Overview of User Interface Design Degree Programs
User interface design is the practice of making websites, mobile apps, and other interfaces both beautiful and user-friendly. Degree programs in this field are available across the country at arts-focused institutions and universities. Coursework typically includes a mix of design and computer science classes along with art history, communications, and sometimes cognitive science. More information on coursework, program requirements, and potential employment is available below.
Admission Requirements for User Interface Design Programs
A high school diploma or GED is, of course, a requirement for any undergraduate program, and transcripts will be required along with your application. Most user interface design programs also require you to submit a design portfolio with your application. Letters of recommendation, essays, resumes of extracurricular involvement, and SAT/ACT test results may also be required.
User Interface Design Coursework
Coursework in user interface design covers computer science topics such as coding, web design, and game design as well as more traditional graphic design, art history, and sometimes cognitive science. Most programs include studio classes, which allow students to develop their design portfolio.
User interface design requires the development and use of computer graphics. Students learn a variety of drawing and graphics techniques to represent two- and three-dimensional objects on a screen. Higher-level courses in computer graphics include animation and three-dimensional modeling techniques. These skills are used for everything from mobile apps to video games.
One of the goals of user interfaces is to convey information in a useful and elegant manner. Courses in communication design teach students how to use text, graphics, and layout to share information in a variety of media. They will also learn how to research a project before beginning design. Students will often design one or more items during the course.
A course in cognitive science teaches students how the human brain works: how we see, hear, remember, and learn. Along with these basic concepts, these courses often teach data collection and analysis, skills that can help designers better understand how people are using various interfaces. Students learn about the brain-body connection, and how physical and mental interaction are linked.
The practice of interaction design includes not only digital worlds, but also physical environments such as museums and retail stores. A course in interaction design looks at all of these kinds of interaction, and encourages students to explore what roles they may play as a designer. Students complete design projects as part of this course, working in a variety of media.
Some user interface designers end up in the computer gaming industry, so many degree programs encourage courses in this area. An introductory course will cover the history and basics of computer games. Students are taught how to evaluate games critically and how to assess platforms and audiences when designing.
How to Choose a User Interface Design Degree Program
When choosing a user interface design program, students should consider the focus of the program. Many programs cover a variety of user interface designs (mobile and web and gaming, for example), but some focus on a specific area of expertise. Internship and job placement rates are important to consider as well. Finally, location and cost will be important considerations for some students.
Career Options With a User Interface Design Degree
User interface designers are in demand in several fields, including web design, mobile app development, and video game design. According to PayScale, the median salary for a user interface designer is $63,275 in 2018. Other career options for those with a degree in user interface design are below.