About absent design

I’m Reuben Stanton, an interaction designer and developer based in Melbourne, Australia. I’m also a PhD candidate in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University in Melbourne.

I’ve been operating under the name “absent design” for about ten years. The name originally came from an anagram of my name (Reuben Stanton → absent neutron → absent design), but now seems appropriate to the idea of using design to improve user experience by removing barriers to effective interaction: Really great software design can be effectively invisible: quietly assisting you in achieving a task. My tagline “Useful Simple Software” follows on from this idea – for as long as I’ve been interested in software design I’ve wanted to build things that are truly useful to someone else.

My experience in interaction design comes from a variety of sources: I trained as a graphic designer in the late 1990s when the interactive web was a new and fledgling design playground – something about the online experience really clicked for me and I was one of the few graphic design students from my year to graduate with a genuine interest in developing for this new medium.

Around this time I also discovered an affinity with programming that wasn’t totally unexpected (I still vaguely remember writing music and making digital images in BASIC on our first family computer – a Toshiba HX-10), but was unusual for a graphic designer. At least at the time anyway. There was something about the iterative logical problem solving process and the tight structure of programming languages that really appealed to me.

After I graduated I tried my hand at a whole lot of design related things. “absent design” was a collaborative graphic design project, a t-shirt label, an screen-printing studio, but I kept coming back to programming (in flash, mostly), almost by accident. When I started looking around for more permanent work (to gain more experience in the “real world” of design) I kept applying for design jobs and getting offered programming jobs instead. I worked for seven years (or thereabouts) as a flash developer – working for a wide range of digital, design and advertising agencies; including a 6 month stint living and working in Tokyo. During this period I also played guitar in a semi-successful post-rock band. I returned to Melbourne, dabbled in some interaction design at ACID, and worked for a year as a senior flash developer at Flint Interactive. I’ve built hundreds of good websites and bad, and seen countless examples of effective and ineffective interaction design.

I often thought that “one day” I would be working on the design and development of useful, simple software. I got tired of waiting for that “one day” to arrive. Maybe that day is actually now? So I left flash development behind and pursued the design and development of iOS apps for a while – it involved some serious reskilling, some learning and re-learning, and a whole lot of experimentation. I became interested in the idea of using software to change behaviour and practices in the real world, which culminated in my first successful app, Time Flies. I’ve recently started a software development operation with a friend and fellow PhD student Chris Marmo.

I’m now in the (long, slow) process of completing a PhD in interaction design at RMIT University. My PhD research is concerned with the design of a ‘living’ digital archive for a performing arts company, and what interaction design and software design practice means for the ‘livingness’ to digital archives.

Thanks for reading.

reuben [at] absentdesign [dot] com / twitter: @absent

If you’ve come here looking for the library I wrote (ages ago now) for integrating WordPress with AS3/Flash, it can be found here.

Oh, and if (like a lot of other programmer/designers out there) you like cooking – I also keep an occasional cooking diary