Lewis, Clayton

Lewis at INTERCHI 1993
Clayton Lewis with Bonnie John at the INTERCHI Conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands in April 1993.

Clayton Lewis is a Professor of Computer Science and Fellow of the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is renowned for his work in developing methodologies to evaluate user interface design. These methods include the think-aloud protocol, in which researchers observe participants as they talk through their thoughts and actions while completing a set task, and the cognitive walkthrough method, which acknowledges user preference to learn new software through exploration rather than formal training and consequently focuses on evaluating software design for ease of learning.

Lewis at CHI 1995
Clayton Lewis at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Denver, CO in May 1995.

In the early 1980s, Lewis led and inspired some of the first HCI projects on user-centered design as the manager of the Human Factors Group at the IBM Watson Research Center. Lewis and his colleagues at IBM Corporate identified usability as a key challenge and research area, which led to the foundation of the IBM User Interface Institute. The usability inspection methods developed by Lewis and his colleagues – including the think-aloud protocol and cognitive walkthrough method – continue to influence HCI practice today. Lewis was elected to the CHI Academy in 2009, recognizing him for his contributions and impact in the field of HCI.

Lewis, CHI 2011
Clayton Lewis receiving the SIGCHI Social Impact Award from Loren Terveen at the CHI 2011 Conference in Vancouver, BC Canada in May 2011.

Lewis’s current research interests include cognitive assistive technology, human-computer interaction, computers in education, and formal and computational models of mental processes. His recent work on technology designed for people with cognitive disabilities has been presented to the United States Access Board Technical Advisory Committee, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), the International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ACM ASSETS), and other forums.

“My experiences with Clayton go back a long time.  He was an early researcher who adapted psychology research methods to the needs of HCI research.  Clayton was ready to lead his department, offer bold new ideas, and put himself fully into research and policy making for users with disabilities. Clayton’s energetic gestures and distinctive speaking style drew attention from listeners and photographers like me.” – Ben Shneiderman


  • Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology, University of Michigan (1978)
  • M.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1968)
  • A.B. in Mathematics, Princeton University (1966)


  • Coleman-Turner Professor of Computer Science, University of Colorado, Boulder (2018-2019)
  • Fellow, Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg, Delmenhorst, Germany (2017)
  • Consultant, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (2011- 2014)
  • Visiting Scientist, Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, Milton Keynes, England (2008)
  • Sabbatical Visitor, Assistive Technology Partners, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine (2006 – 2007)
  • Scientist in Residence, Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities (2004 – 2011)
  • Faculty Partner, IBM Printing Systems Division (2002)
  • Chair, Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado (1999 – 2003)
  • Professor, University of Colorado, Department of Computer Science (1992 – Present)
  • Acting Director, University of Colorado, Institute of Cognitive Science (1991 – 1992)
  • Sabbatical Visitor, Center for Advanced Decision Support in Water and Environment Systems, University of Colorado (1990 – 1991)
  • Associate Professor, University of Colorado, Department of Computer Science (1984 – 1992)
  • Manager of Human Factors, IBM Watson Research Center (1980 – 1984)
  • Research Staff Manager, IBM Watson Research Center (1979 – 1984)
  • Visiting Instructor, Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin (1976 – 1979)



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