Skills needed for interaction design?

I am currently an industrial design student and I am really into interaction design.
If I want to get into interaction design what should I do?
Switch to communication design major with a focus in web Design?
Keep with ID and teach myself more graphic design and dreamweaver flash etc?

I am currently doing the later as well as reading about face 3 and some other interaction design books.

Any help/ideas/personal experiences around this would be appreciated.


switch to a school with a proven Interaction Design major.

I know several fellow ID students who made the jump to IDx (is that the correct term?), and they love(d) it, currently working at some major firms and doing quite well for themselves.

oh yea,

switch from Steel Reserve to PBR- that stuff will eat your guts out. PBR is just as trashy, twice as good, and costs less.
ha, take care and good luck.

Thanks for the reply Taylor. But PBR doesn’t come in 8.2 high gravity 40’s… and I like the feeling of my stomach burning.

I only know of a few interaction design programs :

  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology
  • North Carolina State University
  • University of Art and Design Helsinki
  • Virginia Commonwealth University

The problem is these programs tend to be graduate. So maybe I go to these programs after my undergrad.

I really think it all comes down to how I think and if I have the technical skills to do interaction design.

I am wondering if I include projects in my portfolio that are interaction design based (i.e. one I am working on with ATM design- both kiosk and user interface.) if this would allow for an internship and thus real world experience that could lead to a job.

I guess what I’m saying is that I want to know if I can approach this field as an ID student who is self taught in interaction design.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?


Steel - I went to school in Human Factors (M.S.) so I’ll offer you my advice: It seems from my experience that it is common for people to get into UI Design/Information Architecture from varying fields. A current colleague has a BFA in studio art, and he’s doing UI Design now. So it’s not unheard of to cross over from another field. That being said, I’d echo what TW said-your best bet would be to switch to an Interaction Design program. Like ID, there are is a lot of experiential, group effort type projects and skills that you develop in school that can’t be replaced by being self taught. You also will likely learn a lot of psych and engineering stuff that you won’t likely pick up by yourself.

Alan Cooper’s books are great. Also check out Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” and Norman’s “The Design of Everyday Things” if you haven’t already.

You may want to check out the local UPA chapter in NYC if you’re near there:

Thanks Drew I definitely agree that school would be an invaluable learning tool and I am considering going for my masters in the ITP program at NYU.

I read Norman’s work but I’ll definitely check out “Don’t make me think”. thanks for the rec.

For now I am going to keep self teaching and try and come up with a portfolio piece that might land me an internship in the field.

Keep the advice coming if you’ve got it!


I’m going to contradict myself a bit…

I say, graduate with your ID degree, get a job at a good firm, and get your IxD experience there. It’s easy for me to say this because it’s what I did. And I found many benefits: 1) You get real world experience vs. additional schooling (a paycheck vs. additional loans is also nice!) 2) As an ID/IxD design professional you get to work on more things, which makes you more holistic than your colleagues. This in turn makes you more valuable and gives you more options. It also lets you focus on people and not things–an essential skill.

But I also look for masters degrees from the IxD’s I hire. This is mainly due to the lack of undergrad programs and the rapidly growing IxD knowledge-base that begs further education. That said, I do think the window is still open for IDers to pick up IxD for at least a few more years.

Definitely include a few pieces in your folio, pick up software (Flash, Dreamweaver, Axure) and keep reading!

Thanks CG!

I considered sending you a PM regarding my position before creating this thread, so I’m glad you responded.

I am currently a sophomore in ID, so I hope I the window is still open when I graduate.

I go to Pratt in NYC and I know that some firms out here offer IxD internships, and I currently intern at a company that deals with consumer electronics and we have IxD consultants that I am hoping to get to work with.

I have been teaching myself flash and dreamweaver, but I’ll definitely check out Axure (any other programs you rec.?)

I plan to learn more over this summer with my free time and create some refined portfolio pieces in the hope that I can land a designated IxD internship next summer.

Thanks for the responses I really appreciate them.

p.s. I liked the the united airlines easyinfo project looked like it would have been fun to work on.

And if you have in must read books, must know websites or programs, please let me know.

Thanks again

ID is a great degree. It will serve you well in an economy that increasingly demands that you “re invent” yourself.

The must-read:

  1. Cog-Sci Foundations: Design of Everyday things, Norman
  2. User-Centered Process: Contextual Design, Holtzblatt
  3. Reference & Theory: About Face 3.0, Cooper

The must-know:

  1. Paper prototyping with users
  2. Adobe Illustrator (for 2D design)
  3. Flash (for hi-fi animation/prototyping)

You may want to avoid Dreamweaver since it’s exclusively web-design…This could lead you astray from products.

Axure isn’t really necessary for a student. It falls in-between Paper-prototyping and high-fi simulation. It won’t help you produce any great portfolio pieces.

Thanks Again CG

I’ll definitely check out those books and work on my prototyping skills.