A pioneering authority on human-computer interaction has died.
David Benyon was born in Southampton in 1954 and studied mathematics and politics at the University of Essex (1975). After spending three years as a systems analyst and programmer, in 1980 he became a lecturer in systems analysis and design at what is now De Montfort University. He combined this with studying for an MSc in computing, cognition and psychology at the University of Warwick and then moved to the Open University in 1987.
It was from 1984, Professor Benyon once wrote, that he began “working in the area of HCI [human computer interaction]”, adding that he “realise[d] this sounds like a long time ago – and it is just about the entire history of the subject. However, we are still creating interactive products that are just not good enough. I am here to champion good design.”
While at the OU, Professor Benyon gained a PhD, founded the Intelligent Interfaces Special Interest Group and contributed to one of the first textbooks in the field, Human-Computer Interaction: Concepts and Design (1994). In 1996, he joined Edinburgh Napier University as professor of HCI and interaction design. He was to remain there until his death and, although recently dogged by ill health, he managed to complete the fourth edition of his comprehensive textbook Designing User Experience: A Guide to HCI, UX and Interaction Design. He was also involved, earlier this year, in the launch of the Creative Informatics Partnership, designed to “enhance Edinburgh’s reputation as a world-class centre for the creative industries”.
It was while at Edinburgh Napier that Professor Benyon developed the notion of “blended spaces”, as set out in his 2014 book, Spaces of Interaction, Places for Experience. Projects involving the local community included an ecologically sensitive interactive garden, immersive domes and a collaboration with Jupiter Artland to produce a Minecraft version of the campus sculpture park.
Callum Egan, a research fellow at Edinburgh Napier who worked with Professor Benyon on the interactive garden, recalled how “when you sat down to discuss ‘work’ with David, he always listened attentively whilst jotting down notes/diagrams [and then would turn] your stream of consciousness into a map that showed how to get to where you needed to go…[At conferences] great academics the world over gravitated toward David, they had such respect for his work. He was a passport to interesting and brilliant people.”
Professor Benyon died of cancer on 31 October and is survived by his wife Linda Dryden – professor of English literature at Edinburgh Napier – a daughter, a son and two grandchildren.