Who: Annette Wagner, firstname.lastname@example.org
Has Held Title For: 8 Years
Degree: BS, Graphic Design
As Apple Computer Inc.'s first human interface human, Annette Wagner helped to pioneer the field of human-computer interaction. Five years ago, Wagner took the title along with her to Sun Microsystems Inc., where she continues to evangelize the human element as part of the product development team at the company's JavaSoft unit.
What's a human interface human doing in a computer company?
This industry suffers from "featuritis." That helps to sell more software, but it doesn't help people use it. My main responsibility is to be a user advocate.
How do you do that?
I follow users around as they perform tasks. I also listen to the language people use to describe how they do their jobs. Tax accountants, for example, have a whole sphere of terms that you need to translate into the software.
Besides being human, what are the requirements for the job?
Human interface work is part art, part science. You need cognitive psychology, software engineering, graphic design, and visual language theory. Above all, human interface designers have to understand how people learn things.
What do you consider the ultimate human interface?
It's one where the personal computer disappears.
A version of this article appeared in the August/September 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.