Teaching Interaction Design

2 Mar 2010 - 1:49pm
4 years ago
19 replies
2607 reads
Aynne Valencia
2010

I will be teaching an Interaction Design course this summer. I want to make sure my students will get practical, up to date and actionable skills they can take out to the world after they graduate so, my intention is to have them work on as many portfolio projects as time allows and work together on small teams.
So I can give them the broadest view I wanted to get some feedback from the community on:

1. ideas or themes for projects


2. What are the 3 things a new graduate *must* know about interaction design in general to be successful and ready to take on their first job

3. What "soft-skills" (obviously collaboration, communication) are most helpful to IDs?

thanks so much -

Aynne Valencia



http://www.avalen.com

Comments

2 Mar 2010 - 3:29pm
Sascha Brossmann
2008

Aynne, wouldn't “feedback” mean, that you feed (sic!) us some of your own suggestions re: your three points before asking us? ;-) I am quite willing to contribute, but IMHO it’is really _your_ job in the first place to come up with at least something vague to elaborate on (especially concerning #1). I fully understand that one might feel quite lost when doing this for the first time (been there not too long ago myself), but I'd really urge you to at least give it a try.

Also, many of the possibilities I or any other educator here could throw in here IMHO really largely depend: What kind of students (which school and major) on what level? Which skills do they already have? How many are they? What is the main goal of your course (and how does it relate to the curriculum)? What is your own background and expertise? Having some information on all this would definitely help a lot.

Apart from that, concerning necessary skills my first vote goes to storytelling (a prerequisite for concepting/designing IxD projects as well as communicating them well).

Cheers,

Sascha

2 Mar 2010 - 4:42pm
Elizabeth Bacon
2003

While taking a gander at your post, Aynne, I noticed the "Related threads" block showed this previous post on the same subject, which is full of member input:

http://www.ixda.org/node/18167

This awesome new feature of the website is a good reason to consider coming to the website to post new threads, because the search engine finds related threads in the archives at the same time as you type the "Topic" line of your post!

Cheers,

Liz

2 Mar 2010 - 5:31pm
Aynne Valencia
2010

yes.. it would.. and I clicked on them.. but for some reason they are showing "Not Found". A bug perhaps?

2 Mar 2010 - 5:20pm
Rachel Powers
2007

Hi Aynne, I teach Interaction Design courses. In my personal experience, I try to pick a course-long project that taps into the more holistic nature of interaction design. This term's project is to redesign a welding machine. The includes the design of the physical product, the digital interface, the gun, accessories, etc. The focus is on the multi-touchpoint experience. It's part platform design, service design, industrial design and of course, the user's overall interaction with the product. Storytelling is a component throughout the course. 

The students work in small groups. There is a heavy research component. They go out into to the field to conduct ethnographic research and usability testing throughout, following a human-centered iterative design process. Design is a process as much as an outcome. The key areas of emphasis are on identifying and solving core, root issues and problems that meet user's needs and goals. It's about solving problems in meaningful ways.

I've been teaching ID for the past 10 years and have had classes at all levels and sizes. Currently, my Interaction Design class at Northwestern University is with 12 students, but I've had classes with up to 60 students. Feel free to give me a call or email and I can give you the run-down and tips.

2 Mar 2010 - 5:32pm
Aynne Valencia
2010

Thanks for the kind, courteous supportive reply Rachel. 
This was helpful.  Will get in touch.

2 Mar 2010 - 5:36pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Aynne,

Like Sascha, I need some more from you. I think that what is missing for me is more context about the class and structure. A single course will never prepare a student for a job. What is the context of their education system? Continuing Ed? Part of what degree(s)? Graduate level? Undergraduate? what are they coming with?

As for the group/indivdiual thing and multiple/single projects thing here are my thoughts:

1. group projects are horrible for portfolios. They make the end user figure out how to "skew" a story that highlights their input usually at the sake of the holism of the project. which will segway to the next bit ...

2. I prefer longer projects then multiple projects. It allows for greater depth and is more real. And if you insist on doing group work you can set it up so that research is group, ideation is individual, and framing is group and execution is individual, so there is a better story, which IMHO also maps to at least my experience in the real work of doing collaborative work.

As for "skills" and such that is really about context of the learning environment and the goals of the program.

-- dave

2 Mar 2010 - 5:42pm
Aynne Valencia
2010

Thanks for your thoughts Dave.


3 Mar 2010 - 3:28pm
Sascha Brossmann
2008
1. group projects are horrible for portfolios.

Agreed. On the other hand, group projects IMHO provide several significant advantages:

  • Students are able to tackle more complex problems and elaborate much further and with much more detail.
  • Consequently, teams in most cases deliver better work.
  • Real-world design most often requires team work and not a lonely genius breeding miracles (and most students in my experience are far too much used to the latter).

NB: with “group” I mean smaller teams of 2–4 people, not the whole bunch of them.

Dave's suggestion of doing parts of the project in the group and parts individually does not sound bad to me, though.

BTW, multiple smaller projects (if chosing so at KHB we offer 3 consecutive ones per term, so that each runs about a good month) can actually make sense – e.g. for building specific practical skills or tackling one and the same (or very similar) problem from different perspectives/with a different hat on. Prerequisite: the problems then should really be framed well, rather specific, and small enough. Otherwise the work will likely get too shallow, indeed.

4 Mar 2010 - 10:20am
Dave Malouf
2005

My experience of "the real world" is one of isolation as a designer. Seldom do have I worked with multiple designers on the same project. I have always worked in teams: devs, marketers, managers, qa, etc., but seldom if ever of multiple designers and NEVER with designers working in the same discipline: id, gd, ixd, arch, etc.

There have been times earlier in my career where we had multiple IAs working together on the same project, or more correctly, we had IAs and UIs working as individuals on separate components and then coming together for consistency checks and cultural criticisms. What i have seen from group projects in EDU is a bunch of IxDs or IDs all working together on all aspects of the project.

So while I agree groups can handle more complex things, I'm not so sure this maps against at least my experience of the real world, so it does not necessarily provide a fertile ground for practicing what is in industry. Now tha tis not the only reason to do anything in EDU. There are skills that design schools especially can't teach as idealized in the real world and have to create compromises to create "close enough" scenarios. So while working together as designers is rare, working together w/ someone is common and thus group work does teach interpersonal skills (or at least practicing them).  I have noticed though that group dynamics is not taught, but rather experienced.

-- dave

2 Mar 2010 - 7:16pm
John Popadiuk
2010

Hi Aynne,

For my toy design class that I teach at Columbia in Chicago, a few principles form the backbone of my course. 

1. projects try to foster a sense of creative exploration and observation. How do people interact with what they have designed? They must not fear failure or the "critique". Fail early, fail often...the IDEO mantra. It really works.

2. I demand full iterative development of ideas (no slackers) as sketch, framework, digital, prototype and dog and ponies. If they are not excited about their work as process, then surely no one else will be. They work alone to start. 

3. Final projects always are team based, as most work today is collaborative. Allows students to rise up and fit their skills as a group to meet the project or the client (ie: Lego) scope. They learn to rely on each other and must finish even if a member drops. We try to work more of a human emotion in the projects, I feel it comes across in the products. 

I have had great success with these ideas that allow students to foster a sense of courage in design. Every class I remind them that there may be dozens of other (designers) all chomping for the same project.....so how will they rise above?

Thanks,

John

 

2 Mar 2010 - 8:00pm
Vincent Hunt
2010

Aynne, 

Without being to long winded, I would suggest that you provide some insight in to the emerging space of Humanitarian Design. The reasoning behind this is pretty straight forward. As Designers, I support the idea that we need to start looking at design as a problem solving resource on the global scale. I would point you in the direction of Emily Pilloton, she is truly a leader in the space. Challenging the students to explore and discover solutions concerning interaction in demanding environments will be an enormous contribution to the design community.

To success beyond pretty things... 

Vincent

26 Mar 2010 - 3:11pm
oozcan
2006

Dear Aynne Valaencia

Recently I publish the eBook named as "creative thinking for interactive media design". You can see in the ebook that last 5 years teaching concept is changed. Today  we need more innovative designer rather then good practicer. In the book we suggested  "breaking the rule" and " re-reading" methods. Those methods tested on more then 100 students in europe.  Most of the students are now working as "creative" director.In summary, you can find  80 different student work descriptions, steps and analysis.  This method in the book is selected by Steven Heller, New York Times  Design Editor, as "  2009 extraordinary class project in the world"You can buy that  eBook  via http://www.lulu.com/content/e-book/creative-thinking-for-interactive-media-design/7910531I hope it helps for your aimProf.Dr. Oguzhan Özcan  |  Head of the Department of Interactive Media Design, YTU, Istanbulhttp://oguzhan.ozcan.info | http://blog.ozcan.info | skype: oozcan62 | phone:  +90 212 383 27 31  
On Mar 3, 2010, at 9:59 PM, Vincent Hunt wrote:

Aynne, 

Without being to long winded, I would suggest that you provide some insight in to the emerging space of Humanitarian Design. The reasoning behind this is pretty straight forward. As Designers, I support the idea that we need to start looking at design as a problem solving resource on the global scale. I would point you in the direction of Emily Pilloton, she is truly a leader in the space. Challenging the students to explore and discover solutions concerning interaction in demanding environments will be an enormous contribution to the design community.

To success beyond pretty things... 

Vincent

(
3 Mar 2010 - 9:20am
oozcan
2006

Dear Aynne Valaencia

Recently I publish the eBook named as "creative thinking for interactive media design". You can see in the ebook that last 5 years teaching concept is changed. Today  we need more innovative designer rather then good practicer. In the book we suggested  "breaking the rule" and " re-reading" methods. Those methods tested on more then 100 students in europe.  
Most of the students are now working as "creative" director.
In summary, you can find  80 different student work descriptions, steps and analysis.  This method in the book is selected by Steven Heller, New York Times  Design Editor, as "  2009 extraordinary class project in the world"
I hope it helps for your aim
Prof.Dr. Oguzhan Özcan  |  Head of the Department of Interactive Media Design, YTU, Istanbul
http://oguzhan.ozcan.info | http://blog.ozcan.info | skype: oozcan62 | phone:  +90 212 383 27 31 

 

4 Mar 2010 - 3:21pm
maureenhanratty
2009

Hi Aynne,

I have't taught Interaction Design but I recently graduated with my master's in HCI so I can give you a student's perspective.

First, I have to agree with Dave that group projects are not good for portfolios, but they also not good for acquiring new skills.  Sure you learn to work in groups but often times group members end up playing to their strengths rather than expanding their knowledge. The person with the best visual design skills end up doing the visual design and the most technical person ends up doing all the technical work. I learned so much more when I was forced to design and build my own project end-to-end.

One way to foster collaboration without dividing students into teams is to have the class work on the same project. A really excellent example of this I saw recently was the work of students in Chris Fahey's SVA MFA ID course (link). The students all worked on mobile apps for the NYC Apps competition. Each student did their own project but I'm sure there was a lot of collaboration among students since they were using the same data set, devices, and context. The work looks fantastic and its humanitarian which is a great point that Vincent brought up in the thread.

Best of luck!

Maureen

4 Mar 2010 - 7:50pm
Jeremy Yuille
2007

Hey there Aynne,

to add to the wealth of advice you already have, I'd also urge you to bring as much of yourself to the class as you can. Like others have said, one course is not going to cover the whole field of ixd (I'd add that you might not like teaching such a general course if it were at all possible to design) So you're going to have to focus the content and context if you want some depth to be evident in the student outcomes.

One way to do this is to ask yourself "what contexts do I want to examine? what content makes me get out of bed in the morning?"

Here's why: Passion and enthusiasm are two qualities I hear a lot about from employers, and they're the attitudinal stuff that you can bring to any course you design and deliver. It's a lot easier to do that if you are actually passionate and enthusiastic about the stuff your teaching Wink. This sounds obvious, but I see a lot of teachers burn out because they fall into the trap of teaching from an idea of what others require (Industry, Peers, Students) rather than teaching from a position of their own passions and strengths. imho the external requirements are easy to apply to a course that's driven by a solid idea of what you as a teacher want to accomplish.

and congrats on starting the course! sounds like fun.

8 Mar 2010 - 6:58pm
Aaron Wester
2010

I'm working on my doctorate degree at the moment (DM/IST) - Doctor Management / Information System Technology. During the pre-dissertation process, I had to complete a year one residency where I spent a couple weeks grouped up with a cohort of 20 other doctoral students, and then as groups and dyads, we had to integrate what we were learning into ad hoc presentations that we were given 2 hours to prepare for. The presentations were 30 minutes in length with powerpoint slides, and 10 minutes of questions/answers where everyone from cohort was required to ask a deep dive question. I found this to be a tremendous team building exercise and learning opportunity to prepare for an eventual dissertatation defense - eventually I will have to give a one hour long presentation on the fly and defend my assertions and emperical research against a panel of experts.  Such ad hoc presentations might be worth integrating into your class structures as well.

 

AaronW.

26 Mar 2010 - 3:01pm
lulu pachuau
2008

hi there, 
I did this presentation to Summer interns a few years ago and they seemed to enjoy it and got the idea of IxD and its outputs quite well.
http://www.slideshare.net/LuluP/introduction-to-design-specifications-to-summer-of-code-students-presentation
Let me know if its helpful :)
cheers, Lulu

On 3 March 2010 12:34, Aynne Valencia <contact@ixda.org> wrote:

I will be teaching an Interaction Design course this summer. I want to make sure my students will get practical, up to date and actionable skills they can take out to the world after they graduate so, my intention is to have them work on as many portfolio projects as time allows and work together on small teams. So I can give them the broadest view I wanted to get some feedback from the community on:

1. ideas or themes for projects

2. What are the 3 things a new graduate *must* know about interaction design in general to be successful and ready to take on their first job

3. What "soft-skills" (obviously collaboration, communication) are most helpful to IDs?

thanks so much -

Aynne Valencia

http://www.avalen.com

((
31 Mar 2010 - 12:12pm
Aynne Valencia
2010

Thanks Lulu!  Great deck...

Everyone has given great ideas...
I'm super excited about the class and hope to be armed with as much information to give my students the best start on their new career!

 

26 Mar 2010 - 3:10pm
oozcan
2006

Dear Aynne Valaencia
Recently I publish the eBook named as "creative thinking for interactive media design". You can see in the ebook that last 5 years teaching concept is changed. Today  we need more innovative designer rather then good practicer. In the book we suggested  "breaking the rule" and " re-reading" methods. Those methods tested on more then 100 students in europe.  
Most of the students are now working as "creative" director.
In summary, you can find  80 different student work descriptions, steps and analysis.  This method in the book is selected by Steven Heller, New York Times  Design Editor, as "  2009 extraordinary class project in the world"
You can buy that  eBook  via http://www.lulu.com/content/e-book/creative-thinking-for-interactive-media-design/7910531
I hope it helps for your aim
Prof.Dr. Oguzhan Özcan  |  Head of the Department of Interactive Media Design, YTU, Istanbulhttp://oguzhan.ozcan.info | http://blog.ozcan.info | skype: oozcan62 | phone:  +90 212 383 27 31 


On Mar 3, 2010, at 1:24 AM, Aynne Valencia wrote:

I will be teaching an Interaction Design course this summer. I want to make sure my students will get practical, up to date and actionable skills they can take out to the world after they graduate so, my intention is to have them work on as many portfolio projects as time allows and work together on small teams. So I can give them the broadest view I wanted to get some feedback from the community on:

1. ideas or themes for projects

2. What are the 3 things a new graduate *must* know about interaction design in general to be successful and ready to take on their first job

3. What "soft-skills" (obviously collaboration, communication) are most helpful to IDs?

thanks so much -

Aynne Valencia

http://www.avalen.com

(
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