Guidance for graduate programs : HCI at CMU / HCI at GeorgiaTech / IxD at TU Delft / M.Des at ID, IIT

11 Mar 2012 - 12:25am
4 years ago
2 replies
5293 reads


Hello All

I am an fresh architecture grad wishing to pursue a masters program in Interaction design. I am very much interested in interaction, interface and usability design. Previously, I have experience in the field working on freelance projects, or design competitions. I felt that I could go deeper into the subject only if I pursued a masters in Interaction Design. I have currently admission offers from CMU and Georgia Tech (in HCI); MS. Design for Interaction at TU Delft and M.Des at Institute of Design, IIT.


Now I am at the crossroads, deciding which one to opt for my higher studies. Here are a few parameters that I base my decisions on

1. I have a design background and a strong knowledge of HTML/CSS. However, I have only a basic knowledge of JS and C++ (whatever was taught at our inst) and no experience of any other programming language.

2. I somewhere wish to integrate architecture and interaction at a later stage in life - make architecture more useful and customized.

3. I value the brand name of the institute. But can override it if I get scholarships/ assistantships to fund my studies.

4. Job prospects worry my family a lot. Although I am least concerned about it, I keep it as another important parameter for decision. 

5. Last but not the least, I would want to receive assistantships in someway or the other so that I dont depend on my poor parents to fund my college tuitions and expenses. 

I wished to know which of these programs will be good choice for me. Any guidance in this regards will surely help me clear my views and make a 'well-informed' decision. 

Thank you very much!


11 Mar 2012 - 8:40am
Dave Malouf

First off, your parents should be proud. You've gotten into some of the best institutions in N. America and Europe, so congratulations. Any one of these institutions would be a fantastic place for someone like you to go to. Since $ is a concern it will be hard to give you a complete answer as I don't know enough about your situation to truly give you the perfect answer.

Your "requirements" in various ways would be met at each institutions, though I can't speak to #5.

This is my issue, but if you want to be a designer, go to a design school. So I would take GA Tech off the list. They have a great architecture and Industrial Design program in their design school, but that is not connected well to their HCI program.

CMU has 2 Interaction Design programs, one in the school of Design and one in their Architecture program (Tangible Interfaces, it is called). Both are amazing, but I'm assuming you got into the first one. CMU from what I understand is great at allowing people to cross over departments and disciplines.

IIT/ID is an amazing program as well. The same can be said about Delft, too. 

All 3 of these programs have tremendous industry contacts and rich alumni support to help you when you've graduated.

You have a dilemna of riches, sir and I'm quite jealous. 

Things I would do is look at the fulltime faculty in the department you got accepted to and see if their interests line up w/ your own. Look at the alumni and see if you can find any patterns in their portfolios and job placements and see if those line up to your own. Look at what corporate connections each institution has and again see if those line up w/ your interests.

Finally, and probably first, it appears that you have to be fiscally sensitive. This might make GA Tech come forward again b/c it is a state school while the others are all private. But again, private schools are often better w/ assistance so you will just have to play each one out to discover where you get the big win.

Good luck (and I'm so jealous!)

-- dave

11 Mar 2012 - 9:32am

I went to Georgia Tech through their Digital Media program, which is in a different department than the HCI program. But the programs do cross over a lot, especially for electives. Though I agree that the HCI program is more focused on research than design I wouldn't completely rule it out. For one, it's the most affordable school on your list and they are typically generous with scholarships and assistantships.  Also I think learning about the psychology and theory behind cognition is just as important as learning design theory and mechanics. I would look at the Digital Media program to see if taking electives from that program would round out your coursework enough to make it compelling. Though I have to agree with Dave that there is no bad choice on this list.  I just happen to know the most about GA Tech as an alum.  

You didn't mention anything about a Ph.D. But I'll just point out that GA Tech or Carnegie Mellon are your obvious choices if that's a route you might take. Good luck!

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