what is interaction design

20 Aug 2011 - 11:27pm
5 years ago
5 replies
2066 reads

Hi everyone,

I know this subject came up before, but I'm still very confused about how to define roles in all this terminology of UX UI IA etc.

All I want is to find a job with my skills, and often times I'm intimidated with the terminology. So my skillset is Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Flash, some HTML, CSS, and some AS3, could I be a UI designer?

I've designed websites in the days of dreamweaver, and I have designed my own wordpress site recently, so I do get by with some web dev coding although it's not my edge. I am mostly visual and conceptual. I do use programming but not for web dev. I've never officially designed a wireframe but I know I could.

I am not from the US and perhaps that's one reason why I don't understand these definitions so clearly. Please advice, how do people get jobs at first, do they lie about experience? What if you know you have the skills to do something but you've just never had the opportunity to do it.



21 Aug 2011 - 4:23am

Hi Iokasti,

Interaction Design has many definitions/interpretations… a lot of flux… This field took shape from the disciplines of Human Computer Interaction, Usability, User Experience Design, Industrial Design, architecture and a lot more… the more I try to get a single answer the further I go away from it…so I have stopped trying... :)

There is a nice article at http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/interaction_design.html 

However to make things clear... here is one description that I like and made things clear for me...

"An interaction designers role is to accelerate the process of making novices in to experts. Not in their profession, but in the operation of the tools they need to employ in their profession" - Bill Buxton

21 Aug 2011 - 5:08am

Hi sofia!
Interaction design is a way of thinking about how are you going to build using the tools you you know, and this way of thinking can be applied to products built with most digital tools.  If you do wireframes, you're an interaction designer. If you build prototypes -even with paper- of you apps just to test an idea, then you're doing interaciton design. If you get people to test it and then run some numbers on it, you're doing usability. And if you ask people around for how they think about things and then you put that in a pretty graph, you're an information arquitect. Everything has it's finess and you can't really get to master all of them completely, so don't beat yourself over that.
It's not so easy to start calling oneself with this words, and until you have proven experience, you can only be called "a really junior" profile, even if you have experience in other fields. You don't have to lie, you can make a website for a fake client or something and put it on your portfolio to show your skills, it's even better if it's a working service. Look at it as an investment on your future designer carrer. Make sure you record your whole process and put it on a blog or something, so they can see you're applying effective methods of solving problems.
This way people will come for you instead of having to knock on ten doors to get someone to hire you, but even if you don't do that, if you use the words UX or AI in your interviews and you don't sound all mixed up, there will be some hyped HR guy who will recomend that you get hired.  To put it plainly: If you want to get a job without actually having done anything in that field, just be honest about your skills and your interest, and someone will trust in you the same way you do.
On the other side, I'd say that all those skillsets are good to have, they will always allow you to do your job better, even if your title is Programmer or Manager.

21 Aug 2011 - 8:17am

It sounds like you fall into the realm of the visual designer. There are sub-categories within visual design, and what you describe perhaps aligns most closely with graphic design or UI design (as you suggested).

Here's a link for a (free) online discussion with Janice Fraser about her ideas on the the different specializations that make up the UX field. Perhaps it will be helpful.

By the way, I AM from the US, and I have participated in quite a few conversations both online and offline in which people are confused about the distinctions between the different (and developing) segments of UX, in part because there is a lot of overlap between different aspects of the field, in part because not everyone uses the terminology consistently, and in part because the terminology is continually developing as well.

Based on your writing I feel that not being from the US has not seriously limited your understanding. You clearly have a good grasp of your strengths and weaknesses in your skillset, but like many people, you're still refining your understanding of the lingo.

21 Aug 2011 - 10:56am
Jared M. Spool

Hi Sofia,

I think it's interesting that you defined your skillset in terms of the software you can operate. In design, software is a means to an end. In Interaction Design, the end is creating something that people use.

Good interaction designers can tell you how they've improved the life and work of their users. Great interaction designers can tell you how they've revolutionized the experiences of their users.

What are the accomplishments, in your design career, that you're most proud of? How would you express those accomplishments in terms of how you've changed the work and lives of the people you were designing for?

Start there and you'll be on your journey to being a great interaction designer.

Hope that helps,


Jared M. Spool, User Interface Engineering
e: jspool@uie.com t: @jmspool

21 Aug 2011 - 5:31pm

Thanks everyone for your repplies.  It's all very enlightening.  I have recently prepared my online portfolio demonstrating an array of my skills.  Here is the link.  http://www.copperbluemedia.com  

I don't feel I'm portraying myself as a UI designer  but it is something I do for my art projects which haven't translated into commercial work yet.  I would love to get into UI design for 3D spaces but I'm also passionate about learning iphone UI design as well for example.  It would probably benefit to make some mock up project as Martin suggests also.  But I'm also glad that you say I can actually get a job in the field even without much experience.



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