Holly Robbins

Ph.D. Candidate - Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands


Holly Robbins is a PhD candidate of Industrial Design at Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands) where she works at the intersection of social sciences, humanities, and design. Her work focuses on shaping relationships with data-intensive objects (those connected to the Internet and that collect data) that are based on reciprocity. Holly’s work explores how design approaches can express the im/materiality of these objects- where the materials of these technologies can be just outside our grasp such as code and algorithms. Specifically, she explores how traces can serve to support the relationship between people and the im/material qualities of these objects.

As a part of TU Delft’s ID Studio Lab and the Connected Everyday Lab, Holly uses a research through design approach. She collaborates closely with students, professional designers, and companies to put her conceptual and theoretical work into designed objects. 

Current Project


As technologies become more and more complex, the tasks that they perform become masked in an effort to make them more usable. However, what’s lost with this masking is the ability to understand how they work and the role that they play in our lives. This is especially worrisome with connected objects that have the additional capabilities of harvesting data from people and for its connectivity to the Internet.  This leads to overconsumption, disposability, and ethical concerns.

This research project is the PhD research of Holly Robbins and considers how we can change the relationship that we have with connected objects and people. It uses traces as a design approach to engage people in the task the technology performs as well as in situating the technology in our lives. Traces have the potential to communicate the relationship between person and object which occurs with both digital and physical materials. This has implications for ethics as well as sustainability.


  1. Robbins, H., Giaccardi, E., Karana, E. (2016). Traces as an Approach to Design for Focal Things and Practices. In Proceedings of NordiCHI’16: 11th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction. October 23 – 27, 2016, Gothenburg, Sweden. ACM, 2016.                                                                                                                                                                       
  2. Robbins, Holly; Elisa Giaccardi; and Elvin Karana. “Politics of Impermanence: Traces of Use as a Design Strategy for Technologies.” Workshop: Things Fall Apart; Unpacking the Temporalities of Impermanence for HCI. NordiCHI’16: 11th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction. October 24, 2016, Gothenburg, Sweden. ACM, 2016.                                                                                                                                                
  3. Robbins, Holly; Elisa Giaccardi; Elvin Karana; and Patrizia D’Olivo. (2015). “Understanding and Designing with (and for) Material Traces.” Studies in Material Thinking 13(01).                                                                                                                                                                       
  4. Robbins, Holly; Elisa Giaccardi; and Elvin Karana. “De-Commodifying the Device: A Materialist Design Approach for Communication With and Through Connected Objects.” Workshop: The Future of Making: Where Industrial and Personal Fabrication Meet. Critical Alternatives 2015. Aarhus, Denmark. August 2015.                                                                                                                                  
  5. Robbins, Holly. “Disrupting the Device Paradigm: Designing for Mutual Praxis in Connected Objects.” Participatory Innovation Conference 2015. The Hague, The Netherlands. May 2015.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
  6. Giaccardi, Elisa; Elvin Karana; Holly Robbins; and Patrizia D’Olivo. (2014) “Growing traces on objects of daily use: A product design perspective for HCI.” Proceedings of the 2014 conference on Designing interactive systems. ACM, 2014.