Designing Interactions

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Mark Podlaseck

Mark Podlaseck is interviewed in Chapter 7 – The Internet.John Maeda shares his passion for simplicity, and his integration of music with graphical representations relates to the work of Hiroshi Ishii and Joy Mountford.

The design for the Glass Engine started as a skunkworks project. Philip Glass had worked with Mark Podlaseck on another project a few years before, and he decided he wanted a Web site. This was in the middle of the dot-com boom, so he asked Mark who would be a good designer for the project. They went to various agencies, but no one was willing to talk about anything less than a million-dollar project, so Mark thought, “I’ll take a stab at it.” Mark works at IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center, in upstate New York, and his research director was sympathetic, believing that there are a lot of large databases giving people navigational problems; a Web site for Philip Glass might offer a solution that could be generalized for access and browsing, as well as having high-profile cultural appeal. Mark originally studied English literature and then shifted to computer science. He got his first job as a system programmer for IBM in 1988 and soon transitioned into design. He was always ambivalent about whether his first love was cultural or technological in bias, so when he found himself at IBM Research working on a program to help Philip Glass, he felt that he had found his niche.

Philip Glass asked Mark Podlaseck to help him find a designer for his website, leading Mark to undertake the project himself. He developed a set of attributes that would help you browse all of the music composed by Glass, and kept the design simple so that you could focus on the music.

Mark in 2003. Photo Steve Bryant