What is Interaction Design? We Go Back to School to Find Out!


In order to learn what interaction design is all about, we had to go back to school. The School of Visual Arts in New York City, to be exact. Christine Aaron, who graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 2011 with a BFA in Graphic Design, now works as the Assistant to the Chair for the MFA Interaction Design program at SVA NYC.

In her role as Assistant to the Chair, Christine shepherds prospective students and visitors through the MFA in Interaction Design program, so we thought she’d be a perfect person to talk us through some of the basics of this field.  

What is interaction design? What are some of the typical tasks interaction designers perform?

Interaction design is an expansive discipline, focused on crafting experiences and shaping behaviors with products, services, and environments. Interaction designers research, analyze, prototype, and design in the service of augmented user experiences across industries, and focus areas.

How did you become interested in interaction design and the program at SVA NYC?

I became aware of the graduate program in interaction design as an undergraduate graphic design student at SVA. As I learned more about the discipline, I was amazed by the expanding opportunities available for designers to have deep impact on everything people experience.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned about interaction design since you started?

Since joining the MFA Interaction Design department, I’ve noticed instances of interaction design beyond the studio, in increasingly more places, and have come to find how important design is to even brief interactions.

I’ve learned of interaction design’s place at the intersection of engineering, business, research, and other design disciplines, and am fascinated by how well the approaches intrinsic to each relate in the context of user experiences.

The depth of keen observation, insight, and empathy of interaction designers never fails to impress me.

What is a typical day at work like for you?

A typical day for me consists of providing tours of the department to prospective students and guests, responding to inquiries about the program, assisting students and faculty, composing content for department communication, administering routine departmental duties, and working on special projects. I’m often asked to participate in a student’s user research or to experiment with an early prototype (this usually involves responding to a survey, or being interviewed about the area the project is related to).

What are some of the fun aspects of being an interaction designer? What are some of the challenges?

An interaction designer is tasked with understanding their users, expertly anticipating their needs and behaviors, and designing to facilitate communication and action, while balancing the user’s goals with those of the provider of the product, service, or experience. This can be a large responsibility with many inherent challenges, but the rewards for doing so seamlessly are great.

What advice would you give to college students who are interested in pursuing a career in interaction design (or just want to learn more about it)?

I’d suggest that college students who are curious about interaction design read about everything from behaviors to ethnography to systems, seek out an internship at a company whose work you admire, and where you’ll have the opportunity to experiment, and attend industry events whenever possible. With steady advancements in technology, the demand for interaction designers continues to increase. Simultaneously, learning opportunities for new designers expand.

Interaction design is a burgeoning and sensational field, and it is a marvelous time for emerging and seasoned designers to explore its potential.

Homework time! Christine talks about the importance of reading as much as you can on topics like behavior, ethnography, and systems. Take some time to find a blog or book on one of these topics.

To learn more about the MFA Interaction Design program at SVA, check out their website and follow them on Twitter @svaixd


2 Responses to “What is Interaction Design? We Go Back to School to Find Out!”

  1. Sam Sooppersaud

    It is a fact that how you interact with someone or in an environment depends on your previous knowledge or dealings with that person or environment. Familiarity or its lack thereof would dictate the quality of interaction. The quality of this prior knowledge, I feel, is the most important ingredient in any successful interaction.
    Interaction Design is just a fancy name for what manner of response we mete a situation.

    • Melissa Suzuno

      Hi Sam, that’s an interesting point. Do you think there’s a way that website designers can account for users’ familiarity or unfamiliarity with a subject to ensure they have a positive experience?


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