In the MFA Interaction Design program, students work both individually and collaboratively on the practical application of the concepts and methods that the program advances. Over the course of study, students will produce a wide range of concepts—from low-fidelity sketches to high-fidelity prototypes and applications—with the same degree of rigor.
The diversity of the curriculum is complemented by individual and collaborative spaces that are intended to simulate a working design studio. In addition, our faculty comprises top practitioners in the field, bringing rich and varied backgrounds and real-world experience.
- Read more about our curriculum requirements
In the first year, students learn the concepts and methods of interaction design, starting with an understanding of people and the environments that drive their needs, goals and experiences.
Course materials consider these social constructs and human experiences as the basis for approaching problems across media.
During the second year, students apply the concepts and methods from the first year of study to shape their thesis projects. It is in the second year that students develop deeper business acumen through coursework and direct relationships with New York organizations. Optional summer internships with top design studios and companies are available between the first and second years for credit toward the thesis project.
Degree candidates must successfully complete 60 credits. A residency of two academic years is required. In the final semester, each student is required to complete a thesis project, which must be reviewed and approved by the thesis committee and the department chair in order for the student to be eligible for degree conferral.
- First Year
Fundamentals of Interaction Design
Through a series of themes, this course will explore diverse disciplines, both historical and theoretical, to demonstrate how these themes shape contemporary practices in interaction design. Beginning with the core interactions of the body manifested in dance, language, music, art and architecture, continuing to the psychological and sociological ideas that have shaped how we interact with one another, through the inventions and technologies that transform the human condition, the course provides context and inspiration for the practicing designer. The fundamental interaction and communication design concepts, influential people and movements, and iconic projects and designs will be addressed. By the end of the semester, students will have acquired a vocabulary and toolkit for future design challenges.
User–centered design begins, by definition, with an understanding of users. In this course, students will learn how to model interaction by conducting qualitative and quantitative research into users' behaviors, attitudes and expectations. By exploring ethnographic techniques, usability testing, log analysis, surveying and other research methods, students will learn how to engage user feedback effectively at every stage of the design process. We will also address how to conduct secondary research into published literature and other sources that can inform thesis projects and beyond.
Craft and Communication
Centuries' worth of design principles are based on predictable constraints of physical media, but how does the unpredictable nature of designing for the screen affect those principles? This course looks at the impact our creative choices in typography, color and layout have on the way we interact with screen–based design on the web, mobile and more. Emphasis is placed on advanced techniques in constructing meaningful, responsive and contextual layouts across media. Students research, design and test their creations to inform further iterations of their ideas.
Fundamentals of Physical Computing
This course explores the fundamentals of extending computation beyond the glowing screen and into the physical world. Using a programmed single–chip computer, students will learn how to connect sensors, actuators and indicators to create devices, installations and environments that move computational interaction “outside the box.” Our focus is on people rather than on devices. We will consider how the human mind is affected by physicality in all environments. By making a hands–on exploration of reactive, expressive, interactive and embodied behaviors, students learn to observe users, understand affordances and move seamlessly from digital processes to tangible actions. Coursework is done individually in weekly technique labs and in groups for longer creative assignments. Note: No previous programming or electronics experience is required.
Strategic Innovation in Product/Service Design
The design of interactive products and services differs from other forms of design in important ways. Developing the context for successful user experiences requires designers to think more holistically about the business models for the products they create: how the value proposition to customers and users unfolds over time; what's being “sold” and where the costs of production and management occur; how to engage, complement and benefit from other services that intersect with what is being offered. This course will help students in becoming more effective at understanding and describing the strategic decisions involved in the creation of interactive products and services, and to equip them with tools and methods for generating innovative options and making smart strategic choices.
Introduction to Cybernetics and the Foundations of Systems Design
This course presents frameworks for modeling interaction in terms of structure and context, augmenting traditional discussions of form and syntax. We will collaboratively address questions that are fundamental to design practice: What is a system, and what are the different types? How do we interact with systems, and what are the different types of interaction? Systems may act independently, interact with other systems, learn and even converse. What do such systems have in common, and how can we describe them? How can we measure their limitations? The course explores the integral structures and coherent processes for the design of effective artifacts, communications, collaborations and services. Students will apply frameworks for steering design processes and/or design outcomes based on their own interests, encompassing domains as broad as education, health and wellness, and sustainability.
This course allows students to examine problems across space, time and location by understanding the methods needed to develop a range of complex data visualizations and information graphics. By the end of the course, students will have the skills to conduct a rigorous examination of the choice of models and their place in the applied practice of interaction design.
Design in Public Spaces
Interfaces are embedded in nearly every aspect of our daily lives—from grocery shopping to banking to reading books. How can we integrate technology with the physical world to create better interfaces and more useful, playful and meaningful experiences? This course explores how interaction design fundamentals apply to physical spaces by surveying branded environments, retail stores, museums, urban settings and corporate venues with specific user goals and design considerations in mind.
This course will assist students in developing a course of action for choosing a thesis topic or topic direction, as well as a thesis advisor. The structure and presentation of the thesis proposal will also be addressed.
Building on topics of design processes, this studio course will focus on needs analysis, framing, prototyping, iteration and collaboration in an applied context. Each student will choose a client, as well as engage in semester–long projects that bring together business goals, user needs and technology.
Prototyping User Experiences
Interaction design concepts can be hard to describe. And the best way to both communicate and improve your design is to prototype it quickly and often. This course examines how to integrate lightweight prototyping activities, as well as some basic research and testing techniques, into every stage of the interaction design process. A range of methods will be covered, from paper prototyping to participatory design to bodystorming. Students will learn how to choose the appropriate method to suit different dimensions of a design problem at different stages in the process and the pitfalls of each approach. The course is highly collaborative with hands–on prototyping and testing. Working individually and in teams, students will create rapid exercises, with one prototype developed or iterated each week, with the goal of evolving toward more robust ways of expressing ideas in rich interactive form.
Seminars and Workshops
To bring students into contact with a significant number of working professionals, a series of seminars and workshops are held during the first year of the study. Individual descriptions follow.
- Second Year
We are continuously introduced to new products that will make our lives easier, more efficient and more enjoyable. But how many of these products survive? Finding a product suitable for full-scale development and one appropriate for a specific audience is the aim of this course. It will assist students in researching a thesis topic and preparing for the next stage of development. The course is divided into three sections: 1) developing a research plan, 2) writing a comprehensive business plan, 3) iterating through potential ideas. In addition, there will be seminars on the prototyping of design ideas and how to produce viable projects that will have real business potential.
Design and the Service Experience
Throughout our lives we encounter services that span industries as varied as health care, banking, transportation and retail. In fact, the service sector makes up nearly 70 percent of the U.S. economy, yet frustrating service experiences still abound. This course will examine the increasing need for the improvement of services and the development of service innovations. Working individually and in groups, students will address the challenges and opportunities in designing for the service sector through methods such as blueprinting, service enactment and front– and back–stage processing. By employing these methods in combination with interaction design approaches, students will be able to gain an understanding of service ecologies and learn to choreograph human–centered, responsive and memorable services.
Concepts and methods of layout, grid and typography form the foundation for constructing meaningful layouts and, in turn, effective communications. This course will explore how to create meaning through useful, usable and desirable interfaces across the complex environments of different media at different scales. Understanding basic concepts through the development of a vernacular, students will be encouraged to re–interpret concepts for interactive environments.
Once a product or service is designed, it needs to be managed. Whether as an entrepreneur, a design consultant or an in–house designer, integrating the creative and business sides is rarely easy. This course will illustrate how to mediate between the two, empowering students to merge the design and business aspects effectively. We will examine design in its real–world, contemporary contexts (rather than silos such as product design, web design, or mobile design) to realize its broad potential and reach.
Ethics and Professional Practices
Creative business practices, ethical standards and effective networking are the cornerstones of this course. Through studio tours, students will observe examples of successful practice. Case studies will illustrate the importance of creating viable and responsible business models.
Screen Design: a Holistic Approach
A holistic approach to screen design from soup to nuts, with an emphasis on big ideas, and enough code to help students’ craft and confidence. The course is mostly ideas though, not code—ideas such as mobile first, responsive design, and orbital content on top of a solid foundation of web standards, design, and usability. The course will be structured around a book a week, reviewing the big ideas in the books in class, why they’re important, and how they led to other ideas in the digital design ecosystem. Students won’t just slavishly memorize the concepts behind these books, of course; they’ll have a chance to argue alternate points of view, and try out some of the concepts in their own work.
Narrative and Interactivity
A well–told story transcends any particular medium, and at a very basic level, defines a satisfying interaction. The study of narrative offers designers a tool for exploring the user journey and understanding that journey from different perspectives. This course will explore aspects of narrative such as plot, setting and point–of–view, and train students to use narrative as a way to frame and evaluate interactions.
The web has made everyone a publisher—and content is a critical component of user experience. This course will explore content development as an aspect of creating user experiences, and will pay particular attention to its relationship to information architecture. Students will examine different approaches to audio, video and especially text, exploring ways that content can improve user experience (while looking out for legal and copyright pitfalls). We will also address the basics of content management and examine how to develop a large–scale editorial strategy that can be used to guide the creation of websites with millions of pages.
Realizing a great idea can be easy, but selling the idea can be a real challenge. This course will explore proven approaches to marketing and selling ideas. Students will learn how to be strategic in the market and crafty in their efficiency.
Having a good idea isn't enough; the challenge is in articulating and communicating that idea clearly, effectively and in a way that your audience can hear it. This course will emphasize how to develop a polished and professional visual and verbal presentation to potential backers, colleagues and clients. The end result will be a pitch-perfect presentation of students' thesis projects, including research, strategy and prototype. Students will also make presentations to the thesis committee and guest critics.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
It’s been a bumpy ride, but New York’s bike-sharing initiative finally got rolling this week. The new Citi Bike program will put well over 10,000 riders on the road to an efficient,...