Department of Technical Communication and Interactive Design

Interactive Design Frequently Asked Questions

updated: November 2017

Frequently Asked Questions (Industry-related)

1. What is interaction design? What do interaction designers need to know?

Interaction design means different things whether it relates to video games or user interfaces. In this major, we focus on the design of user interfaces including mobile apps, websites, software interfaces, and kiosks.

But what exactly does focusing on "interaction" as a designer mean? defines interaction design as creating engaging interfaces with well thought out behaviors. This makes interaction design somewhat different from more traditional forms of design, like graphic design. According to Alan Cooper, a chief proponent of interaction design, a focus on behavior design in complex systems is what sets interaction design apart.

This means that interaction designers will help guide product development from the opening to the final stages. This could mean working on a team that is creating a mobile app or the touchscreen in a car. During the design process, interaction designers will speak to clients, stakeholders, developers, visual designers, and, most importantly, to users. Interaction designers will always ask the question, "Will this decision make the experience of this product better for the user?"

In their focus on users, interaction designers use prototyping tools to create prototypes for clients and user testing situations. If your team designs a product well, it will go into production and then be coded by developers.

Interaction design, as Alan Cooper says, borrows theories and techniques from traditional graphic design, usability, engineering, and human-centered disciplines like anthropology and psychology. This means that interaction design is not limited to one of these skill sets and blends all of these approaches in the service of user experience.

2. What is user experience design, i.e., UX?
It seems everyone you talk to these days has a different definition of user experience. Put simply, as Don Norman states, it is anything that has to do with the experience of user when they use a product or service. Thus, it is a rather large field, as noted in this image from Kickerstudio.

From that image, you will notice that interaction design is a part of user experience design but not everything. This means that interaction design is one way to approach user experience design. Would it be right to call an interaction designer a user experience designer? Yes. But there are other approaches too, like information design or visual design!

Be wary of anyone who calls him/herself a user experience designer but cannot define that term any more carefully or specifically!

3. Where can I see examples of interaction design-based portfolios?
You should sift through places like Bestfolio for examples. You are looking for interaction design or UX design portfolios that evidence interaction design. If you run across a great one, let me know!
4. What should I be paying attention to regarding the industry?
First and foremost, you should follow the Interaction Design Association. You should be going to local talks, meeting folks, and getting a better sense of what it means to be an interaction designer. Additionally, there is a plethora of resources to help you keep up-to-date.

You also should be looping into local resources and networking by, for instance, joining IxDA's local chapter and becoming a member at Museum of Design Atlanta. You should be going to talks and designer-related events in town. It is good to show your face; it is even better to interact!

Frequently Asked Questions (Degree-related)

1. Is Interactive Design the same as KSU’s Graphic Design concentration?

No. There is a concentration in the School of Art and Design that focuses on traditional graphic design. Interactive design is understood as the design of behavior in complex systems, whereas graphic design is the design of textual and visual form. This means that interactive design draws its methodologies as much from anthropology, psychology, information design, and computer science as it does from graphic design.
2. How much coding do I need to know?
It depends. The first thing you need to know is that knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript will be a benefit to you on the job market. That said, there are differing opinions on how much coding designers need to know. As Tasneem Raja says, computational thinking is as important as coding literacy! Can you get a job with relatively little coding skill? Yes. As of now, we require you to take CSE1301 (CS1301 if you want to pursue a CS minor) and TCID3400.
3. How much math do I need to take?
Again, it depends. If you want to minor in Computer Science (CS), this could be important. Make an advising appointment with CS if you are considering this minor (located on 3rd floor of the J/Atrium building). If you do not wish to purse a CS minor then we recommend you take whatever math will satisfy Areas A2 and D1.
4. Do I need to know how to draw?
Ready for it? It depends. Would being a good illustrator help you as an interaction designer? Probably. Is it necessary? No. We would say it’s more necessary to have a good aesthetic sense and expertise with design-related tools (especially prototyping tools). It is most important to know how design thinking, user researcher methods, and aesthetic ability work together.
5. Do I need to own a Macintosh computer to be in a design-related field?
Short answer: no. Long answer: At some point, most likely. We will teach programs like the Adobe Creative Suite, Axure, Sketch, and Figma. All of them but Sketch are platform agnostic. Sketch only runs on Mac and is a widely used tool in the field. If you do not own a Mac, we have Sketch available in all labs on campus with Mac computers.
6. I am looking for an internship, where is a good place to start?
Check our Twitter (@TCID_KSU) and Facebook (TCID.ksu) feeds. Any internship opportunities we hear about will be posted there.
7. Should I consider a minor?
Certainly. Consider an Anthropology, Computer Science, Marketing, or a Psychology minor. Additionally, it would be helpful to take TCOM classes in Related Studies or Free Electives, like TCOM3045, TCOM3145, TCOM3245, and/or TCOM4120.
8. How do I make an appointment to see an advisor about IAD?
Please go to: > HSS Advising > KSU login > Select Major