Cognitive interfaces

Interaction design research

Imperial College


As systems of information are growing increasingly complex, our ability to capture relations in the data and to build consolidated narratives has become a challenging task that comes at a high cognitive cost.

This project merges cognitive sciences with generative design research to explore what a constraint-free, cognitively adapted version of the word interface could be like. I designed 4 interactions to materialise a digital workflow that "augments" the brain rather than imposing itself upon its cognitive processes.

Key challenges

How to evaluate the experiential qualities of a solution? How to cross-reference experimental findings with theoretical research? How to test complex human-computer interactions with a simple prototype?

Role in my team

This was an individual research project supervised by Dr Celine Mougenot, Associate Professor at the Dyson School of Design Engineering.


Ethnographic research – Paper toolkit – Front-end development (HTML/CSS, Javascript)

Ethnographic Research

I first conducted field research with individuals who are tasked as part of their job responsibilities with drawing conclusions and effectively communicating them through storytelling. I complemented these findings by cross-referencing them with existing research on embedded cognition.

Identification of cognitive dissonances

With an emphasis on academic researchers as my primary user group, I delved into a more comprehensive investigation of existing tools and user behaviours. I then explored their potential conflicts with cognition, leading me to formulate my design question.

Generative design experiment

I then carried out a generative design experiment in which 7 participants were asked to interact with a paper-based toolkit. Using Ackoff's DIKW scheme I translated my experimental findings into a set of 4 interface capabilities.

Prototype development

I then prototyped 3 of the 4 interactions on a Java-based web interface to bring the concept to life. In the prototype shown on the right, cards and interconnected networks of cards gradually recede into the depths of the 3D interface, akin to fleeting thoughts in the recesses of the mind (blurred cards). Thoughts can then be ‘anchored’ (red cards) for users to prioritise connecting related thoughts in the foreground, allowing them to trace a train of thought and uncover the big picture.