Unexpected insights from Cooper U’s interaction design course

Guest post by our new intern and California College of the Arts interaction design student, Casey Kawahara

After putting the final touches on my first project as an intern here at Cooper, I had a chance to participate in Cooper’s Interaction Design course. The class was diverse in every sense of the word. Fifteen students flew in from Los Angeles, Miami, Brooklyn, and Germany, to name a few. Developers and designers — they were all there.

After a round of introductions, we jumped right into short bursts of lectures that covered topics such as brainstorming, personas, frameworks, and scenarios. Between each lecture, we collaborated and further developed the ideas that had been presented. One of my favorite aspects of these exercises was learning how others use these processes in their own professional practice (sometimes very similar to the process we learned and other times very different).

After we covered the main topics of the course, we jumped into several larger projects to exercise our new design skills. One project involved redesigning a picture application on a smart phone. Although familiar to everyone, this wasn’t a simple task. We broke into groups of three and brainstormed solutions to problems such as storage, access, editing, and of course, actual picture taking. We developed a persona and scenario, and began to sketch our ideas. We acted as if the application were “magic” in order to not censor our creativity, and soon realized that “magic” wasn’t that far off from what’s actually possible.

Some ideas were good, some great, and all interesting. Designing and creating with people I’d only met a few days prior led to some truly amazing concepts. Everything from projection technology, geo-location, and voice recognition was explored. There were even a few ideas that I’ll keep secret in hopes that one day someone in our class actually develops them.

As expected, we received thoughtful teaching and discussion from veteran interaction designers like Emma van Niekerk and Doug LeMoine. We were even lucky enough to have Alan Cooper drop in to answer a few questions and offer insights about everything from Microsoft to the current disarray of higher education. (It’s not everyday that you get a peek into the mind of the guy who practically invented interaction design!)

Throughout my education at California College of the Arts and Cooper, I’ve learned that with design you often find new opportunities and finish somewhere completely different than where your original expectations predicted you’d end up. After completing the Interaction Design Cooper U course, nothing rings more true. I expected to learn about things like process, frameworks, and research techniques. However, I didn’t expect the richness of experience I had with a room full of people who started out as strangers.

Meeting other people who are passionate about design and eager to become better interaction designers made the course especially meaningful for me. Perhaps even more important — and unexpected — are the 15 new friendships with people who are sure to create exciting things in the future.

The Editors

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