Interaction Design Masters Program at University of Kansas

Dear All,

Last January, 2008 The University of Kansas launched 2 professional graduate programs in Interaction Design and Design Management. The programs were a couple years in the making and are headed up by myself, Michael Eckersley, Richard Branham, and other strong contributors. More on us below. Now in only year two we have 24 active graduate students between the programs, many of them working professionals in the Kansas City area.

Both grad programs lead to a 31 credit hour MA degree, with a 60 credit MFA degree program option. Sample course titles for Interaction Design include: Interaction Design; Design Scenarios & Simulations; Designing Business Services & Consumer Experiences; and, Advanced Human Factors in Design. Sample Design Management courses include: Design Management; Design Strategies & Methods; Strategic Design Innovation; and, Branding and Design. Most required and elective courses are taught evenings. Some courses are video conferenced between KU campuses in Kansas City and Lawrence.

Faculty have many years of industry, research and teaching experience. Program is NASAD accredited. Below are some links for more information:

www.arts.ku.edu/graduate/design

Interaction Design links:
www.arts.ku.edu/design/interaction
www.arts.ku.edu/design/interaction/graduate

Design management links:
www.arts.ku.edu/design/management/graduate/
www.arts.ku.edu/design/management

I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have at mde@ku.edu.

Michael Eckersley


PS, The programs currently have five contributing faculty and adjunct faculty. Here are a few:

Richard Branham is Professor of Industrial Design at KU, working in areas of cognitive human factors and interaction design strategies, methods and techniques, specializing in way-finding, navigation and use models. He has over thirty years of professional experience developing interfaces between people and technology, and twenty-five years of teaching and research experience. He holds BFA and MFA degrees from The University of Kansas and a MS degree from the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). Branham founded the Information and Design Systems Division of Unimark International. He founded Design Planning Group in Chicago. Major clients have included Carlton Centre, Johannesburg, Gillette Company, Marshall Field, J. C. Penney, New York, Volkswagen, and Westinghouse.

Michael Eckersley leads HumanCentered (www.humancentered.net), a team of affiliated social scientists, designers and planners. With an MFA in design and a PhD in cognitive science, Michael served as Design Strategy Director for Sybase in their online financial services business, and has led many strategic design innovation engagements to consumer product, fast food, healthcare, publishing, financial services and software companies. Clients include: Yum!brands; Black & Decker; GMAC; Coca-Cola; St John’s Mercy Health System; 3point5.com; and, Hakuhodo

Gregory Thomas teaches Branding and Design. Greg has had a distinguished professional career with Gregory Thomas Associates (GTA) Los Angeles. Formed more than 30 years ago, GTA was a studio specializing in brand design and marketing communications materials. The award-winning company produced corporate identity programs, advertising, packaging and digital media for clients around the world. GTA served as creative consultant to clients such as CBS, IBM, TRW, The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Seagram’s International, and to the countries and individual destinations of Australia, New Zealand and Austria. GTA has been honored with numerous international design awards. Mr. Thomas was an Adjunct Professor at the School of Fine Arts and the Annenberg School for
Communication at the University of Southern California. He was the Acting Chair of Graphic Design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena for three years.
Mr. Thomas is a graduate in design from the Kansas City Art Institute (BFA), California Institute of the Arts (MFA) and Yale University (MFA[/b]

Prof. Eckersley:

I am a bit surprised that University of Kansas had the foresight, not to mention money, to implement this program.

My daughter is majoring in Digital Design at University of Cincinnati and is probably in the top 10% of the students in that program

. I am not quite sure what an MFA in interaction design focuses on. Is it for industrial design? Is it for people who have Industrial Design backgrounds or will Digital Design be fine? Is it more akin to human computer interaction, web design or something else? Please elaborate.

By the way, your link that you gave for interaction design doesn’t work.

Thanks.

Don’t these Master’s degrees come at 1/2 the credit-hours that most schools demand?
I understand the appeal to students looking for shortcuts - I’d be suspicious…

If too many schools take a cash-grab approach to Design graduate education the degree will become as meaningless as the MBA or MArch.

If too many schools take a cash-grab approach to Design graduate education the degree will become as meaningless as the MBA or MArch.

Well, I didn’t know MBA or MArch are meaningless nowadays.

perhaps I should qualify that statement.

last I heard, some 50K MBA’s are granted each year in the US alone.
Not that getting one will hurt your career, but there clearly isn’t that much demand for administrators - academia should be more descerning.

In Architecture, there have been so many students flooding the feild, that they’ve tried to limit their numbers by requiring a Master’s (and 3 years experience) before taking the test to licence yourself.
So, schools are eliminating the Bachelors degree and offering a 5 year Masters instead. The Master’s is replacing the Bachelors - semantics.

I guess what’s infuriating me is that Kansas was once a design school powerhouse.
A typical 2-year MFA will remain the gold standard for the profession (the terminal degree). Seemingly, public universities are willing to abdicate the best students to the private schools - where eventually middle/lower income kids will never have a chance to afford to attend.

(PS There is only one public university in the top 10 ranked design schools today - there used to be more)

DEAR NO_SPEC,

SAW YOUR COMMENT.

MA AND MS DEGREE PROGRAMS IN THE US ARE COMMONLY AROUND 30 CREDIT HOURS. MFA DEGREES ARE USUALLY AROUND 60 CREDIT HOURS. IN YEARS PAST, MOST PEOPLE TAKING THE MFA HAVE USUALLY DONE SO IN ORDER TO TEACH COLLEGE (THE MFA IS A “TERMINAL DEGREE”, ALLOWING YOUNG PROFS TO GET ON TENURE TRACK)

THE MA ISN’T A SHORTCUT AT ALL. IT’S A SUBSTANTIAL DEGREE PROGRAM FOR PROFESSIONALS WANTING TO ADVANCE THEIR CAREER GOALS. DO YOUR HOMEWORK AND YOU’LL FIND MANY, MANY M.A. PROGRAMS AROUND THE US. THEIR PURPOSE IS DIFFERENT FROM THE MFA.

HM, PRETTY CYNICAL TAKE ON THINGS. I CAME TO KU IN A SPECIAL SEARCH FOR A FULL PROF IN INTERACTION DESIGN. I AND OTHERS HERE HAVE LOTS OF PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE, AN MFA, AND A PHD IN COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY. I’M NOT AN INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER, SO WE CREATED TWO ENTIRELY NEW PROGRAMS FOR WHICH THERE IS A CLEAR MARKET. WE’RE BUILDING SOMETHING HERE. IT’S A FULLY ACCREDITED PROGRAM.

MICHAEL

I think your Caps Lock key is stuck

True I don’t know much about your program.
You’ll be getting tons of applicants to the one year program from individuals looking to change careers. This is I was referring to earlier.

Will you only take people with Bachelors?

Dear no_spec,

Thanks for your note. We started small, beta testing courses with undergrad ID and VC students for two years. Did no real marketing until we were confident that courses and systems were worked out. Now we’re doing a bit of marketing, mostly thru existing networks.

We video conference about half the courses between Kansas City and Lawrence, which was a major milestone, and allowed us to access a fairly large market of working designers there. Faculty alternate between cities for face-time with students. Currently we have more students in the Design Management program than the IxD program. Kind of surprised us, and the ratio may change.
Getting lots of queries from people with social science and business backgrounds, wanting to doing something in IxD. Like ID-IIT, we accept them on the basis of taking about a year’s worth of intro design courses.

Best Wishes,

-ME

For Designers wanting to upgrade their skills - it sounds like an excellent program.


you mentioned one of the few programs that excell in taking non bachelors and turning them into designers, did you benchmark IIT?
Do you have dedicated faculty for that one year of getting new design students up to par before grad school? Or, are they just tossed into a Sophomore studio?
It’s an entirely differnt experience/process for non-designers returning to school. you’ll have an interesting mix of disciplines that will be great for synergies and research, but if they never master the basics, they’ll never get hired…

I’ve gotten some queries about MA programs at Kansas, and thought I would share some feedback…

KU’s approach to Interaction Design tends to be broader in scope than programs and interaction firms who focus almost exclusively on desktop, software or web-based applications. While we do spend plenty of time there, interaction design principles apply in all kinds of ways to products, services, systems, and environments that have rarely been the subject of an interaction design focus.

Our MA programs in Interaction Design and Design Management naturally reflect the expertise and interests of the faculty involved. Richard Branham and I have been involved in various forms of interaction design for many years. Our work spans industries from software to healthcare, financial services, fast food, environments, products, and services. We also have picked up considerable design management experience along the way at strategic, tactical, and operational levels. As such, while there are course requirements common to both MA programs, the programs are quite distinct in intent and focus.

It’s important to recognize that Interaction Design is a design discipline, whereas Design Management is a management discipline. Students doing the DM MA come from a variety of design disciplines with professional experience in interior design, visual communication, ID, or other design fields. Their focus is more business management oriented. Their Thesis, individual research, and electives are usually different in scope than the those students doing the IxD MA. Interaction Design students tend to be far less interested in business and management concerns, but focus on the IxD discipline and it’s interests, principles, methods, tools, and applications.

The growing impact of IxD has influenced Design Management generally, but they are not synonymous concerns by any means.

Hope this explains a bit. Feel free to add or follow up.

Michael

My daughter is majoring in Digital Design at University of Cincinnati and is probably in the top 10% of the students in that program

MichaeleckersleyUC IS A GOOD PROGRAM AND YOUR DAUGHTER WILL BENEFIT FROM THEIR LARGE NETWORK. I’VE SPOKEN THERE AND KNOW A FEW PEOPLE THERE. YEARS AGO UC CREATED THEIR DIGITAL DESIGN DEGREE. “DIGITAL DESIGN” IS A FAIRLY MEANINGLESS TERM. NOBODY ELSE USES IT, BUT THEY CLING TO IT.

Response: Interesting that you should mention the lack of programs noting "digital design."RISD just instituted a grad program in Digital Media.

As to UC’s digital design program, it has its pros and cons,which is why I posted my letter to you. It is very broad based with instruction in web design, digital photography, graphic design, special effects, some animation, and computer programming with Flash, Java and C++,

The good point is that it is very broad based. The negative is that it is very broad based. My daughter is a jack of many skills but a master of few ( with maybe the exception of web design). Certainly , the coops do fill in some holes, but this is my view of the program.

Anyway, your program does seem interesting, and I will mention it to my daughter.
I wish you well in your endeavors.

taxguy’s point about design being a broad but not deep skills-based profession cuts to the heart of my complaints concerning using a graduate program to change careers.

2 years is simply not enough training to get most individuals working at a professional level. let alone call them “Master”. I think it’s a disservice to the individual, and academia on the whole. Even when they eventually attain proficiency, shouldn’t the title have been earned for something beyond that?

MArch is not a gold standard for profession, but it doesn’t mean it is meaningless. Each profession has different way to set the standard. If you want to be doctor, or lawyer, you need to practice professionally for years after graduated before getting license too. Personally I don’t think anyone can be master of anything just because they go to school anyway.

Actually, it seems to me that you are very conscious about the value of ‘degree’, which is understandable. But it doesn’t need to insult other professions/ degrees at all. (By the way, I don’t have both MBA and MArch)

For Interaction Design Course, I think being ‘broad’ is not a bad thing at all. ‘Broad’ is a relative word in my opinion, it depends on different perspectives and career goals. I think most of good traditional designers, and architects din’t need to be the master of drafting, photoshop, solidworks, drawing, 3ds max, calculus, or painting too, but they can be master in their professions anyway.

no_spec notes,"taxguy’s point about design being a broad but not deep skills-based profession cuts to the heart of my complaints concerning using a graduate program to change careers.

2 years is simply not enough training to get most individuals working at a professional level. let alone call them “Master”. I think it’s a disservice to the individual, and academia on the whole. Even when they eventually attain proficiency, shouldn’t the title have been earned for something beyond that?"

Response: I do wonder whether someone with no design background can really be considered a master in an area with one year of remedial design and one year of masters work. I certainly do feel that someone with a strong design background can benefit with masters program in some related design concentration, Whether one year is enough to accomplish some degree of expertise in an area is the question,which is why I tend to think that the MFA route is the better route.

As for my “complaint” about design being too broad based, that wasn’t what I said. First, I think the word “complaint’” was too strong. My post involved more of a query. Second, I was specifically referring to the digital design program. Maybe it’s fine the way it is. Certainly, my daughter’s coop employers love her work. Maybe undergraduate design curricula by their nature has to be somewhat broad based in order to provide decent basic training for a wide array of varied design jobs related to the major. I don’t know.

I do believe, however, that masters programs should encompas specific expertise in a very specific area that normally isn’t available in an undergraduate curriculum. It should also require a good design backgroud before they enter the master’s program,but, again, that is solely the optnion of a dilettante
I guess time will tell.

sorry taxguy - I said it was my complaint, not yours.
I’ve been complaining some time now about the nature of how the majority of career changers think design is so simple that a year or two should be enough - and that a Master’s is more impressive looking to employers.
To top it off, more schools are supporting these “market demands” by admitting them to grad school, rather than an accelerated 3year Bachelors.

A broad education is neccessary for entering the workplace.
Writing a thesis is not. It’s for enrichment, or to jump start the tenure process.

Thanks. I spotted your comment. Guess Just wanted to edit my earlier comment. “Digital Design” is an ambiguous program title is all. In the 90’s it probably had resonance. But digital design tools are ubiquitous now. “Digital” isn’t really a subject or object, but a means to something. At least Digital Media (RISD) or Media Design (Art Center) refer to something. Interaction Design is more fundamentally about human behavior and not about media or being digital. So lumping Interaction Design in with media programs can sometimes miss an important human-centered emphasis.