IAD Comprehensive

last update: August 2022

On this page, you'll find a comprehensive breakdown of the Interactive Design (IAD) degree. If any link doesn't work or you need help, contact Prof. Lahey (Michael Lahey#6162) on Discord!

Table of Contents

  1. What is IxD?

  2. Our Approach to IxD

  3. Our Classes

  4. Career Prep

  5. Resources

What is IxD?

The Interactive Design degree (IAD) defines interaction design (IxD) as the “design of interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services” with a focus on the “design of behavior” (Cooper et al., About Face, 2014, p. ix). 

When someone speaks about IxD, they often are referring to the design of software with screens (like computers, mobile devices, or appliances). IxD borrows theories and techniques from disciplines like anthropology, computer science, graphic design, and psychology. IxD is not limited to any one of these approaches and combines them in the service of the "user experience" (UX).

IxD isn't just something that's applied to the look of a product or service. Rather, we believe that design happens at every stage of the process, from opening planning meetings to user research to creating screen-based deliverables. This approach champions the importance of understanding the ways context shapes an interactive system. This includes understanding the human (user) and business-related concerns that need to be addressed to create a successful interactive system.

Our Approach to IxD

Following the definition listed above, the goal of this degree is to teach students the necessary critical thinking skills to be engaged citizens of the world as well as effective interaction designers. To do this, we focus on:

In IAD, we teach Goal-Directed Design as an effective way to learn all the things a student might encounter in a career (kickoff meetings, stakeholder interviews, user observation & interviews, synthesizing research, prototyping, iterating, usability testing, etc). Additionally, we teach Lean UX as a way to diversify the methodological toolkits of students.

The minimum goal of the degree is to create students who are competent across all areas of interaction design and excel in either building prototypes or user research. Put another way, students might excel at user research but feel less comfortable using a prototyping tool like Figma, or vice versa. Ideally, students will strive to excel at both. However, no matter where they excel, they always work on their ability to be a good teammate (almost all interaction design is done on teams) and how to explain their work to clients. 

Our Classes

We break classes down into 4 modules, each focusing on a specific area of need for screen-based interaction designers:

  • Interaction Design Principles
  • TCID2170 Intro to Digital Media & Culture
  • IAD3000 Interaction Design I 
  • IAD4000 Interaction Design II
  • IAD3300 Ethnography for Designers
  • TCOM3046 Information Architecture
  • TCOM4120 Usability Testing
  • TCID4700 Capstone & Senior Showcase
  • Screen Design Principles
  • ART1100 (facilitated: SOAAD)
  • ART1150 (facilitated: SOAAD)
  • TCID2002 Productivity & Tools
  • IAD2100 Prototyping I
  • IAD4200 Prototyping II
  • IAD3150 Visual Design I 
  • IAD4150 Visual Design II
  • IAD3230 User Interface Design I
  • IAD4230 User Interface Design II
  • Professional Development
  • TCID3100 Professional Development
  • IAD3398 Internship
  • Computational Thinking
  • IT1113 (facilitated: Dept of Info Tech)    
  • TCID3400 Front-end Development I
  • TCID3800 Front-end Development II
  • TCID4500 Front-end Development III 

Lower Division Major Requirements

(18 Credits, grade of C or better)

Name, # (Hours), Prereq

What's this class? Why take it?

2D Design/Color Theory
ART1100 (3)
pre: n/a

What? Studio-based class, facilitated by the School of Art & Design. Students apply 2D design principles and color theory in a studio environment. 
Why?
To learn design principles that students will apply to screen-based projects later.

Drawing I
ART1150 (3)
pre: n/a

What? Studio-based class, facilitated by the School of Art & Design. Students draw using a variety of techniques––figures, still-life, and landscapes. 
Why?
To become more comfortable with drawing, which will be applied to later sketching/wireframing.

Prototyping I
IAD2100 (3)
pre: n/a

What? Students learn a solid foundation in a prototyping tool as well as fundamental principles of user interface design. 
Why?
To become effective and fast at navigating a prototyping tool interface.

Productivity & Tools
TCID2002 (3)
pre: n/a

What? Tools-based class where students learn how to use design tools (Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop) and productivity tools.
Why?
To learn digital tools so students will enter later classes prepared for more complex projects.

Intro to Digital Media & Culture
TCID2170 (3)
pre: n/a

What? Theory-based class where students learn about the Information Society and human-centered design.
Why?
An introductory class that lays out some basic foundations of interaction design.

Programming Principles
IT1113 (3)
pre: n/a

What? Computation thinking-based class where students explore how to become informed and curious users of computing technologies. 
Why?
Students will take this class to enhance computational thinking skills.

Upper Division Major Requirements

(18 Credits, grade of C or better)

Name, # (Hours), Prereq

What's this class? Why take it?

Interaction Design I
IAD3000 (3)
pre: IAD2100

What? Project-based class where students learn method (Goal-Directed Design) and work in teams on a large-scale project (designing/prototyping a mobile app). The class includes presentations and a Process Page (a single page in a portfolio where method and process are explained to potential employers).
Why?
To have the experience working in teams toward a common goal and effectively displaying a design method/thought process through a Process Page. No coding in this class.

Visual Design I
IAD3150 (3)
pre: IAD2100, TCID2002

What? Students learn fundamental visual design principles that interaction designers need to know. A teaching-based class that covers icon/logo designs, typography, brand identity, and style guides.
Why?
Students need to learn basic visual design principles to be comprehensive interaction designers as well as good teammates to visual designers. No coding, interaction design, or user research in this class.

User Interface Design I
IAD3230 (3)
pre: IAD2100, TCID2002

What? Students learn fundamental user interface design principles that interaction designers need to know. A teaching-based class on the psychological theories of how to organize screens. 
Why?
Students need to learn how to organize and present individual screens within larger software systems. No coding, interaction design, or user research in this class.

Professional Development
TCID3100 (3)
pre: IAD3000

What? Students work on crafting a professional identity, go to networking meetings, and set up of their digital portfolio.
Why?
Students learn how to articulate the methods, principles, and experiences learned in the degree to post-collegiate contexts.

Front-end Development I
TCID3400 (3)
pre: n/a

What? Not a design-focused class. Computation thinking-based class where students learn basics of hosting, file structure, HTML, and CSS.
Why?
Students enhance computational thinking ability, learn some front-end development, and to better understand technical environments.

Capstone and Portfolio Showcase
TCID4700 (3)
pre: 21 hrs Upper Div.

What? Students revisit Goal-Directed Design on a UI-related team project. The class includes presentations and a Process Page (a single page in a portfolio where method and process are explained to potential employers). The class also works with the TCID main office to prepare a Capstone Showcase at the end of the semester.
Why?
Students have one more chance to create an effective project for a portfolio.

Upper Division Major Electives

(18 Credits, grade of C or better)

Name, # (Hours), Prereq

What's this class? Why take it?

Ethnography for Designers
IAD3300 (3)
pre: IAD3000

What? A research methods class where students apply user research (i.e., ethnographic) methods to interaction design.
Why?
Research methods are introduced in IAD3000 and this class provides students more practice with the reasoning behind research, interview and observation techniques, how to interpret research, and how to communicate results to stakeholders.

Internship
IAD3398 (3)
pre: 28 hrs in Degree, Dept. approval

What and Why? While not required, students are encouraged to find an internship. These experiences are invaluable in helping students transition to post-collegiate contexts. An internship should ideally be done after IAD3000. For more on internships, see our website.

Interaction Design II
IAD4000 (3)
pre: IAD3000

What? Students incorporate Agile & Lean into interaction design and work in teams on a large-scale project (designing/prototyping some type of UI). The class includes presentations and a Process Page (a single page in a portfolio where method and process are explained to potential employers).
Why?
Students learn a new design method to enrich a methodological toolkit. No coding in this class.

Visual Design II
IAD4150 (3)
pre: IAD3150

What? Project-based class where students expand their knowledge of how visual design applies to interaction design. This class should produce a project and a Process Page for a portfolio.
Why?
Students need a project-based environment to practice and apply their visual design skills.

Prototyping II
IAD4200 (3)
pre: IAD2100

What? The class primarily focuses on increasing student ability (speed, effectiveness) with prototyping as well as expanding opportunities to practice more advanced techniques.
Why?
Students need a project-based environment to practice and apply their prototyping skills.

User Interface Design II
IAD4230 (3)
pre: IAD3230

What? Students delve further into UI design while applying these principles to UI projects. This class should produce a project and a Process Page for a portfolio.
Why?
Students need a project-based environment to practice and apply their user interface design skills.

Front-end Development II
TCID3800 (3)
pre: TCID3400

What? Not a design-focused class. Computation thinking-based class where students refine their understanding of HTML & CSS, add responsive design, API-integration, and jQuery-integration. 
Why?
Students learn higher order front-end development concepts to better understand technical environments.

Front-end Development III
TCID4500 (3)
pre: TCID3800

What? Not a design-focused class. Computation thinking-based class where students focus solely on learning JavaScript to enhance their computational thinking and coding ability.
Why?
Students learn higher order front-end development concepts to better understand technical environments.

Information Architecture
TCOM3046 (3)
pre: by permission of the TCID advisor

What? Information architecture is a core skill for being a good interaction designer. This class allows further exploration to concepts in information architecure learned in IAD3000.
Why?
In short, interaction designers are information architects and more work in this area is helpful.

Usability Testing
TCOM4120 (3)
pre: by permission of the TCID advisor

What? This is a research methods class where students apply usability methods to interaction design. 
Why?
Research methods are introduced in IAD3000 and this class provides students more practice with the reasoning behind a very specific type of user research (usability testing).

Related Studies

(12 Credits, grade of C or better)

Related Studies includes 3000 - 4000 level courses inside or outside of the Interactive Design Major. These hours do not need to be taken in a single discipline, but should relate to a particular interest or career goal. Students should work with the TCID advisor to determine prerequisites for Related Studies courses. Completion of a Formal Minor or Certificate Program would also satisfy the Related Studies requirement. These minors should be considered to augment the IAD degree: Anthropology, Computer Science, Game Design, Information Technology, Marketing, Organizational & Professional Communication, Psychology, and Technical Communication.

Free Electives

(12 Credits, grade of D or better)

This includes any course (1000 - 4000) in the university curriculum (including Interactive Design) passing with a D or better.

Career Prep

In this section, you'll find information on how to set up a portfolio, the skills you need for the job market, and how to start networking.

Portfolio

The portfolio is a key document to aid in the transition from student to professional (and for applying to internships). It should include at least 2 - 3 screen-based projects that each foreground process. This means that each project in a portfolio has a detailed account of the work completed on that project called a “Process Page.” This is a unique document that gives potential employers a look at your thought process, teambuilding skills, and abilities.

Students should be nurturing a portfolio throughout their time in the degree and not just at the end. To that end, students get a first attempt at creating a Process Page in IAD3000 (Interaction Design I) and we have other classes also designated as Process Page classes (IAD3300, IAD4000, IAD4150, IAD4230, TCID4700). In the Resources section below, there are instructions for Process Pages for certain classes as well as Portfolio examples from previous students.

Skills

What skills should an interaction designer have to be competitive on the job market? We believe skills can be broken into two categories—core and essential secondary. These skills should be evidenced in the Portfolio:

Core Skills: Affinity Mapping, Computational Thinking, Contextual Research, Design Methods (e.g., GDD, Lean UX, Sprint, etc), Design Specifications, Ethnographic Research, Information Architecture, Journey Mapping (via Context & Key Path scenarios), Personas, Prototyping, Psychological Screen Design Theories, Core (née soft) Skills (Critique, Presentation, and Team Building), Task Analysis (via Validation scenarios), Usability Testing (including A/B testing, Heuristic Evaluation, and Card Sorting), Wireframing

Essential Secondary Skills: Brand Identity, Color Theory, Front-end Development (html, css, javascript, api), Iconography, Typography, Visual Composition

Networking

Outside of taking an internship, the best thing a student can do to prepare for the post-college transition is to network with a community of interaction designers. This process can be started by signing up with the Interaction Design Association’s (IxDA) local Atlanta chapter. They use MeetUp as their organizing platform. The local chapter has talks all the time and is a great way to start networking. We have found that students who do networking (and get internships) are more likely to get good jobs right out of college. Students should also sign up for the International Interaction Design Association (IxDA) newsletter—it’s free.

There are a lot of other networking events that fall under the larger umbrella of “UX.” Some are good, some are less so -- use your best judgement.  In the Resources section below, you'll find more networking resources.

Resources

This is a collection of resources related to the IAD degree (in alphabetical order). If any links do not work, reach out to Prof. Lahey on Discord (Michael Lahey#6162).

Design Methods

Twitter

We all probably have a love/hate relationship with Twitter, but it can’t be denied that designers are very vocal there. Is the following list comprehensive? No. Prof. Lahey suggests following these designers and then branching out. Note that he doesn’t necessarily always agree with all these people but that’s not the point! This list allows you to see what the current state of the field is and what types of things designers discuss.