The Interaction Design course offered through MassArt's Continuing Education department is an amazing introduction to current concepts, methods, and technologies employed in the design of interactive media. Subjects of study include: defining user and site requirements; managing information complexity; and designing interfaces and flows that are usable and testable. Assignments address design problem-solving within screen-based and other interaction-related projects developed for various content, contexts, needs and people. Prerequisites: Graphic Design II OR Intermediate Typography; working knowledge of InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

lou suSi is an accomplished designer focused on user experience, design education, curation, performance and dynamic media. He currently works for Mobiquity as Senior User Experience Architect where he designs and implements enterprise-class mobile, ubiquitous and holistic experiences for clientele.

A recent graduate of MassArt’s Dynamic Media Institute, lou received his MFA in Design through his critically-acclaimed laugh and humor research. His thesis, confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy examines the interesting middle area between what we consider to be funny or not funny.

His previous teaching engagements include Web and design-related curriculum and coursework at UMass Lowell, TechBoston, MassArt, Endicott College, SMFA and ArtScience Prize at Cloud Place.

The first half of the semester the class focuses on 3 exercises that help us understand and develop a vocabulary of interaction design — both the industry standard, official terminology as well as our own personal version that might be very unique to each student in the class or maybe even a bit unique to our particular group.

We also read throughout the semester. This helps build up the vocabulary, too.

The exercises are very much a way for us to deconstruct experiences that already exist in the world. We look at websites and mobile experiences and tablet and print and we dissect the way they actually live out there in the world and ask each other why these different channels / avenues of creating and delivering an experience change from delivery method to delivery method depending on a myriad of considerations.

I set up a series of in-class workshop activities for us to collaboratively participate in from class to class to class, especially up-front, just to get our minds loosened up to create and explore this wonderful design space. I have some special ideas that I particularly want to bring into this Summer's course, ones that I've been thinking of for a while now that may help bridge the digital-analog translation space to hopefully create and foster new ways of experientially understanding interaction and experience itself. And then, toward the final weeks of the class there are 2 to 3 major projects that work our understanding of interaction design from the opposite angle. Instead of deconstruction and analysis, now, from the two-thirds point onward we totally turn it around and create interaction and experience design projects that hopefully apply what we learned from the exercises to help us nowlearn through actual active iterative design processes. These projects are a fantastic way to let us — through design, presentation and collaborative critique — actively practice the craft of interaction design.

We get to both talk the talk and walk the walk of interaction design. The deliverables include but are not limited to: hand-drawn sketches; presentation decks; persona development documentation; use case scenarios; simple lists of human and business goals, tasks and interaction touch points to consider for our designs; more qualitative, observational documentation of interactions and experiences we investigate outside of class to inform and guide our design decisions; wireframes, including: low fidelity, hand-drawn wires, conceptual digitally created and more detailed and annotated, digitally created wireframes; flow diagrams and other visualization-based design thinking to help us problem solve along the way. This is very much a 'design by any means necessary' approach to design where we dig in, roll up our sleeves and just actively design from week to week, but where I also discuss the ups and downs of the business as I've personally experienced and dealt with them — in both the right and wrong ways — over the 15+ years I've worked in the design industry.

Last year I got a LOT of really amazing feedback from my students, comments that made me feel happy and proud that I had connected with people that had very little understanding of what Interaction Design is as they came into the course but then left realizing just how warm and human-centered this field can truly be.

For instance, one student, Ann Kirchner emailed me some time after the class saying, 'You delivered the heart of interaction design, which--correct me if I'm wrong--seems to have a lot in common with narrative flow, be it simple or complex. Without knowing anything about interaction design, I expected something sterile, but instead, it was incredibly human,' in her email response to my follow-up comments about her progress throughout the semester.

Jennifer Callahan reflected a bit about the overall Continuing Ed Design Certificate cycle, stating, 'We start out in the early classes just thinking about space in black and white terms, and it all takes an incredible amount of time. Then in the next classes we suddenly have to come up with a CONCEPT, which seems like the hardest thing in the world. And then we have to think about how actual people will interact with a system? Now THAT'S hard.'

I also need to stress that I barely touch the 'how to use the tools' portion of what we do. This is definitely NOT a course in how to use Omnigraffle or Axure or any particular program or set of tools. It focuses on the concepts and the practice of what we do as Interaction Designers in an entirely purist approach. I never ever ever judge the work deliverables of my design students or teammates based upon how they made the deliverables. I don't believe in that sort of hob snobbery. I'm not wearing black turtlenecks and dark-rimmed designer glasses in class. You can, if you want to, of course ;] But this course doesn't teach us about how to be like some of the stereotypical smarmy user-centered designers that are out there. In fact, I'm ashamed of that stereotype and live my life in a way that's a LOT more warm, human, approachable and open. This is the way I also practice my daily bread sort of existence, too.

I believe in a story-based, human-centered, active design methodology. I think about this stuff a LOT. I also actively work in this way and constantly assess and refine how my processes and interactions work from project to project, team to team, design result to design result. This is how I teach the course, this is how I describe Interaction Design. Its both about what we're creating, but also about the experience of how we're living and interacting with each other as designers. I'm very concerned about the experience of designers. And, of course, about the experience we ultimately design for our users. But if we're smoothly enjoying what we're designing as we design and collaborate, I believe we ultimately come up with far better results { products, experiences, services, events } through a far more passionate and truly creative human-centered process.