Brenda Laurel


Brenda Laurel is a designer, researcher and writer. Her work focuses on interactive narrative, human-computer interaction, and cultural aspects of technology. Her career in human-computer interaction spans over twenty-five years. She holds an M.F.A. and Ph.D. in theatre from the Ohio State University. Her doctoral dissertation was the first to propose a comprehensive architecture for computer-based interactive fantasy and fiction. Brenda was one of the founding members of the research staff at Interval Research Corporation in Palo Alto, California, where she coordinated research activities exploring gender and technology, and where she co-produced and directed the Placeholder Virtual Reality project. She was also one of the founders and VP/Design of a spinoff company from Interval - Purple Moon - formed to market products based on this research. Purple Moon was acquired by Mattel in 1999. In 1990 she co-founded Telepresence Research, Inc. to develop virtual reality and remote presence technology and applications. She has worked as a software designer, producer, and researcher for companies including Atari, Activision, and Apple. She serves currently as Chair and graduate faculty member of the graduate Media Design Program at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and also concurrently works as a Senior Director and Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems Labs in Menlo Park, California. Brenda has published extBrenda Laurel in VR helmetensively on topics including interactive fiction, computer games, autonomous agents, virtual reality, and political and artistic issues in interactive media. She is editor of the book, The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design [Addison-Wesley 1990]; author of Computers as Theatre [Addison-Wesley 1991; 2nd edition 1993]; an online collection of essays entitled Severed Heads; author of the narrative of her start-up adventure of "games for girls" Utopian Entrepreneur [M.I.T. Press, 2001]; and her newest book is Design Research [M.I.T. Press, 2004]. Her complete publications and positions are listed in her resume; you may wish to read some selected recent speeches, and also enjoy some of her new writings for children. Brenda lives with her husband Rob Tow and their family at their house Locus Voci in the Santa Cruz mountains above the Silicon Valley region of the San Francisco bay area. (source:

2006 Chair, Graduate Program in Design, California College of the Arts / Shaping a new curriculum and faculty for a graduate degree in design with concentrations in graphics, interaction, environmental and industrial design, to be launched in fall 2007.
2005 - 2006 Distinguished Engineer and Senior Director, Sun Microsystems Laboratories / Leader of a new Experience Design initiative within Sun Labs. Current work involves life-sized video interaction at a distance, interface to video on demand, and human-centered studies in the health sciences area.
2004 Equity Award, American Association for Higher Education
2002 Nominated for Chrysler Award
2002 Nominated for the National Design Award in Product Design, Cooper-Hewitt Museum
2001 Big Brothers / Big Sisters Achievement Award
1999 Chair, Media Design Program, Art Center College of Design / Co-Creator of a new curriculum for New Media, professor, core faculty member, primary faculty for Super Studio course, and graduate student advisor. Became Chair in 2002. Architect and professor for the Graduate Design Research curriculum.
1999 Consultant and Speaker / Consulting in design research, usability, and identity for clients such as Cheskin Research, AT&T, Nielsen Norman Group, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Leapfrog, and the Macarthur FoundationPublic speaking for educational, professional, and business audiences.
1998 Girls Inc. Award for Leading Women in Animation
1998 Top 25 Women on the Web, Webgrrls
1997 25 Most Influential Working Women, Working Woman
1997 First Technology Fellow, University of California at Monterey Bay
1996 - 1999 Purple Moon / Founder and Vice President/Design, Member of the Board of Directors for a transmedia company devoted to preteen girls.
1994 Honorary Mention Prix Ars Electronica, Linz / category interactive art for Placeholder (with Rachel Strickland)
1992 - 1997 Interval Research Corporation / Member of the Research Staff, Technology and Culture. Managed a four-year R&D effort to understand relationships between gender and technology among children and teens.
1990 - 1991 Telepresence Research, Inc. / Co-founder and President for a company that provided research and development in virtual environments and remote presence systems.
1987 - 1992 Consultant / Consultant in interaction design for clients such as Apple, LucasArts Entertainment, Epyx, American Interactive Media, Brøderbund, Citibank, Carnegie Mellon University, Fujitsu Labs, Paramount New Media, Sony Pictures, and the Communication Research Institute of Australia.
1986 Ph.D. The Ohio State University, Department of Theatre, theory and criticism / Dissertation: “Toward the Design of a Computer-Based Interactive Fantasy System.”
1985 - 1987 Activision, Inc. / Director of Product Development, Learning and Creativity
1980 - 1984 Atari, Inc.
1977 - 1980 CyberVision, Inc.
1975 M.F.A. Ohio State University, Department of Theatre, acting and directing
1972 B.A. DePauw University, Speech and Theatre
Exhibitions & Events