We stand with Ukraine and our team members from Ukraine. Here are ways you can help

Home ›› Design ›› The (Sometimes) Giddy Experience of Learning Design

The (Sometimes) Giddy Experience of Learning Design

by Josh Tyson
4 min read
Share this post on


The results of the Academic Program category of the Design for Experience awards show that great relationships can help make great designers.

It’s no secret that experience design is an exploding field. The need for talented practitioners outstrips the number of trained professionals looking for work, and to reach critical mass, we need education initiatives that prepare students for a complex and rapidly changing landscape.

As more online programs continue to pop up and often thrive, academic programs at accredited colleges and universities are also working hard to prepare the next generation of designers, engineers, and researchers for the immense challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

The BFA Interaction Design Program at California College of Arts, winner of the Design for Experience award for Academic Program, does this by providing students with design skills, communication skills, and a broader understanding of everything that goes into experience design, while also helping them see how our relationship with technology is changing—a set of initiatives that it’s hard to imagine fulfilling in a remote setting.

“Online courses offer a lot. In general, they’re really good for transmission of information; they’re really good for individualized fact-checking; they’re good because students can slow things down and look at a their pace. A lot of designers have non-traditional learning styles and being able to watch a lecture either slow and fast or repeat sections is really valuable,” says Kristian Simsarian, Chair Interaction Design Programs at CCA.

“But there’s something about being in a room with people and all those subtle cues. Seven percent of communication is words and 93% is everything else: it’s the context, it’s the dynamic, it’s the history that people have, it’s the trust that people have, it’s a long list of things. Sometimes just being in the room and sharing pheromones can make the kind of balance between teacher and student that might be necessary to make a great designer.”

Students at CCA spend their first year exploring the craft skills that go into interaction design. Their sophomore year is about honing those skills (visual design, coding, systems, design research, prototyping), and their junior year is dedicated to exploring emerging technologies like wearables and objects in space, while also looking into other disciplines and materials. Senior year is when students return to solo work figure out where they want to take their careers.

The school also has a Cross-Disciplinary Hybrid Lab where technology is approached as a workable material—getting designers and artists to think about technology the way a ceramicist thinks about clay. But a lot of the magic comes from good old-fashioned interaction between teachers and students.

“I look into Christina Wodtke’s classroom as she’s teaching the Designer as Founder course and she’s just always excited in there,” Simsarian says. “She’s giddy and the students are giddy. It’s hard to get giddy online together. Learning about business and feeling giddy about it? What could be more valuable in the world we live in.”

Designers think about technology the way a ceramicist thinks about clay @CACollegeofArts

With that giddiness and ease come lessons in communication as well, a crucial skill that every designer needs to develop at some point.

“Communication is so important,” Simsarian says. “I can’t think of a successful designer who can’t communicate. There’s still a tradition in other disciplines where you can be a craftsman off in the corner of your studio but if you can’t communicate, your impact is likely to be limited.”

There’s also a reflexive nature to the experience of teaching in a classroom that benefits the instructors as well. “Our teachers often find their voice in the classroom. It can be hard to find your voice in a design studio, and it’s hard to experiment. I’ve had teachers say, ‘I’ve learned to be a much better creative director through teaching. Because I found my voice.’ I like the idea that someone can come and teach and come out with more confidence.”

The finalsts in the Academic Program category also made their mark. The University of Waterloo, Stratford Campus impressed judges with their uXperience Design Camp, and the MFA Design for Social Innovation program at the School of Visual Arts is exploring the relatively new field of social impact design. UXVision’s UXV Certification Program showed a vanguard curriculum and the Netcraft Academy alchemized their love of UX into a program that teems with character.

The 2014 DfE awards are now accepting applications. If you’ve been a part of creating an experience that makes a difference, apply today! If you know of any products or services that deserve DfE recognition, make a recommendation now using the form in the right-hand sidebar (or at the bottom of the page if you’re on a mobile device). For a limited time, anyone who makes a valid recommendation will get a free book download form our sponsor, Rosenfeld Media.

post authorJosh Tyson

Josh Tyson, Josh Tyson is the co-author of the first bestselling book about conversational AI, Age of Invisible Machines. He is also the Director of Creative Content at OneReach.ai and co-host of both the Invisible Machines and N9K podcasts. His writing has appeared in numerous publications over the years, including Chicago Reader, Fast Company, FLAUNT, The New York Times, Observer, SLAP, Stop Smiling, Thrasher, and Westword. 


Related Articles

Generating AI images in multiple languages leads to different results.

Article by Yennie Jun
Lost in DALL-E 3 Translation
  • The article critically examines OpenAI’s DALL-E 3, the latest in AI image generation.
  • The author sheds light on the model’s prompt transformations, revealing language-specific variations, and biases, and a nuanced exploration of how this technology navigates issues of diversity and transparency.

Share:Lost in DALL-E 3 Translation
11 min read

Use generative-AI tools to support and enhance your UX skills — not to replace them. Start with small UX tasks and watch out for hallucinations and bad advice.

Article by Kate Moran
AI for UX: Getting Started
  • The article delves into the urgent need for UX professionals to embrace AI, outlining tools, applications, and considerations.
  • The authors emphasize:
    • starting small;
    • gaining hands-on experience;
    • the symbiotic relationship between AI and human judgment in enhancing user experiences.

Share:AI for UX: Getting Started
16 min read

Why does everything look the same?

Article by Michael F. Buckley
Media Overload is Causing Design “Generification”
  • The article explores the impact of streaming media on contemporary design, arguing that the proliferation of personalized content has eroded a shared cultural experience, contributing to a perceived decline in design originality and character.
Share:Media Overload is Causing Design “Generification”
4 min read

Did you know UX Magazine hosts the most popular podcast about conversational AI?

Listen to Invisible Machines

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Check our privacy policy and