Lydia Chilton is an Assistant Professor in the Computer Science Department at Columbia University. She is an early pioneer in crowdsourcing complex tasks on Mechanical Turk. Currently she leads the Computational Design Lab, whose goal is to build AI tools that enhance people's productivity. The three main approaches are to:

  • discover principles of successful solutions
  • design better solutions through brainstorming, synthesis, and iteration
  • communicate complex ideas more easily with visual symbols and well-grounded prose
In Computational Design, we first understanding the mechanisms of design, then build tools that combine the abilities to people and computers to solve complex and creative tasks that neither can do alone.

Computer Science Department
Google Scholar Page
Office CEPSR 612

Computational Design is key to innovation, adaptation and growth

Design is the process for solving problems. It is used in disiplines ranging from architecture to software to graphic design. Experts follow the design process, yet the exact mechanisms for how and why it works remain a mystery. Although brainstorming helps generate more ideas, how do those ideas result in workable solutions?

To solve problems more systematically we need to understand the design process at a computational level. What individual skills or tasks does it require and how should be be combined to transform an input into an output that solves the problem.

Having a computation model of design enables:

  • faster problem solving,
  • collaboration among large groups,
  • optimization through systematic exploration of the space,
  • avoiding pitfalls such as fixation on one solution to the problem

Two current project in the computational design space are:


HAI-GEN 2020: Human-AI Co-Creation with Generative Models (Workshop)
Werner Geyer, Lydia B. Chilton, Ranjitha Kumar, Tauman Adam Kalai
IUI 2020

Addressing the Accessibility of Social Media (Workshop)
Cole Gleason, Patrick Harrington, Benjamin M. Gorman, Andres Monroy-Hernandez, Garreth Tigwell, Lydia B. Chilton, Hernisa Kacorri, Meredith Ringel Morris, Shaomei Wu
CSCW 2019

WordBlender: Principles and Tools for Generating Word Blends
Sam H. Ross, Ecenaz Jen Ozmen, Maria Kogan, Lydia B. Chilton
Under submission

VisiFit: AI Tools to Iteratively Improve Visual Blends
Lydia B. Chilton, Ecenaz Jen Ozmen, Sam H. Ross
Under submission

Low Level Linguistic Controls for Style Transfer and Content Preservation
Katy Gero, Chris Kedzie, Jonathan Reeve and Lydia B. Chilton
INLG 2019

Making Memes Accessible ASSETS 2019.
Cole Gleason, Amy Pavel, Xingyu Liu, Patrick Carrington, Lydia B. Chilton, Jeffrey P. Bigham.

Human Errors in Interpretation of Visual Metaphors
Savvas D. Petridis, Lydia B. Chilton.
Creativity & Cognition 2019

VisiBlends: An Interactive Pipeline for Creating Visual Blends (Short Version)
Lydia B. Chilton, Savvas D. Petridis, Maneesh Agrawala.
Collective Intelligence 2019.

VisiBlends: An Interactive Pipeline for Creating Visual Blends
Lydia B. Chilton, Savvas D. Petridis, Maneesh Agrawala.
CHI 2019

Cicero: Multi-Turn, Contextual Argumentation for Accurate Crowdsourcing
Jim Chen, Jonathan Bragg, Lydia B. Chilton, Daniel S. Weld.
CHI 2019

Metaphoria: An Algorithmic Companion for Metaphor Creation.
Katy Gero, Lydia B. Chilton
CHI 2019

MicroTalk: Using Argumentation to Improve Crowdsourcing Accuracy
Ryan Drapeau, Lydia B. Chilton, Jonathan Bragg, Daniel S. Weld
HCOMP 2016

HumorTools: A Microtask Workflow for Generating News Satire
Lydia B. Chilton, Daniel S. Weld, James A. Landay.
In submission.

Frenzy: Collaborative Data Organization for Creating Conference Sessions
Lydia B. Chilton, Juho Kim, Paul Andre, Felicia Cordeiro, James A. Landay , Daniel S. Weld, Steven P. Dow, Robert C. Miller, Haoqi Zhang.
Full Paper at CHI 2014. Honorable Mention for Best Paper

Cascade: Crowdsourcing Taxonomy Creation
Lydia B. Chilton, Greg Little, Darren Edge, Daniel S. Weld, James A. Landay.
Full Paper at CHI 2013.

Community clustering: Leveraging an academic crowd to form coherent conference sessions.
Paul Andre, Haoqi Zhang, Juho Kim, Lydia B. Chilton, Steven P. Dow, and Robert C. Miller.
HCOMP 2013. Honorable Mention for Best Paper

Cobi: A community-informed conference scheduling tool.
Juho Kim, Haoqi Zhang, Paul André, Lydia B. Chilton, Wendy Mackay, Michel Beaudouin-Lafon, Robert C. Miller, and Steven P. Dow.
Full paper at UIST 2013.

Addressing Users' Queries directly in the Web Search Results
Lydia B. Chilton, Jaime Teevan
Full paper at WWW 2011.

Task Search in a Human Computation Market
Lydia B. Chilton, John J. Horton, Robert C. Miller, Shiri Azenkot.
Full paper at KDD-HCOMP 2010.

Exploring Iterative and Parallel Human Computation Processes
Greg Little, Lydia B. Chilton, Max Goldman, Robert C. Miller.
Full paper at KDD-HCOMP 2010.

TurKit: Human Computation Algorithms on Mechanical Turk
Greg Little, Lydia B. Chilton, Max Goldman, Robert C. Miller.
Full paper at UIST 2010.

The Labor Economics of Paid Crowdsourcing
John J. Horton, Lydia B. Chilton
Full paper at ACM E-Commerce 2010.

Seaweed: A web application for designing economic games.
Lydia B. Chilton, Clayton T. Sims, Max Goldman, Greg Little, and Robert C. Miller.

Tabulator: Exploring and analyzing linked data on the semantic web.
Tim Berners-Lee, Yuhsin Chen, Lydia B. Chilton, Dan Connolly, Ruth Dhanaraj, James Hollenbach, Adam Lerer, and David Sheets.
Semantic Web User Interaction Workshop, 2006.

Why We Customize the Web
Lydia B. Chilton, Robert C. Miller, Greg Little, and Chen-Hsiang Yu.
Chapter In A. Cypher, M. Dontcheva, T. Lau, and J. Nichols, eds., No Code Required: Giving Users Tools to Transform the Web, Elsevier, 2010.

Rewriting the Web with Chickenfoot
Robert C. Miller, Michael Bolin, Lydia B. Chilton, Greg Little, Matthew Webber, and Chen-Hsiang Yu.
Chapter In A. Cypher, M. Dontcheva, T. Lau, and J. Nichols, eds. No Code Required: Giving Users Tools to Transform the Web, Elsevier, 2010.

Talks and slides

I'm happy to share source materials for any of my talks over email. You can browse the slideshare to see if it's interesting to you. Note that the slideshares to not contain any of the videos or gifs.

What is Design?

AI Tools for Creative Work
Video of my talk at the University of Washington DUB seminar October 2, 2019

The UI of AI

Crowdsourcing Visual Ads

HumorTools: A workflow for crowdsourcing humor

Job Materials

If you are on the job market and looking for examples of application materials, you are welcome to mine.

Job Talk Slides (download)
Research Statement
Teaching Statement
List of References

Past Projects

Cascade: Crowdsourcing Taxonomy Creation
Taxonomies are essential for getting a big picture view on large datasets. Often human insight is needed to find the connections in data, but people find large organization tasks overwhelming. Cascade is an algorithm that crowdsources taxonomy creation by distributing the task into hundreds of easy subtasks. Each worker makes local judgements about data items without needing a global view of the data.

Frenzy: Collaborative Data Organization
Frenzy is a communitysourcing tool that builds on the ideas of Cascade, but which affords more transparency and communication that community members require. We deployed a production version Frenzy to a group of 60 domain experts to categorize conference papers, then group them into sessions. This organizational task involves both crowdsourcing a cohesive picture of a large dataset as well as collectively meeting a global constraint.

Frenzy was deployed at the CSCW 2013 and CHI 2014 program committee meeting to organize the accepted papers into conference sessions.

TurKit: Human Computation Algorithms on Mechanical Turk
TurKit was the first demonstration of crowd algorithms on MTurk. It could solve hard problems like handwriting recognition by allowing workers to build on the insights of others. TurKit inspired and was used to implement Michael Bernstein's Soylent and and Jeff Bigham's VizWiz.


I teach the user interface and design class at Columbia University.
  • COMS 4170: User Interface Design 2019 2018
  • COMS 6998: Advanced Web Design Studio 2019 2018
  • IEOR 4574: US Census Design Challenge: A Human Centered Design Approach (co-taught with Prof Harry West)
Stanford University
  • HCI Design Studio (CS 247) Spring 2016
  • Research Topics in Human-Computer Interaction (CS 376) Spring 2015
University of Washington
  • Artificial Intelligence (CSE473, undergraduate version) Spring 2013
  • Machine Learning (CSE546, graduate version) Winter 2012
  • Artificial Intelligence (CSE473, undergraduate version) Autumn 2011
  • 6.470 MIT Web Programming CompetitionI established 6.470, a month-long web programming class and competition for MIT students. I was the chairman in 2008 and 2009, and a staff member and instructor for 2010. The class serves approximately 100 students with a $40,000 annual budget from sponsor contributions.
  • User Interface Design and Implementation (6.831) Spring 2009
  • Introduction to Java for Engineers (1.00) Spring 2008 and Fall 2009
  • Communication for EECS Majors (6.UAT) Fall 2008

Community Leadership

CrowdCamp is hack-a-thon for crowdsourcing researchers. I co-organized the first workshop for crowdsourcing at CHI 2009 with over 100 attendants. Paul Andre lead the first follow-up at CHI 2011. I co-organized CrowdCamp at CSCW 2013, HCOMP 2014 and at a BIRS-CMO Workshop in 2016. CrowdCamp is continues under new leadership at HCOMP 2015.

Follow the Crowd
Follow the Crowd is a blog initiated by myself and the other members of the crowdsourcing community. It is a place to summarize crowdsourcing research across academic conferences.

TurKit and the Deneme Blog
TurKit is a toolkit for running iterative tasks on Mechanical Turk. TurKit was developed by Greg Little and myself. Greg and I and others post to Deneme, our blog about experiments exploring MTurk. If you do MTurk experiments, and want to share, we'd love you to post on Deneme.


Before starting at Columbia, I was a post-doc in the Computer Science Department at Stanford University working with Maneesh Agrawala. My PhD is from the University of Washington where I worked with James Landay and Dan Weld. I was an undergraduate and MEng student at MIT working with Rob Miller. I majored in Computer Science and Economics. However, I also completed the requirements for a major in math, but triple majoring was disallowed starting with my graduating class. Clearly, this was a conspiracy against me personally.

I have lived in Beijing three times. My Chinese name is 高雅丽 (Gao1 Ya3Li4)

I recreated famous paintings on the walls of my undergraduate dorm, the infamous East Campus Dormitory of MIT.

William Shatner photobombed me at a Star Trek convention.