Designing Interactions

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Cordell Ratzlaff

Cordell Ratzlaff is interviewed in Chapter 2 – My PC. His designs for operating systems built on the contributions of Bill Atkinson, Larry Tesler and Joy Mountford at Apple.

Cordell managed the Human Interface Group for the design of Macintosh System Software at Apple for five years. He led the team that designed the versions of Mac OS from Mac OS 8 all the way through Mac OS X. Cordell graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Nebraska. Passionate about the study of human behavior, he became fascinated by technology; he moved into design to combine the two interests. After graduate studies at Ohio State University in industrial engineering, his first job was at the NASA Ames Research Center. He ended up at Apple in 1990, in the group that was designing networking and communication products for LAN-based networks. In 1994 he began work on system software at Apple and led the design of four major versions of the operating system, culminating in the innovative Mac OS X. When the design of the new interface was completed and just before it was shown publicly, he went to a startup called to head up the design and development of online travel reservation sites, staying with them until they were established as market leaders in corporate online travel, had gone public, and been acquired by a larger company. He is now creative director for the Digital Media Group at Frog Design, in San Francisco.

Cordell describes the time-based elements of the design of Mac OS X, with the use of animations, the development of the dock, and the use of eject and burn icons to replace the trash when the function changes. He also describes the inspiration for the new design.

Cordell in his office in 2004. Photo Author