Events and public defences

Doctoral defence: Qualities of Simplicity in Designing Interactive Art


Tomi Knuutila’s (M.A. Arts and Design) doctoral dissertation entitled Qualities of Simplicity in Designing Interactive Art belongs to the field of interactive design. It contributes new knowledge about user and design experience of interactive art through practice-led design research.

User experience and design of interactive art installations are examined through the concept of simplicity as defined in the dissertation. According to Knuutila, simplicity can be both perceived and designed. In the present study, it is conceived of as embodying the following qualities: reduction, organisation, affordances, tangibility, intuitiveness, and familiarity.

Knuutila’s monograph dissertation is closely related to the interactive artwork entitled Climatable: The design process of the work and the experience of the interactive situation from the user’s perspective are examined through the concept of simplicity. Examples of the manifestation of the qualities of simplicity are listed under frameworks referred to as Simplicity Framework and Simplicity Matrix. These frameworks can function as tools for designers and artists seeking to improve the usability of interactive artworks. The present study also tests the usefulness of the frameworks in interactive design and design research.

—In this study, interactive design takes place in the context of participatory media art, bringing new perspectives into discussion and promoting more user-centered approaches to design of interactive media art. The starting point has been the idea of participatory art as an art form that is activated only in the context of use. Interactive art entails active, concrete and physical participation of the audience, creating a particular relationship between the participant and the artwork. This relationship is what makes interactive art different from all other art forms, says Knuutila.

It can be stated that meanings of interactive art are created in and through participation. The starting point of the present study is the notion that creators of interactive art must take this point into consideration. In this study, interaction in the context of artworks is examined primarily from the perspective of design, taking into consideration the participant’s key role in the way artworks function. The title of the present research—Designing interactive art— refers to this point.

—The study is also a contribution to the discussion on the goals and objectives of interaction design and the ways in which interactive artworks function. The concept of gamification, among others, challenges interaction design to seek new insights in addition to the more traditional usability perspectives, says Knuutila.

The present study brings to focus special characteristics of interactive events: real-time immersion, social interaction and embodied participation. The relationships between these and the concept of simplicity as well as qualities of simplicity are addressed with the objective of elucidating the experientiality of interactive art: the various relationships that emerge when humans and machines interact with each other.

Information on the defence:

The public examination of M.A. Tomi Knuutila’s doctoral dissertation Qualities of Simplicity in Designing Interactive Art will take place at the University of Lapland Faculty of Arts and Design on Tuesday, 4 December at 12:00 (noon) in the Lecture Hall 19 (Eeli Hall), Yliopistonkatu 8, Rovaniemi. The opponent appointed for the examination is Associate Professor Andrés Lucaro (Aalto University), and Professor Eija Timonen (University of Lapland) will act as the custos. After the public examination, a coffee reception organised by the Faculty of Arts and Design will take place at the Restaurant Petronella. The artwork Climatable, which forms the artistic part of the dissertation, is presented in Galleria Kopio (Yliopistonkatu 8, Rovaniemi) from 4 December 2018 to 24 January 2019.

Information on the doctoral candidate:

Tomi Knuutila (born 1973) holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Jyväskylä (1998) and a Master’s Degree from the University of Art and Design Helsinki—Taideteollinen korkeakoulu (2000). He has been working at the University of Lapland Faculty of Arts and Design since 2002, first as a part-time teacher of multimedia and later as digital media lecturer. He has been working as a freelancer in the fields of culture and ICT, and as a media artist for over 20 years.

Additional information:

Tomi Knuutila
tomi.knuutila [at]
Tel. +358 40 484 4384

Press copies of the thesis and a photograph of the doctoral candidate are available at the University of Lapland, Communications and External Relations: tiedotus(at)

Information on the publication:

Tomi Knuutila: Qualities of Simplicity in designing interactive art. Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis 383. ISBN 978-952-337-115-6. Hansaprint Oy, Turenki 2018. Electronic version:
Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 250. ISBN 978-952-337-116-3
Our website uses cookies, read more about cookies. By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. [I Agree]