What is Interaction Design?

Interaction Design (or IxD) explores new possibilities for human interaction and communication by means of digital or digitally enabled artifacts and media. Interactive products are used in all walks of everyday life in today’s society. Consequently the scope of interaction design is very broad, including business software and interactive media as well as games and even interactive art installations. The interaction designer focuses on creating designs that deliver value for the user  and a high quality use experience, through user-centered, sustainable and socially responsible design. One can say that he/she shapes the user experience of digitally mediated interactions. See examples of what Interaction Design can be here.

Why Interaction Design?

Of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, seven are found in sub-Saharan Africa. Consequently, over the next few decades, Africa is set to become a booming new consumer market. Recent research shows that a main factor for elevating African countries out of poverty is the fast growth of a middle class, buying new products and services. Design plays an increasingly important role for upliftment in Africa. To meet these demands of growing markets, in Africa and globally, design and innovation must focus on human-centered methods for understanding localized needs and opportunities.

In future design, digital technology will play an important role in the innovation of  new products and services. A large part of foreign investment in Africa goes into telecommunications, fueling a rapid development and uptake of mobile services. For example, cell phone use in Ghana has grown from 32% to 60% in three years, and mobile services like M-Pesa and MXit provide new opportunities for handling money transactions and staying connected at low cost. For today’s consumer, an increasing number of products are enabled by digital technology. Of microprocessors manufactured, only 2% are used in computers with the remaining 98% being embedded in other products. This creates opportunities for innovation in areas new to digital technology, like fashion, jewellery and interior design.

In the 10 week BTech module on Interaction Design offered in second term 2011, the first task was to design a “sleep machine” – a device that not only wakes you up in the morning but also helps you to go to sleep at night. The students worked in groups, each designing a sleep machines for a specific individual in their social network. Based on interviews with this friend, a sleep machine was designed to fit his/her specific needs. Read more here.

A new Interaction design master’s program

In 2011, CPUT set up a new Masters program with focus on Interaction Design and Participatory Innovation to address the emerging challenges and opportunities for the field on the African continent. Currently the program enrolls 21 students. Read about their projects here. This Masters program acknowledges the importance of the front-end of the design process – in other words, what comes before the design brief. Based on research in Interaction Design and Participatory Innovation, you will learn cutting edge design methods and techniques for studying people in real settings, and in so doing, turn latent needs into opportunities for innovative design. This design approach complements traditional design skills across all disciplines.

To harness the innovation potential in today’s powerful low-cost digital technology, this Masters program concentrates on streamlining the process from innovative ideas to proof-of-concept prototypes of digitally enabled products and services. Based on research in Interaction Design and Participatory Innovation, you will learn to combine cutting edge methods and tools for rapid prototyping with a broad range of digital materials to develop innovative designs for an African and global context.Instructions for how to apply to the program are available here.

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Interaction design on bachelor level

In 2011, an elective module in Interaction Design was offered in the second term that was made available to BTech students in Informatics and the design disciplines. If you are a BTech student interested in Interaction Design, please contact Jörn Messeter for more information.

FAQ

What is required to enter the program?

A BTech in design or informatics is required to enter and the duration of the program is one year full time or two years half time.

What is the course fee?

The yearly course fee is the same for full-time and part-time students, so part-time studies are double the cost. For 2011, the yearly course fee is R5070.00, and the registration fee is R615.00. If you register after November 30, you will have to pay an additional fee of R200.00.

How do I apply?

Instructions for how to apply are found here.