As the name interaction design suggests, it refers to the design of products with the human in mind. It is an art form and a science. It blends psychology, graphic design, computer science, engineering, digital technology, semiotics (meaning-making), and related disciplines. This makes a diverse selection of degree choices at the graduate level.
This is a partial list of the degrees in this field:
- Master of Science in Creative Technologies and Design
- MS in Human-Computer Interaction
- MS in Information Science Technology
- Master of Business and Science-User Experience Design
- Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Interactive Design
- MS in Engineering Design Innovation
The assortment of degrees translates to diverse curricula. As a student, you have a spectrum of topics available. You may experience an intensive focus in design, development, planning, and leadership. An MFA program is a multidisciplinary program drawing on computer science, art, psychology, and other fields for a full understanding of how technology and human behavior influence each other. There is interaction design (IxD) curriculum that draws on studio art and design, mechanical engineering, and business.
There are college programs offering a choice of two concentrations in the interaction design field: Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), or Media and Information Management (MIM). The HCI concentration emphasizes project-based learning and the creation and development of solutions. The MIM concentration focuses on organization and competition.
Regardless of the degree, your education should teach the requisite professional knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform as interaction designers. You want to graduate with a greater understanding of how the use of products and services will mediate human relationships and affect human understanding.
To illustrate the variety of courses, we have selected the following to give a cross-section of the classes from the different names of degrees. We chose these from various MA, MS, and MFA degrees as examples of classes you can expect to encounter.
Creative Thinking: Focuses on developing the creative skills necessary for solving advertising communication problems. Enables students to maximize and strengthen creative abilities through lecture, brainstorming sessions, and team-oriented strategy sessions focusing on real case projects.
Brand Experiences: Provides thorough coverage for designing comprehensive brand communications for real-world clients that involve physical experiences for consumers.
Communication in Design: In this class, you will learn about various forms of communication and when/how to apply them in the design process. Topics include structuring communication, selecting key points to communicate, and communicating technical information to a non-technical audience.
Visualizing Information: This class trains students to harness their visual and creative potential and to display this potential in the visual medium.
Intelligent User Interfaces: The class introduces students to the theory and practice of engineering expert knowledge into system designs.
Strategic Innovation: Creativity and innovative ideas must be transformed into viable goods and services that are offered to customers through original business models. This course focuses on strategies that leaders use for stimulating and implementing innovation in the workplace.
Interactive Design: The class looks at the advanced practical applications of interactive design theory, involving hardware, and software as they relate to human interface.
Human-Computer Interaction (HCI): The class examines human performance characteristics, computational tools, and HCI applications. You will learn how to access/evaluate HCI requirements, design HCI requirements, and assess the impact of design on performance.
Design and Prototyping: The class is an introduction to user-centered design and prototyping with the focus on practical methods for interaction design.
Innovations in HCI: You will study the social and technological developments in human-computer interaction and design. Topics may include novel input techniques, novel platforms, and innovations in theory and methods of design.
Some graduate programs have a thesis project in the second year. Your thesis builds on the foundation of the classwork and studios. The project requires that you conduct research and develop creative concepts to address a significant problem of unique interest to you. You might choose a topic in the area of design for service or social innovation. As your thesis project progresses, you will model, test, refine, and document solutions based upon your research and design exploration. This culminates in demonstrating your project to a panel of experts.
The curriculum is one criterion to consider when reviewing college programs. An MS program will typically have more classes in computer science. An MA and MFA degree slant towards the design aspect. Do you want a thesis or non-thesis program? Do the classes suit your career aspirations? In addition to the class subjects, you may investigate the success of the school’s alumni. Have alumni secured jobs as designers in companies such as Amazon, Walmart, or electronics companies as GE or Samsung?
A list of schools accredited by the National Association of Art and Design (NASAD) is available on their site. NASAD is also a source of information for individuals engaged in artistic, scholarly, educational, and other art/design-related endeavors.