HCI/IDIA Graduate School Programs Insight

18 Mar 2010 - 1:46pm
6 years ago
10 replies
6848 reads

Hi Everyone,

I am a brand new to these boards but was hoping that several people can post their advice and recommendations to my questions.

This May I will be graduating from college with a B.A in Computer Information Systems and Digital Media Arts. I am hoping to go right into graduate school for HCI / IDIA as my ideal job would be a user experience researcher or information architect designer, most perferably with Google or another technology company. With little to no help from my advisor at school, or from the department faculty, I really need some insight on good HCI masters programs.

Although I did notice a few threads on this board asking a similar question, I would like updated information/feedback on these schools:

1) University of Baltimore - Information Design & Information Architecture (IDIA)  -- From what I have researched and been told from the director, it is a fairly new program that has a 100% career placement rate. However, the program seems isolated from the real-world in regards to research sponsorship with technology companies, or students interning with well known companies.

2) University of Maryland, College Park - Information Management (MIA)

3) Carnegie Mellon - Human Computer Interaction (HCI) 

4) U. Michigan - School of Information, HCI program

Please provide the following:


  • If you have graduated from any of the above programs, please explain your overall experience and satisfaction. Where are you working now? How has the program prepared you for a career in this field?
  • If you have not graduated from any of the above programs but have heard positive/negative things about these programs, please explain.
Thank you everyone!



18 Mar 2010 - 4:12pm

I've heard from friends who live and work in Baltimore that the city isn't the nicest. Lots of poverty and crime. As far as the UBalt program goes, the curriculum looks fantastic, but keep in mind they don't currently offer assistantships due to budget cuts. So you'd be looking at out-of-state tuition rates, as well as working full-time and taking night classes.

You might consider looking at the Master of Design in Interaction Design at the University of Kansas. Coursework includes human factors, design strategies and methods, designing business services and consumer experiences, branding and design, creating design scenarios and simulations, design and strategic innovation, interaction design, and design cognition. It looks like an excellent program, and I'm considering applying myself.

The Austin Center for Design, a non-profit corporation directed by Jon Kolko, offers a 1-year certificate program in interaction design and social entrepreneurship. The advisory board includes Liz Danzico of SVA and Ric Grefe of AIGA, among others. 

Iowa State University also offers a Master of Science in Human Computer Interaction, which can be obtained online or on campus. There is also an HCI certificate program and a PhD program. I'm a graduate student in the English Department at Iowa State, and I've visited the Virtual Reality Application Center on campus where the HCI program is headquartered, and the facilities really are world-class.

The Information Architecture Institute also offers a directory of schools teaching information architecture. Programs listed are from around the world and include certificate through PhD programs, both online and on campus.

18 Mar 2010 - 6:56pm

Thanks for your comments, Stewart. I was hoping to stay within the Maryland, D.C, Pennslyvania/New York area for graduate school. 

In response to your U. Baltimore comments, I am from the Baltimore area and the campus is not really in a bad area. In any major city you'll see poverty and all that, but the campus is in a fairly decent area of Baltimore city. Also, I have already applied have been admitted for the fall semester, however I just wanted to get added feedback from anyone who had or is currently attending. The same goes for the other colleges. 

Thank you though for your overall comments. Smile

18 Mar 2010 - 8:23pm
Dave Malouf

Drexel has a decent HCI program
SVA's new MFA in IxD is looking pretty amazing
Parsons Transdisicplinary Design and Design & Technology Program are also well regarded
NYU's MFA in ITP is also interesting.

Not too far off from the Mid-Atlantic States:
U of Indiana's program has some great profs making a good program.

As I always ask when I answer these questions, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" (not where do you want to work?) What do you want to do? Are you a designers, a researcher (yes, make a choice between them). Then either go to design school or be an HCI expert. (yes, you can "design" from the perspective of an HCI expert and you can research as a designer, but they have completely different priorities in their framing.)

Good Luck!

-- dave

19 Mar 2010 - 1:19pm
Robert Racadio

Dave -

Could you speak a little more about your distinction between research and design, and the different framing priorities between HCI and design?  I am struggling with the "what do I want to do when I grow up" question myself, and I think this choice between design and research is the crux of it.



21 Mar 2010 - 11:15pm
Dave Malouf

Robert, this is a thesis in the answering. What complicates it is that this (like most everything else on these discussions that feels heated or difficult) is more about a multi-axis continuum than about absolute dichotomies. It is about work styles, thinking styles, etc. etc. It isn't even as easy as saying do you want to work for X company or Y company b/c any good organization will hire from all ends and middles of the spectrum to have broad representation of diversity. They are all relevant and they all have value. So this is not about value judgements. This is about "who are you?" "How do you work best?" "What types of thinking, artifacts, interest you?" "What is the role of visualization?" "Are you a deductive/inductive thinker/analyzer, or an abductive thinker/analyzer?" It isn't just about collaboration, but how you collaborate: "studio?" Lastly, what is more important to you? The data or the story you tell?

I have always been in this odd position of being a better at the analytical side of things, but loving what comes out of the non-linear/multi-linear side of things. I have seen successes of many types of models that span, assimilate, represent many of the arrangements of facets that are possible, but not all of these successes fill my heart with joy and my mind with engagement. 

What speaks to you? What makes you hungry for "more of that?" Do you read Core77 more than interactions? Does the loss of ID Magazine mean something to you? Do you forgive Nielsen his horrible site b/c he's always right on his research? Or do you use Flash every day hoping to bring serendipity to someone's life by doing the unexpected and unintuitive?

These are just some of the facets I'm struggling with and hope others in this community are as well. It's why I never equate an HCI program with an IxD program, that an MA or MSc is not nearly the same as an MFA or MDes (or equiv).

Hope this helped!

-- dave

19 Mar 2010 - 10:05am

One of my committee members from grad school is now at U Maryland.  He is working with Ben Schneiderman on some interesting projects.  I would give them a look.  If you want a contact I'd be happy to provide.

19 Mar 2010 - 5:12pm

Hi Nikki,

I graduated from the University of Michigan's School of Information HCI program in May 2009. I am currently working as an Interaction Designer at Yahoo. If you want to concentrate on User Experience Research and/or Information Architecture I do think the program at Michigan is very good. Alumni from the program work as User Experience Researchers at Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other prominent companies. There is a strong focus on user research in the program. Information Architecture is also strong at Michigan. The writer's of the Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (i.e. the polar bear book) Peter Morville and Lou Rosenfeld were both students of the program back in the day. The tradition is carried on by a great adjunct facutly member Dan Klyn.

I know that the University of Maryland also has a great reputation as an HCI information school. To your list I would also add Indiana University's School of Information. To be clear, if you are really focused on design an information school might not be the best choice. A program within a design school might be a better choice. But if you want a rigorous academic program that emphasizes information and user research then these are very good programs.

19 Mar 2010 - 5:50pm

Thanks for the comments, everyone. 

Maureen - Thank you for your suggestions and insight. Like I previously stated, I would like to be a user experience researcher or information architect designer at a promising technology or social media company such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, etc. Maureen, if you do not mind me asking, how long have you been an interactive designer at Yahoo? Once you graduated from Michigan, did you start right at Yahoo? What does your job entail? 

26 Mar 2010 - 5:41pm
Mudit Mittal

Hi all,

I'm from Mumbai, working as User Experience Designer. Looking forward to pursue MS in HCI from Indiana University.

I have very little knowledge about the program. As this thread already mentioned IU twice, I think people here can guide better. Some knowledge on the outlook of the program; primary focus of education; what to expect from program; what to expect from faculty; would be helpful.

Thanks & regards,
Mudit Mittal
[m] +
[e ] mittal.mudit@gmail.com

On Sat, Mar 20, 2010 at 4:59 AM, NikkiK <contact@ixda.org> wrote:

Thanks for the comments, everyone. 

Maureen - Thank you for your suggestions and insight. Like I previously stated, I would like to be a user experience researcher or information architect designer at a promising technology or social media company such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, etc. Maureen, if you do not mind me asking, how long have you been an interactive designer at Yahoo? Once you graduated from Michigan, did you start right at Yahoo? What does your job entail? 

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