Coutaz, Joëlle

Coutaz at CHI 1995
Joëlle Coutaz at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Denver, CO on May 7, 1995.

Joëlle Coutaz, whose pioneering research helped shape the field of human-computer interaction in France, first touched a computer mouse at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in 1982. A year later, Coutaz returned to CMU as a scientific visitor and enjoyed access to personal workstations, which did not yet exist in France. Out of curiosity, she attended the 1983 ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Boston, MA. The conference inspired Coutaz to set aside her previous research in operating systems and pursue the software aspects of human-computer interaction – not knowing that HCI would become a mainstream research area.

In 1987, Coutaz authored the presentation-abstraction-control (PAC) model, a software architectural pattern that divides an interactive system into three types of components:

  • the presentation, which formats the audio/visual presentation of data;
  • the abstraction, which retrieves and processes data;
  • and the control, which facilitates the flow of control and communication between the other two components.

Coutaz later contributed to the ESPRIT BRA/LTR project AMODEUS (1989-1995), the first project to promote a multidisciplinary approach to HCI. She also founded the Ingénierie de l’Interaction Homme-Machine (an HCI research group) at the Laboratory of Informatics of Grenoble in 1990 and served as its head until 2010.

Coutaz at CHI 2007
Jun Rekimoto, Christopher Schmandt, Karen Holtzblatt, Mary Czerwinski, Joëlle Coutaz, and Robert Jacob (left to right) at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in San Jose, CA, April 28 – May 3, 2007.

Coutaz was elected to the SIGCHI Academy in 2007. The following year, she coordinated a working group on Ambient Intelligence for the French Ministry of Research to develop an interdisciplinary field that would approach societal challenges in novel ways through a combination of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) and Social and Human Sciences (SHS). The International Federation for Information Processing awarded Coutaz the title IFIP TC13 Pioneer in 2013, recognizing her “outstanding contributions to the educational, theoretical, technical, commercial aspects of analysis, design, construction, evaluation and use of interactive systems.” On March 8, 2013, Coutaz was awarded the Legion of Honor by the Republic of France for her pioneering contributions to Human-Computer Interaction.

“Joëlle Coutaz is widely recognized for her thoughtful leadership for CHI in France and for establishing a prominent research lab at the University of Grenoble.  She had impact through her international efforts to promote the notion of ‘plasticity’ in user interfaces so as to accommodate diverse user needs and technology platforms.  I was impressed during my visit to her lab in Grenoble and appreciated the strong community she has built.” – Ben Shneiderman


  • Thèse d’Etat, Université Joseph Fourier (1988)
  • PhD in Computer Science, Université Joseph Fourier (1970)


  • Professor Emeritus (2012 – Present), Professor (1973 – 2012), Université de Grenoble-Alpes
  • Co-Chief Editor, JIPS (Journal of Interaction Person System)
  • Expert, ANR (Agence Nationale de Recherche)
  • Expert, European Commission
  • Head of the Ingénierie de l’Interaction Homme-Machine (HCI research group), Laboratory of Informatics of Grenoble (1990 – 2010)


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