I'm new to interaction design and I could really use some advice.

29 Jun 2012 - 11:09am
4 years ago
7 replies
2758 reads

Hi, I only discovered the career of an interaction designer today to be honest. I just graduated with a degree in management information systems (MIS). interaction design appeals to me more than anything ive ever thought of  in the past but I'm not sure if I have the skills, or where to start looking for a position.

Some of my skills:

  • 7-8 years using photoshop.
  • About 2 years with Visual Studio/Basic
  • About 2 year with Dreamweaver and Notepad for HTML.
  • Less than a year of CSS and javascript
  • A year or so with java (Netbeans and textpad)
  • A year or so with SQL and Oracle
  • I've fooled around with small animation for many years. nothing difficult in my opinion
  • I've dabbled with Visio.

Off the top of my head thats about all I can think of.

I've always read about technology, no matter what field it is in. I read about technology even though I know I will never buy them. I follow CES, Apple's and Google's yearly conference. I've always been fascinated with ergonomics. How people think, and anticipating how people with respond to events/interactions.

I would really appreciate any feedback. Am I crazy for considering interaction design? 


1 Jul 2012 - 12:43pm
Larry Tesler


I assume that you are not interested in remaining a student to study design. Instead, you could take a job in IT and get an IxD education by reading books, attending conference tutorials, watching webinars, taking night classes and/or reading discussion boards like this one. You could practice the art by designing and implementing a website for a small non-profit, or a mobile app that you always wish existed, or a portion of your employer's product that the designers don't have time to work on.

Given your MIS degree and your skills with graphics and programming tools, you could look for a position as a user interface prototyper. A prototyper's role is (usually) to quickly turn a designer's mockups or concepts into working front end code that users can test. A well-implemented prototype can help user experience researchers and designers uncover usability problems that paper mockups and PowerPoint click-throughs do not reveal.

Designers usually leave some design details to the discretion of the prototyper. Such discretion can give you a chance to do a little interactiion design within an established context. Try to attend the usability studies or watch video excerpts. Ask the interaction designer you work with to critique your work. If at first your improvisations detract from usability or esthetics, you may learn some important exceptions to your assumptions about how people respond to events/interactions.

You may get good at IxD, find that you love doing it and discover a career path to a full-time role in the field. If not, you will have made a valuable contribution as a prototyper and improved your programming skills, setting yourself up for an alternative career as an enterprise software engineer or some other technology role.


11 Jul 2012 - 11:10am
Jarod Tang

Skill are important, but the most interesting part is your sensation about what's good or bad ( maybe go beyond interaction). And, forget your skill set for some time

 - seek to understand people's desire ( general as well as specific)

 - curious about your own life ( what you use, good or bad, why?)

 - listen around

 - do design again and again on one stuff, and try to be different and better each time ( if you cant do it, you cant say you love this career)


Go beyond interaction, into emotion and experience, where really good design results.


Cheers & Enjoy


1 Jul 2012 - 6:33pm
Phillip Hunter

Hi Ronin and welcome,

It would be cool to hear how you arrived at this decision during/after your degree program.

Larry's suggestion about working with a designer to create protoypes is great. The designer can help you understand why different decisions get made and you can directly see the impact in tests with customers.

I also recommend following the reading list here to start working toward an understanding of the thinking and philosophy behind interaction design. It's a challenging discipline and can be difficult to understand from the outside in given where you're starting from. When you learn how to to design Interaction, you learn how to enable people to accomplish things with technology, often in ways that cause the technology to "disappear". Interaction design is only partially about learning how to use technology in different ways, and is more about how to make technology serve people. To paraphrase what you wrote, it's about "how people think (and behave), and anticipating how (to respond to) people with (app/system/device) events."

Keep reaching out here with questions and let us know how it goes.


2 Jul 2012 - 6:53am
Ronin, I'm in the same boat as you. Only, as a web developer, I discovered my calling 2 years ago. I decided to take the route of going for my Masters in HCI. I'm expecting to graduate in 2014. I now realize it was a real eye opener. You learn so much about why certain techniques are employed. I was always good at sketching, and thinking big picture. I love design and empathize with the user. I think that the advice Larry has given is good, and I would certainly listen to more advice from a person who has helped shaped this career path that we both are pursuing. Good luck in attaining your goals!
2 Jul 2012 - 9:42am

What makes you want to be an interaction designer, and do you know what you mean by that term?  Do  you mean by it the endless meetings, consulting to people that may not appreciate your designs, the part where you lose control of your designs to committee, budget changes, and poor implementation?  Do you think you will like the endless political struggle and fighting with business owners that always just want to stick banner ads everywhere because it will "increase conversions"?

Don't get me wrong, I really like what I do.  I am very good at it, and actually like going to battle with stubborn clients that simply do not understand persuasive design, or their users.  There is a satisfaction earned when you have spend hours and days on the phone with 10 clients that all want to do something bad for the user, and then finally getting them to realize that what they wanted was simply not a strong idea, and that plan B is better.

I ask this because your initial list of things you like and do all have to do with technology.  There is a human and psychology side to this job that is far, far more important than any piece of technology.  if you do not love this for what it is, then I wouldnt recommend you go too far in it.  Try it of course, but be prepared.  Like all things, it is 90% mental.

11 Jul 2012 - 11:33am
Christian Crumlish

> What makes you want to be an interaction designer, and do you know what you mean by that term?

you make it sound like it means the same thing as being a web designer at an interactive agency.

one can do interaction design with no client, no advertisements, no HTML.


20 Jul 2012 - 5:56am

What Ixdanos describes are business and management issues that occur whether you're working as a designer, or a programmer (or anything else).

Ronin, I don't think you're crazy for considering interaction design. I think Larry and Phillip's suggestions are great.

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