UX Week 2011 Features Kristian Simsarian on Educating the Next Generation of Interaction Designers

Interaction Design chair Kristian Simsarian [photo: WildPlumPhotography.com]

UX Week is the premier user-experience design conference. Design professionals from all over the world gathered August 23-26 in San Francisco for four days of community, inspiration, and skills building. Among the notable guest speakers was Kristian Simsarian, chair of the Interaction Design Program at California College of the Arts, who was invited to discuss . . . what else? the formation of this exceptional and timely new program.

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Need for Interaction Design Education

In his talk, "Educating the Next Generation of Interaction Designers," Simsarian shared how the Interaction Design Program evolved out of necessity and opportunity: "Faced with a number of challenges such as the lack of precedent undergraduate programs, technology’s fast rate of change, and as many stories about paths to becoming an interaction designer as there are individuals in the practice, our first class will graduate in 2014, which means we need to grasp not only the state-of-art but also where the practice is headed.

"To accomplish this, we followed a design process to learn from students about what excites them, from practitioners about their practices and direction and from industry about their trends and what they most lack and desire to be prepared. Along the way I was privileged to encounter a number of unique practitioners who both possess a phenomenal combination of skills and were wildly successful. I believe these individuals point to the future of the practice."

Simsarian's mission is to create a leading undergraduate educational experience to train future interaction designers with a bold and unique mix of skills that form the core skills that are the most impactful, useful, and in-demand. "We are in an age where the power to connect in new ways feels limitless. This presents an exciting and important opportunity to shape the future to serve, empower, and delight people and society."

Why Interaction Design?

"Interaction design is about people and what happens in the in-between," Simsarian attests. "We are in an age where the power to connect in new ways feels limitless. There is an exciting and important opportunity to shape the future to serve, empower, and delight people and society."

That's the purpose of CCA's Interaction Design Program -- a program whose overall design process involved over 100 persons to help inform the development of the curriculum and what constitutes a successful interaction designer now and in the future.

Simsarian adds: "Our curriculum focuses on systemic and behavioral design with additional emphasis on the necessary visual and technology craft skills to communicate and demonstrate work. These are the skills that will help shape our future as people living with increasingly amazing and powerful technology."

To further understand what exactly is an interaction designer, watch CCA's two-part panel discussion on the subject: "What Does an Interaction Designer Do?"

About Kristian Simsarian

Simsarian brings to CCA a deep, diverse, and international background that spans from health care to high-tech. In addition to his publications and patents, his work has been featured in Business Week, the New York Times, and Metropolis magazine as well as being highlighted in business books on innovation and interaction design.

He cofounded the Software Experiences practice at IDEO, a leading design consultancy, and served as practice director with a focus on mobile for 10 years. He's led design innovation initiatives for some of the world's largest brands as well as hospitals, nonprofits, start-up companies, and governments.

Simsarian also worked for 15 years in the world of think-tank research. At institutes in several countries he helped envision and prototype future digital experiences that involved virtual and augmented reality, immersive storytelling environments, interactive art and collaborative robots. In Sweden, he had the privilege to work shoulder to shoulder for several years with the founders of the Scandinavian Cooperative Design movement, which he admits heavily influenced his commitment to human-centered design.

Visit cca.edu/​interaction to learn more about CCA's Interaction Design Program.