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Show RCA 2019

Ellen Davies

Show RCA work

Major project:

User-Centred Uselessness

We should be in for a bumpier ride.

User-Centred Uselessness is a video essay set in a quasi-playable 3D environment poised as a challenge to the entrenched notion that it is always optimal to 'eliminate friction' from a user journey. It calls for reconsideration of the value of coarseness, incoherence, and variability as experiential characteristics. 

Looking beyond the buffer face, it aims to prompt thought about what intentionally designed friction might feel like, and what the benefits of this could be. What if designed incoherence and variable design patterns could increase our ability to retain information, remain accountable and able to reflect upon our relationships with software?

Such design features are incompatible with the industry's conception of what good usability can be. Within it they are useless. Is the pursuit of exploring their viability a pertinent technique for radically critiquing the industry's conception in and of itself, or is it just being contrary?

The 12-minute long video essay serves as the conclusion of a year of practice-based research, from a hunt for Hammersmith and Fulham's most ethically flummoxing desire paths, to the usability testing of a counter-intuitive musical instrument, via a long look at the rightfully obsolete, but successfully disruptive visual language of CAPCHA codes.


  • Ellen is a designer, researcher and critical writer, with a background in interaction design and music making. Driven by the belief that the prevailing language of user experience design needs to be radically expanded upon, her design work, research, and writing probes the nuances of human-computer interaction.

  • Previous degrees

  • BA Graphic Design Communication, Chelsea College of Art, University of the Arts London, 2016; Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, Weston College, 2013
  • Experiences

  • Information designer, European Commission, 2016; UX designer, Unite Students, 2016–2018; Creative technologist intern, Moving Brands, 2018
  • Exhibitions

  • Chelsea Degree Show, Chelsea College of Art, University of the Arts London, 2016; Reanimating Materiality Through Sound, Tate Exchange, London, 2017; Mundane Mantra, St Johns at Bethnal Green, London, 2017
  • Awards

  • Shortlisted, Worldpay Creative Insight Award, 2016
  • Collaborators

  • Verity Clarke
Royal College of Art