About the Lab

The Process, Interaction, and Creativity Lab (PICL) is part of the Interactive Computing Group at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. We seek to understand, support, and re-envision how computational tools relate to creative process. To do so, we build and study computational creativity support tools, perform qualitative research, and deploy new tools in the real world.

For Prospective Students

If you are a prospective graduate student interested in HCI, creativity, or education, apply to UIUC Computer Science and mention Dr. Sterman in your application.

Research Areas

Creative Process

Creative work happens in all corners of our lives and can be a lifelong endeavor. How do we structure our creative work? How do we reflect, improve, and integrate creative process in our lives? How do our tools, physical and digital, change what we can do and how we do it?

Selected Publications

diagram of mode switching
Creative and Motivational Strategies of Expert Creative Practitioners
Molly Nicholas*,Sarah Sterman*, Eric Paulos
C&C 2022
Explores how creative practitioners intentionally manage their creative process, for example by developing strategies to break out of ruts or stay motivated through uncertainty. Understanding the way experts engage with and manage creativity-relevant processes represents a rich source of foundational knowledge for designers of creativity support tools. We identify four strategies for managing process and discuss implications for the design of process-focused creativity support tools.
Best Paper Award
three stages of designing a violin scroll
Towards Creative Version Control
Sarah Sterman*, Molly Nicholas*, Eric Paulos
CSCW 2022
Explores how creative practitioners use version control tools and history information in creative process, and introduces four key considerations for version control in creative work: using versions as a palette of materials, providing confidence and freedom to explore, leveraging low-fidelity version capture, and reflecting on and reusing versions across long time scales. We discuss how the themes present across this wide range of mediums and domains can provide insight into future designs and uses of version control systems to support creative process.

Reflective Learning

Reflection is a powerful tool for improving our teaching and learning. How can documentation tools, curricula, programming interfaces, and new media support reflection in HCI, design, and programming education? How can we help students and teachers reflect on their processes, strategies, and metacognitive approaches to learning?

Selected Publications

screenshot of feedback interface for a sketch artifact
Kaleidoscope: A Reflective Documentation Tool for a User Interface Design Course
Sarah Sterman, Molly Nicholas, Janaki Vivrekar, Jessie Mindel, Eric Paulos
CHI 2023
Presents Kaleidoscope, a novel tool for documenting and interacting with design history in studio HCI courses. We deployed this tool in an upper-level HCI course during the COVID-19 pandemic to support student learning through feedback, reflection, and interactions with project histories.
Best Paper Award

Process-Sensitive Writing Tools

Word processors and writing interfaces are a ubiquitous part of how we interact with computers, express ourselves, and communicate. Yet writing is a complex and deeply individual process. How can our writing tools support diverse writing processes, leverage new technology for self-expression, and expand the boundaries of what writing can be?

Selected Publications

Diagram of design space.
A Design Space for Intelligent and Interactive Writing Assistants
Mina Lee, Katy Ilonka Gero, John Joon Young Chung, Simon Buckingham Shum, Vipul Raheja, Hua Shen, Subhashini Venugopalan, Thiemo Wambsganss, David Zhou, Emad A. Alghamdi, Tal August, Avinash Bhat, Madiha Zahrah Choksi, Senjuti Dutta, Jin L.C. Guo, Md Naimul Hoque, Yewon Kim, Simon Knight, Seyed Parsa Neshaei, Antonette Shibani, Disha Shrivastava, Lila Shroff, Agnia Sergeyuk, Jessi Stark, Sarah Sterman, Sitong Wang, Antoine Bosselut, Daniel Buschek, Joseph Chee Chang, Sherol Chen, Max Kreminski, Joonsuk Park, Roy Pea, Eugenia Ha Rim Rho, Zejiang Shen, Pao Siangliulue
CHI 2024
In our era of rapid technological advancements, the research landscape for writing assistants has become increasingly fragmented across various research communities. We seek to address the challenge by proposing a design space as a structured way to examine and explore the multidimensional space of intelligent and interactive writing assistants. Through community collaboration, we explore five aspects of writing assistants: task, user, technology, interaction, and ecosystem. Within each aspect, we define dimensions and codes by systematically reviewing 120 papers while leveraging the expertise of researchers in various disciplines. Our design space aims to offer researchers and designers a practical tool to navigate, comprehend, and compare the various possibilities of writing assistants, and aid in the design of new writing assistants.
Visualization of text style.
Interacting with Literary Style through Computational Tools
Sarah Sterman, Evey Huang, Vivian Liu, Eric Paulos
CHI 2020
Presents a computational technique to surface style in written text. We collect a dataset of crowdsourced human judgments of style, derive a model of style by training a neural net on this data, and present novel applications for visualizing and browsing style across broad bodies of literature, as well as an interactive text editor with real-time style feedback. We study these interactive style applications with users and discuss implications for enabling this novel approach to style.


Dr. Sarah Sterman

David Zhou
PhD Student

James Eschrich
PhD Student

Claire Tian
PhD Student

Andrew Chen
MS Student

Past Students