PARC as a Principal Scientist. She has led the user experience component of a wide range of projects, including mobile interaction, urban parking, hopsital nursing, home automation, and data visualization. She has played a key role in taking several of these projects from open-ended observations to technology concept to design mockups to prototype development and user testing – keeping user needs at the center throughout the process.
Ellen was trained as a cognitive psychologist and a writer, receiving a B.S. in psychology and semiotics from Brown University, and a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Stanford University, where she studied the collaborative process of language use in conversation. She also attended intensive courses in photography at Rocky Mountain School of Photography.
related focus areas
blog posts view all
The Social Implications of Company-sponsored EV Charging Stations
posted 16 October 2013
The “channel blending” (vs. multitasking) phenomenon — and opportunities
posted 24 February 2012
The Web is finally starting to behave like a butler
posted 19 January 2010
in the news view all
Q&A: Meet Ellen Isaacs, Corporate Ethnographer at PARC
12 April 2013 | Healthbiz Decoded
The Power of Observation
1 February 2013 | The Parking Professional
TEDx conference seeks bright ideas for Broadway
29 January 2013 | Los Angeles Times
events view all
Front End of Innovation 2013
6 May 2013 | Boston, MA
Testing a Novel Parking System: On-street Reservations
27 April 2013