HCI/d is about introducing change. That is, we introduce new technologies, products, processes, services, and experiences into organizations and everyday life. As such, it is a creative field. Our curriculum reflects that. Many of the courses are project-driven; students will not, for the most part, sit in chairs and read about design. Students will do design. Every semester, for example, students will have a design studio course, where they will work hands-on with real design problems working closely with our world class HCI/d faculty.

Photo By Andy Hunsucker

But we also recognize that HCI and design take on “wicked problems”—the sorts of problems that have no definitive solutions, such as economic development, social justice, and environmental sustainability. Designing thus does far more than generate corporate profits, and accordingly designers should be guided by values—professional values as well as deeper human values. Further, most design briefs in industry and elsewhere are (intentionally) ill-defined. If they knew what they wanted, they wouldn’t need a designer. Finally, technologies and tools change. Many of the tools we were teaching ten years ago are now obsolete. In sum, design happens in ill-defined by socioculturally impactful domains, and the ability to make intelligent methodological choices is critical. For these reasons, we don’t just teach skills and tools. We also cover both theories and methods that provide strategies and tactics that designers use to confront situations of high uncertainty and to stay current in a rapidly changing world.

Most professional work in UX, interaction design, user research, design strategy, and so forth is collaborative. Its solutions—and even acquiring the resources to pursue solutions in the first place—often depends designers’ ability to explain their thinking and processes to others: project managers, MBAs, engineers, stakeholders. Students have to master their practice, and to do so in a predominantly collaborative way. Designing can be a highly collaborative practice; there are even methods, such as co-design and participatory design, whose whole purpose is to involve others.

Photo by Jeffrey Bardzell

All of this is to say that the cohort model does far more than provide social support and friendships in the program. The cohort model gives students the soft skills needed to cooperate productively as design leaders in industry and beyond.

At Indiana University HCI/d, we are preparing our designers to make an impact the day they graduate, while setting them up to lead the next generation of leaders.

Won’t you join us and shape the future of design?