Emily Carr University helps students learn to love interaction design

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      When UBC student Jenn Gechen decided that she wanted to top off her education with a better understanding of UI/UX design, she started researching different schools. UI/UX refers to user interface and user experience, and she said that at that time it wasn’t being offered on the Point Grey campus.

      “Ultimately, I ended up going with Emily Carr because there was a lot of time for personal exploration,” Gechen told the Straight by phone.

      She enrolled in its six-month certificate program in interaction design, attending classes for three hours a day. Then she was free afterward to read whatever she wanted. “What I really liked about the program is that it had a lot of variety,” Gechen said. “It wasn’t just necessarily just the UX program; it offered a lot of knowledge in visual design.”

      That multidisciplinary approach dovetailed well with her UBC studies in cognitive systems, which incorporate psychology, linguistics, computer science, and philosophy.

      According to Jon Kolko, author of Thoughts on Interaction Design, this discipline “is the creation of a dialogue between a person and a product, system, or service”.

      “This dialogue is both physical and emotional in nature and is manifested in the interplay between form, function, and technology as experienced over time,” he wrote.

      The Emily Carr University of Art + Design website states that interaction design encompasses human-computer interaction, software design, graphic communication, and user-centred design, among other areas. The certificate program prepares students to obtain entry-level jobs in this field.

      Gechen lavished praise on the faculty, saying that she’s still occasionally in contact with some instructors even though she completed the program in October.

      “They’re all really fantastic,” she said. “They are definitely super supportive of their students and you can definitely lean on them whenever you feel unsure or unclear about design as a whole or with whatever you are doing.”

      Gechen was also impressed by the smaller class sizes. “All the cohorts range from 13 to 16 people, which is kind of nice because you get a lot of face time with instructors.”

      In the first term, there are courses on design fundamentals, designing for the web, motion graphics, web and portfolio development, design research and management, and programming for interactivity. The second term focuses a great deal of attention on mobile applications and web development.

      “I’ve been doing a lot of visual design and a lot of product design,” Gechen said. “It provided me with pretty much everything I know about design now.”

      Because she spent a fair amount of time outside of school reading about design, she didn’t find the learning curve to be that steep. According to Gechen, the first term had more lecture-oriented courses to provide students with an understanding of the foundations of design. In the second term, students started practising what they had learned.

      “You were given a lot of free time to do whatever you want, with the supervision of your professor,” she said.

      As someone with a keen interest in design, Gechen really enjoyed attending the new Emily Carr University of Art + Design campus just off Great Northern Way. She described it as “gorgeous”.

      “It was actually surprising for me because I thought at the time I applied that all the classes would be at the old campus on Granville Island.”

      When asked about her career goals, Gechen replied that she’s very focused on product design and interaction design.

      “My next step is becoming a designer working in a full-time position after I graduate—hopefully, moving on to more of a management role or product-design lead,” she said.
      When might that occur? “In maybe five to 10 years’ time.”