In classes and cocktail hours, lots of people ask me either how they can switch careers into interaction design, or how they can improve their self-trained “IxD” chops.
Of course Cooper offers a number of awesome training courses to help folks do just that (but we can’t be everywhere in the world at once) and there are great university courses here in San Francisco Bay Area and around the world (but not everyone can take that kind of time off).
So if you’re a self-starter, unable to attend a training session and can’t take time off for school, or want to be able to speak the language of interaction design, what can you do? How can you make those first steps to getting more familiar with the field?
I recommend reading up on some of the fundamentals, join up with practitioners online, and actually start designing. More on each follows.
Read up on the fundamentals
Get your hands on copies of the following three books and give them a good read. Not a flip through, and not a skim. These are the basic things you need to know. Please note that I'm aware of the conflict of interest of a Practice Lead at Cooper saying that two of three fundamental books are ones published by Cooper, but even after much handwringing and gnashing of teeth over the seeming conflict of interests, these are still my recommendations. They would be if I didn't work here.
The Inmates Are Running the Asylum
by our own Alan Cooper
"Inmates" details the reasons why designers should lead the charge of software design, and why personas are the primary tool we use to do it.
The Design of Everyday Things
by Donald Norman
Norman plainly lays out the fundamentals of design thinking from cognitive psychology, industrial design, and interaction design standpoints.
About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design
by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, & David Cronin
AF3 contains best practices for the medium of the human-computer interface.
(If you happen to be a sci-fi fan, I’ll certainly also recommend my own book and blog as a way of applying design thinking to interfaces that appear in that perennially-favorite genre, but it’s hardly considered a fundamental.)