New BFA in interaction design to prepare students in intersecting media


March 23, 2021

SUNY Oswego’s new bachelor of fine arts in interaction design brings together art, technology, design and communication to provide a distinctive major that prepares graduates to excel in a world of intersecting media.

It is unique in being one of the few degrees of its kind in the SUNY system,” said art faculty member Cara Thompson, who teaches in the program. Students can customize their degree via exploration of user experience (UX), user interface (UI), motion design and XR -- a field that encompasses augmented, virtual and mixed-reality technologies.  

The BFA in interaction design degree moves beyond visual communication to interfaces and experiences that implement elements of time, motion, touch, audio and voice,” said Rebecca Mushtare, another key art faculty member teaching the program. “Students have the ability to explore a wide array of digital design areas and dig into evolving fields like 3D printing, XR, motion design, app design, responsive web design, and experience design.”

I believe this degree will make me more marketable and prepared for a career in my field,” said junior Madelyn Smith, among the first students planning to complete the new degree.

“I’ve come to enjoy designing with the needs and desires of the end-user in mind,” Smith said. “I love the empathetic element of design; I welcome the challenge of putting myself in someone else’s shoes and using that insight to design a meaningful, intuitive, and visually pleasing experience.“

The major provides additional customization through nine credits of interdisciplinary offerings students can draw from broadcasting, cinema and screen studies, English, information design, music, technology and theatre, Thompson noted. “Study in this degree reaches beyond visual communication to all aspects of interaction and motion design,“ Thompson said.

This coursework reflects how interdisciplinary large and complex digital design projects often are, and their requirements of team members from different fields -- as well as the importance of development and refinement. “Prototyping and experimentation are core values within many of the required courses in the major,” Mushtare said.

“I’m confident that this degree will allow me to stay engaged and knowledgeable in the fast-paced field of UX and UI design,” Smith said, noting the interaction design BFA is more concentrated than the graphic design BFA. “This degree will also help me create and design interfaces that foster meaningful relationships between people and the products and services they use and rely on daily. ... I believe this degree will make me more marketable and prepared for a career in my field.” 

Career opportunities

The degree and its customized nature open up a variety of career fields including digital design, experience design, motion design, multimedia design, service design, UX, UI and XR. “Additionally, the experimental nature of the curriculum develops a design process which moves beyond traditional fields and looks towards fields not yet imagined,” Thompson explained. 

“Students completing this degree may enter fields we haven’t thought of yet,” Mushtare said. “We hope that the focus on an iterative design process, experimentation and learning how to design and work with new technology will prepare students for what’s next in addition to areas growing right now.”

Who would thrive in the new degree program? “Explorers and experimenters,” Mushtare said. 

“Working in a field that continues to evolve and with tools that are ever-changing requires large doses of curiosity, diligence, play and creative problem-solving,” Mushtare added. “The major is also a great fit for those who feel like they are in-between disciplines, especially those who are interested in design and another technology related field or who see themselves as digital entrepreneurs or makers or in roles related to content strategy, product management, user experience, user interface, design research, multimedia or motion design.“

Thompson said “students curious about digital technologies and looking to experiment and move beyond being users of technology, to makers of technology to create thoughtful technological solutions to design problems” would be ideal for the program. 

“The curriculum focuses on creating active learners who are able to continue learning and experimenting as the technology changes,” Thompson noted. “The degree is a good match for students who identify as entrepreneurs as well as students wishing to pursue employment as web, app or software designers, and motion or multimedia designers. The curriculum includes opportunities to study 3D modeling, printing and motion graphics and would be a good fit for students wishing to work in related fields.” 

For Smith, the knowledgeable and caring professors provide more confidence as well. 

“I can’t speak highly enough about the art faculty that I’ve studied under at Oswego,” Smith said. “Each professor displays a sense of passion and pride for their field and is genuinely invested in their students’ growth. Every class that I’ve taken with the art faculty has enhanced my skills and knowledge in a meaningful way. The intelligent, compassionate faculty members bring a personalized approach to instruction. They have sincerely helped me foster my love for art and design.”