Portfolio Class: Interaction Design

Portfolio Class: Interaction Design

πŸ‘‹ Welcome

The following are course materials for a 2-semester portfolio class for seniors studying Interaction Design at School of Visual Arts (SVA). All graduating seniors at SVA must take a class like this to prepare their portfolio for graduation, though the curriculum and structure will vary depending on the perspectives of the instructors.

We are two multidisciplinary digital designers based in New York. Though we come to this class with different educational backgrounds (graphic design at RISD, computer science at MIT) and a range of professional experiences (in-house, agency, freelance, small startups, Big Tech), we share similar views on the roles and responsibilities of interaction designers in today's world.

We recognize that our perspectives are limited. Our design practices have been shaped by the needs of the tech industry in the mid-to-late 2010s. We are both lucky to be members of over-represented groups in tech and design, to not need U.S. work visas, and to have had many doors opened for us at every step of our careers. We try to correct for this limitation in perspective by bringing in a wide range of guests and by continually updating our materials to reflect what we ourselves are learning about the world. Our class aims to provide designers with the tools they need to develop their own points of view.

We're making these materials public because we strongly believe that education should be as accessible as possible, and that open sharing and public discourse will help us improve the quality of this education for our future students.


Barron Webster

Carolyn Zhang

Twitter: @carolynz

Table of Contents

πŸ“œ Class description

Why does every app look the same? What do I do when I disagree with my teammates? Why won’t my team ship the better design? How do I prevent people from abusing what I’ve made? Is this experience ethical? Who would use the thing I’ve designed? Does design matter?

These questions, and this course, are about designing in the readl world. We will focus on:

  1. The responsibilities, powers, and tools available to today's designers. We live in a world where 75% of people have internet access and we spend 4+ hours on phones daily. We bank, listen, make friends & enemies, talk to our families, travel, work, order food, receive news, meditate, and date through designed interfaces. We will examine creating experiences that are effective, intuitive, ethical, and (as best as possible) prevent abuse. Class assignments will be open-ended briefs meant to mimic ambiguous, real-world scenariosβ€”you will have to identify what problems you want to solve, and figure out how to solve them.
  2. How to communicate your ideas to relevant audiences. Almost nothing we interact with daily was built alone. Collaborating with others, presenting your work appropriately to different audiences, building consensus, and taking/giving feedback effectively are vitally important to succeeding as a designer (and in any other role). Through the lens of your portfolio, you’ll learn to present your work for the audiences it’s meant for β€” consumers, investors, engineers, interviewers, etc.

This course will involve discussion, brainstorming, prototyping, research, writing, prioritizing, designing artifacts, group work, presenting, persuading your classmates and professors, and other practices that you will engage with in the β€œreal world.” You'll be given more agency than a typical class, and treated like professionals.

πŸ“– Class Content

Because this is a project-based class with strong focus on in-class critique, you may not see many important topics represented in the lecture materials. We're trying to figure out the best way to translate that for broader sharing.

Lecture notes

Magic rules for learning
Design systems
Portfolio advice
Job interviews
Job Search / Compensation / Negotiation
Career trajectories
How to have great portfolio reviews

πŸ’ͺ Assignments

Spring 2021

2021 Portfolio
12 Weeks
Week 1 - Portfolio Proposal
1 week

Fall 2020

1. Instagram: New Feature
2 Weeks
Individual Project
2. Design for the Pandemic World
5 Weeks
Group Project
πŸ› οΈ
3. Make Something Real
5 Weeks
Individual or Group Project
Fall semester assignments are designed to give you increasingly more agency and ambiguity, and to introduce you to new types of constraints you may have not experienced in previous classes β†’

Spring 2020

2020 Portfolio
15 weeks
Individual project

Fall 2019

1. New Instagram features
1 week
Individual project
2. Augment an action
1 week
Individual project
3. Design for NYC
6 weeks
Group project
4. Make something real
6 weeks
Individual or group project

πŸ’― Grading

This grading schema is intended to reflect the relative importance of each of these skills in the workplace. Your design craft is not the only thing that matters, even though it's the main focus of most schoolwork and the first thing employers check for. Your communication skills are equally important, and your attitude and willingness to learn can be the make-or-break factor when a potential employer makes a bet on hiring you.

40% Artifacts: The projects and designs you create

  • User flows that are comprehensible and don’t have dead ends.
  • Consistent, well-structured, understandable interface design.
  • Understanding of what interaction patterns are appropriate in different contexts.
  • Demonstrating mastery of tools used for appropriate task.

40% Communication: Working, participating, and presenting

  • Participation in discussion, in class and asynchronously.
  • Working well with classmates.
  • Ability to present work and respond to questions.
  • Giving actionable feedback to other students.
  • Receiving feedback gracefully.
  • Contextualization of projects. Explaining why decisions were made, in what constraints.

20% Growth: Willingness to learn

  • Improvement in artifacts & communication.
  • Willingness to fail, try new things, and experiment.

πŸ‘€ Resources

Recommended readings
Salary spreadsheets & databases
Student project & portfolio references