Interaction Design (BA)
The bachelor’s degree in Interaction Design at Columbia College Chicago trains you to be a technologically competent designer and a design-minded developer. You’ll learn a creative, art-driven approach to finding the best design solutions for users of electronic interfaces from websites to voice-activated programs.
You’ll learn how to design with users in mind and how to be an independent professional who relies not on narrow technical skills but on best practices and theories of human-computer interaction. But we don’t ignore the “hard” skills. With required courses in programming and physical computing, combined with extensive coursework in user research and design, the program enables you to enter the workforce ready for careers in programming, user experience, interface or industrial design, product development, and web development.
Interaction Design teaches you how to find solutions. You’ll be tested and challenged in this bachelor’s degree program, and through your successes—and mistakes—you’ll learn and grow as an artist, a student, and a professional.
A bachelor’s degree in Interaction Design requires a foundational set of 30 credits from across all four concentrations. After completing these 30 credits, you’ll dive deeper into your area of special interest and select one concentration for additional coursework.
Web and Mobile Development
In our most popular concentration, we connect front-end design with back-end development to prepare you for a career as a product developer or designer.
This concentration merges artistic and creative vision with technical and problem-solving skills. In addition to Interaction Design courses, you’ll take a heavy course load in Graphic Design to focus more on the graphic arts side of interaction.
Students in this concentration explore interaction design outside the visual user interface. Work on voice-user interface technology like Google Home or Amazon Echo or on wearable interfaces like medical health monitors or Fitbit, an app that tracks personal fitness goals.
User Experience (UX) professionals work in and negotiate between the front-end and back-end teams, improving business strategy and studying user needs and interests. In this concentration, you’ll learn how to contextualize problems, identify solutions, and test those solutions through research and user testing.
In the Classroom
What to expect your first year
In your first year as an Interaction Design major, you’ll focus on building your toolbox of technical and creative skills. You’ll learn theory and put it into practice, working on practical projects such as writing a small program or building paper prototypes. You’ll begin building your user interface and user experience vocabulary to become a persuasive advocate for the user, and you’ll learn how to effectively critique and assess your work and others’ work. Many of your classes include team projects that simulate the real-world work environment of this field. Your skills will come into play when you begin creating actionable interfaces in future semesters.
What to expect your last year
In the Interactive Arts and Media Team capstone course, you’ll perform an integral role within an interactive production team tasked with solving a problem for a real client. This course will test your technical and creative skills and, most importantly, your ability to work collaboratively. You’re not just creating a hypothetical project—this course is all about creating and deploying real solutions for real clients like the Special Olympics, Six Flags, the Field Museum, and other companies in Chicagoland and beyond.
Chicago is home to a thriving community of creative-services firms with job opportunities for Interaction Design majors. You can find our student interns at places like Bethesda Softworks, Braintree, NetherRealm Studios, High Voltage Software, and WMS Industries.
Learn more about how Columbia’s Career Center can help you find the right internship.
What kind of jobs can you get with an Interaction Design degree? We teach our majors the full spectrum of front-end and back-end design thinking so that they’ll enter the workforce ready for a number of jobs, including product developer, product designer, user experience (UX) designer, web developer, programmer, and more.
Get your start in Chicago
Our location in the heart of Chicago will give you a head start. Chicago is a great city full of creative-services firms looking for potential employees, and our faculty members’ connections in the local industry can help you launch your career.
Each year our department hosts an industry night for graduating seniors to network with industry professionals and discuss their individual and team capstone projects. It’s a great night for students to network with professionals—and maybe get a job offer.
You can find Columbia alumni at companies like BBDO, Braintree, Deloitte, Golin, Google, IBM, Jellyvision, Leo Burnett, Motorola, Pandora, Paypal, Razorfish, SapientNitro, Venmo, and more.
“I wanted to learn more about how people interact with technology, and how I could be a part of the actual making of a product, such as a piece of software.”
-Rebecca Young ’15
Creative Spaces and Facilities
We have a number of maker spaces and labs for student use, including:
- Computer labs equipped with industry-standard software
- Equipment case with HD video cameras, DSLR cameras, microphones, audio recorders, and more
- Fabrication lab
- Media Production Center
Our faculty members are working professionals and experts in their fields. They’re award-winning game designers, accomplished audio artists, and expert programmers. Most importantly, they’re dedicated teachers, bringing their knowledge of groundbreaking theories and techniques into the classroom. View all department faculty.
“Students leave Columbia ahead of the game ... They learn to not be self-serving as a designer, but instead empathetic and ready to take informed chances.”
-Assistant Professor Lauren Liss ’04