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I have a major that -- while titled "Visual Communication Design" -- has been award-winning interaction designers (and service designers) for many years. Recently, some of our competitors have launched "interaction design" programs separate from their visual communication / graphic design programs. I loathe to separate my program as I believe that interaction design has to be taught holistically, with input from visual communication design, spatial design, and industrial design -- but am mindful that if I want to compete, I may need to fly an "interaction design" flag that is separate from communication design. 

Thoughts about this? Anyone looking to separate or create a new major? What value is there to teaching interaction design separate from other disciplines?

(Note: this question is a shameless repost from another forum)

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The starting point here I think is to define Interaction Design because I'm not sure everyone defines it the same way. Many people think interaction design is just a new name for interactive design which is also know as web design. This is not my definition of it, but I have heard many faculty use "interaction", "interactive" and "web" interchangeably.

For me, Interaction Design is the combination of Industrial (Product) design (i.e., design of physical products and hardware, including ergonomic considerations, and materials), and information design, graphic design, application architecture, UX and UI, and probably more design processes I'm neglecting to think about at the moment. It is the space where humans and technology touch, and it is the passing of information in that space which is interaction design. Going deeply in every direction is ultimately the goal in interaction design education.

Given my definition, I would say, it depends...

Many argue that Advertising should not be included in a graphic design program. Many advertising programs are lumped into Communications departments and are more about the text than the visual, being combined with journalism, television, and radio. I would consider these discussions similar in many ways.

Alternatively... Consider web design and how much technology you ought to know to become competent for an entry-level position. The fact that most web design concentrations are within a communication design dept, is an argument for why interaction design, although different, is not any more different than web design and print design are.

At CityTech we are arguably one of the largest Communication Design programs. We have had as many as 1200 students in an academic year. One reason we are so large is that we combine concentrations in Graphic Design, Advertising, Web Design, Broadcast Design, Illustration, Animation, and Production in our program. In many institutions these would be separate departments. It has had its challenges for sure. But one advantage of being such a large department is that we are able to offer many higher level specialized courses other programs cannot because there are simply too few students to fill a course section.

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Thanks Dan! I am in complete alignment with your thoughts about interaction design. I suppose the core challenge is that students are increasingly "brand-name shoppers" and want to see a degree program that aligns with their career choice (as much as I might find that thinking limited). 

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@Dan Wong I think the model you have at CityTech sounds great, challenges and all. At YSU, our program is 'Graphic + Interactive Design' – which, for the area/region we are in is a progressive title for a program, it ultimately falls short of the 'Interactive' side of things with only two required interactive courses out of approximately 16 classes required courses – the rest are print-based. 

As a result of this, I've had to incorporate more multidisciplinary projects into my interactive classes. So, outside of students learning how to code, they learn how to do video, some 3D modeling, experience design, animation, and more to help them establish some experiences in the more broader applications of interactive design. 

It also doesn't help that there is at least one year between Intro to Interactive Design and Intermediate Interactive Design, which makes retention seemingly non-existent. 

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Should IxD be its own major? Maybe... I'm inclined to say yes (for all the reasons already stated), but at that same time, designers should be using the methods/technologies best suited to address a given problem. For this reason, a fluid and hybrid approach design education is important. The nature of visual communication design is shifting, and perhaps this is about reworking what we have rather than developing new programs?

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20 hours ago, Jessica Barness said:

Should IxD be its own major? Maybe... I'm inclined to say yes (for all the reasons already stated), but at that same time, designers should be using the methods/technologies best suited to address a given problem. For this reason, a fluid and hybrid approach design education is important. The nature of visual communication design is shifting, and perhaps this is about reworking what we have rather than developing new programs?

I agree Jessica. I would argue that my existing Visual Communication Design programme is as strong if not stronger in interaction design and service design than in more "traditional" visual approaches. Our challenge then is one of naming...

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@Brian Lucid Yes, definitely – as you mentioned earlier, it's influenced by career choice. If job postings specify IxD, that's what students will want to major in, and vice versa. Everything has a label. I'd like to change a degree program name to "Thing Design" just to see what happens, ha ha!

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Just attended a Cranbrook alumni event here at CAA 2018. They announced they are starting a new program in 4D! My first thought was, isn’t that our realm? But then I thought, they separate 2D and 3D. Why not 4D?

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