9 September 2006

Where to study experience design?

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Experience design has become a hot industry theme. Companies are looking to hire experience designers. New consultancies devoted to experience design are being founded nearly every day. Major industry players like Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and Philips are increasingly putting the user experience or experience design at the heart of their innovation strategy. And experience design is now also making inroads into other fields such as education, healthcare and tourism, to just name a few.

But where can you study it?

The short answer is that you can’t really study experience design. To my knowledge there is only one small programme of experience design at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

An alternative is to go to a design school with a strong user-centred and experience design focus such as the one at Stanford or at IIT, both in the US.

One can also study interaction design, a field that does not always have the same user focus as experience design, and there are programmes now in many countries, including Australia (University of Melbourne, University of Queensland), Canada (Simon Fraser University), Denmark (Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design), Ireland (University of Limerick), Japan (Keio University, University of Tokyo), Sweden (Chalmers, Malmo, Umea), UK (City University London, Middlesex University, RCA, University of Dundee), and the USA (Art Center College of Design, Carnegie Mellon, Indiana University, ITP, Parsons, Savannah College of Art and Design, University of Baltimore, University of Maryland).
[This is just a provisional list – see here, here and here for more discussion on interaction design education]

Other related fields are communication design, HCI and information design, or you can join a programme in what in Europe is sometimes called “new media” or “multimedia”.

Amsterdam also host the European Centre for the Experience Economy.

Bob Jacobson, the entrepreneur and visionary thinker behind the Total Experience weblog, just raised the issue in an email he sent to a selected group of people including Bill Moggridge, John Thackara, Donald Norman and some 26 others, where he underlines the need for an Experience Design Institute, as a place of study and research, as a site of serious reflection and discourse. I think his call is most appropriate and timely (if not overdue), and as per usual with Bob, well thought through. Why have I received 625 email newsgroup messages in the last four months mentioning “experience design” and there is only one study programme explicitly dealing with this?

The challenge is out there. Who is taking it on?

UPDATE: 12 September 2006

Apparently, some institutions are taking on the challenge and preparing experience design programmes or labs. Interestingly, they are not in the U.S. The Utrecht School of Arts (The Netherlands) is in the planning phases of a new bachelor course called Ambient Experience Design. Also the Belgian Media & Design Academy is setting up an Experience Design Lab (disclosure: I am working with them helping them in this process). I hear some interesting things coming out of Portugal, but I am still inquiring to find out more. The most developed for now seems to be the “design para a experiência” initiative of the Nomads center at the University of San Paolo, under the leadership of Marcelo Tramontano.

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