IAD Comprehensive

last update: January 2024

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.

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 an interaction design method called Goal-Directed Design because it is 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 at either building prototypes or user research. Put another way, students might excel at user research but feel less comfortable using a prototyping tool or vice versa. (Learn more about the difference between focusing on the UI design or the user research/synthesizing portions of the interaction design continuum in Career Prep -- skill section.) 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 should produce a portfolio-worthy project.
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 should produce a portfolio-worthy project.. 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 should produce a portfolio-worthy project.
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 portfolio-worthy project.
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. This class should produce a portfolio-worthy project.
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 portfolio-worthy project.
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 the skills you need for the job market, how to set up a portfolio, and how to start networking.

Skills

What skills should an interaction designer have to be competitive on the job market? In short: it depends. We break down the the skills sets into two major categories along the interaction design continuum: UI design skills and user research/synthesizing skills. We believe our best students will excel along this continuum.

UI design skills
Students applying for jobs where daily tasks are focused mostly on UI design and prototyping need:

  • Strong prototyping skills evidenced in their portfolio. These students are fast at prototyping and could pass a skills-based test during an interview. In Figma, the current prototyping tool du jour, these students understand how to: lay out a file and pages, design on an 8-pt grid, use auto layout, effectively pair elements together, use frames rather than groups, create components (and properties), use styles and variables, create sophisticated motion design using outside tools like After Effects, and are comfortable speaking with devs about handoff.
  • Strong visual design skills evidence in their portfolio. These students are not afraid of the pen tool and can explain their reasoning to clients when discussing: brand identity, color theory, front-end development (html, css, javascript), iconography, typography, and visual composition. They also know psychological screen design theories.

Classes to focus on: IAD2100, IAD3150, IAD3230, IAD4150, IAD4200, IAD4230

User research/synthesizing skills
Students applying for jobs where daily tasks are focused more on user research and/or synthesizing resarch and making it actionable need:

  • Strong user research skills evidenced in their portfolio. These students ask the question “why?" a lot. They enjoy talking to other humans as well as designing and executing research protocols. They can evidence experience with: applied ethnographic research and usability testing (including A/B testing, heuristic evaluation, and card sorting).
  • Strong research synthesizing and application skills in their portfolio. These students can interpret research and figure out how to apply it to a design & business problem. They have experience with: affinity mapping, contextual research, design methods (e.g., GDD, Lean UX, Sprint, etc), information architecture, journey mapping (via context & key path scenarios), personas and user stories, task analysis (via validation scenarios), and wireframing.

Classes to focus on: IAD3000, IAD3300, IAD4000, TCOM3046, TCOM4120, TCID4700

Portfolio

The portfolio is a key document to aid in the transition from student to professional contexts (and for applying to internships). It should reflect your professional identity (i.e., your applicable job titles) and evidence your skills no matter what interaction design skills you want for foreground. The portfolio a unique document that gives potential employers a look at your abilities, thought process, and teambuilding skills.

Students should be nurturing a portfolio throughout their time in the degree and not just at the end. To that end, students set up their portfolios for the first time in IAD3000 (Interaction Design I) where they will work on a big, bold team-based interaction design project. Additionally, we offer other classes designated to produce portfolio-worthy projects (IAD3300, IAD4000, IAD4150, IAD4230, TCID4700). In the Resources section below, there are Portfolio examples from previous students.

Portfolios should include:

Networking

Outside of completing an internship, the best thing a student can do to prepare for the post-college transition is to network with a community of other 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.