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Colleen Bushell


“Working on Ping [Fu]’s project was a breakthrough for me. I didn’t have any training in interface design; rather, I approached the problem from the point of view of both a graphic designer and visualization designer, and not by applying traditional interface standards. My visual approach leveraged data-visualization techniques to rep-resent and choose the range of data. This transition from visual animation toward interactive interface design involved a mutual goal: communication.” 

Mosaic Web Browser, 1992. Courtesy of NCSA, University of Illinois.  

Study of a Numerically Modeled Severe Storm, Summer 1990, Courtesy of Colleen Bushell.  From New Media Futures: The Rise of Women in the Digital Arts.        


Colleen Bushell is the interface designer of the first visual browser, Mosaic, a technology that led to the popularization of Internet browsing in the early ’90s. She pioneered digital visualization techniques as one of the first designers at the NCSA Visualization Group. As a Chicago native daughter, the Midwest influenced her visual approach to the design of information. Bushell began her undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois in graphic design and fine arts. She was cofounder and director of product development at RiverGlass Inc., a spin-off company from UIUC and now holds a senior research scientist position at UIUC’s Applied Research Institute developing visual analytics for biomedical research and health care. She leads the visualization research effort for the National Institutes of Health’s Center of Excellence in Big Data at UIUC’s Institute of Genomic Biology.  She was a tenured professor at UIUC in graphic design and continues her interest in teaching by working with students through NCSA’s student innovation program.  She collaborates with doctors and researchers at the Mayo Clinic, Northwestern University, and UIUC, discovering biomarkers and integrating genomic and microbiome data into clinical practice. 


“NCSA had the opportunity to work on these kinds of projects because it has a national mission and interesting connections. Vice President Gore’s office was involved in early conversations to explore the use of this new Internet technology to facilitate collaboration with policymakers working at different places in the country. Remote collaboration over the Inter-net using a browser was a novel idea at that time.” 

–Colleen Bushell

Early history of computer at Illinois. A woman points to the screen of a PLATO terminal as part of her studies. 

Courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives, Photographic Subject File, COL-13-13, Image #0001141. 


mosaic Internet browser, scientific visualization, information visualization , graphic design

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