Interaction Design

Interaction Design


Shape new technologies and design for problems that matter.

Our Master of Arts in Interaction Design (IxD) is a unique program for emerging designers who are passionate about social innovation and ready to tackle complex, systemic problems.

Interaction Design, at its heart, is the design of the interaction between users, systems and products. We believe that the future of interaction design relies on also considering its social and environmental impact, and our curriculum reflects this forward-thinking conviction.

Contemporary social problems demand interdisciplinary and collaborative solutions. An interaction designer must first seek to understand a problem’s root causes, then design solutions that effect change. Our program prepares you to create social change through a systems and human-centered framework. You will be trained to think critically about systems and design solutions that take the form of experiences, services, digital interfaces and/or physical products. The end products are not prescribed from the outset, but emerge out of a rigorous, discipline-agnostic design process.

Students in our program have the opportunity to develop their design practice outside of the classroom, gaining hands-on experience through project work that crosses multiple sectors, including the public sector (by designing policy) and industry (by designing products and services).

At the Corcoran, you’ll find yourself embedded in a creative community where designers, artists, photojournalists, musicians and performers connect in the classroom and beyond. You’ll study in newly renovated classrooms and studios and can take advantage of the resources a world-class research university provides. With the support of this dynamic environment and the guidance of knowledgeable faculty, you can expand your imagination of what interaction design can achieve while acquiring the skills to make your visions a reality.




Interaction designers make the products, services, and interfaces that shape our world to be more useful, more delightful, more accessible and more equitable. 

Are you a designer who wants to:

  • Build new mobile experiences that reimagine the way people connect with services that they need
  • Make the things we use and the ways we get around more sustainable
  • Creatively rethink technology to better connect people and ideas

Interaction designers seek solutions to complex environmental challenges—from designing smart devices to reimagining educational environments. A unique and growing field, it explores the ways people engage with technology and their environments in their daily lives.

IxD at the Corcoran educates emerging designers to shape and design new technologies in a public service-oriented framework. Emerging from new design initiatives across the school, the program is for students who are inspired by complexity and interested in exploring new interdisciplinary approaches to design solutions. It explores the connections between design innovation and community engagement, focusing on the ways that interaction designers shape digital and physical environments, services, products and systems with a particular focus on the delivery of services and the role of interaction design in public policy.


What you'll study


Everyone is always busy but contributes nothing.


At the core of the Interaction Design program is the “Full Stack Design” methodology developed by the Director of Graduate Studies, Assistant Professor Jae Rhim Lee. The Full Stack method is a systems and human-centered approach to design and innovation in which students learn to research and analyze problems, synthesize information and design solutions. Students gain basic familiarity with and become adept in the Full Stack and immediately apply the tools in real-world projects across multiple sectors, including non-profits, the public sector and industry. Current IxD coursework includes a collaboration with the Library of Congress and design sprints aimed at changing policy to transform public schools into access points for receiving healthcare.


GW’s location in the heart of downtown DC provides students unparalleled access to policymakers, media, organizations of all sizes and world-renowned cultural institutions. The IxD curriculum spans two years and 42 credits and educates emerging designers to research, analyze, prototype and design concepts that influence people’s interactions and behaviors. Students take 33 credits of studio and academic coursework and 9 elective credits. The degree culminates with a thesis project and research in the second year.




Who you'll study with


Our faculty include internationally recognized artists, designers and entrepreneurs who have orchestrated interventions at the intersection of art and culture, led design sprints and product development and founded companies. Inside and outside the classroom, IxD faculty collaborate with external networks and other members of the university to create paths for student connections. The Wernick-Richman Lecture Series, new for the 2018–19 academic year, provides an opportunity for internationally recognized artists, curators, critics and design professionals from around the world to engage with students.




The Corcoran School is located in the heart of Washington, D.C., a global hub for policy makers, tech leaders, NGOs and cultural institutions. The IxD curriculum seeks to leverage our connections to nearby institutions to put students directly in touch and work with change makers.

Companies like IBM and Mass Mutual Insurance, institutions like NASA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, and startups such as Intuit Labs all employ design thinking approaches to create inspiration and innovation in their projects. Demand for skilled human-centered designers is strong across a range of industries and fields and is certain to grow. Graduates will be well positioned to pursue careers with the many companies looking for artists and designers to innovate around civic and equitable design.

A digital sign ringed by LED lights sits on a table

Students working in conference room at table with posters, computers and sticky notes


Students present early user research for a design collaboration exploring the potential for schools to serve as healthcare access locations with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.







The fossil, 2012


This instrument, originally called "The Egg," was designed by Assistant Professor Kevin Patton as part of his Digital Poplar Consort musical interfaces series. It exploits hand-held motions with an embedded accelerometer and four pressure sensitive fingertip controllers.

Musicians are challenged to engage the entire gestural range of the limb (from finger to shoulder) to release the sound making potential of the instrument. 



I SKY YOU, 2010

This recipient of a prestigious Rhizome Commission is an installation that sonifies the radiance of chemically synthesized light, completed by Assistant Professor Kevin Patton in collaboration with fellow assistant professor Maria del Carmen Montoya.

Clear glass forms containing a solution of luminol and a chemical reagent hang overhead. Drop by drop, the luminol is released into the reagent chamber creating bursts of brilliant blue light that fill the otherwise dark room. Small video cameras detect the light and activate a computer program that in turn produces unique resonant tones based on each flare of light and tuned to the acoustic character of each vessel. Visitors experience an imaginary sky blooming with color.



  • Design Process: You will be able to independently and collaboratively brainstorm and design interactive systems, objects, interfaces, services, user flows and multi-modal experiences. You will be able to develop your work through iterative prototyping.
  • Innovation: You will be able to synthesize skills in research, process, user responsiveness, systems analysis and entrepreneurial energy to create innovative and effective user experiences when working alone, with collaborators or contributing to the larger group effort.
  • Design Research: You will be able to independently and collaboratively undertake quantitative and qualitative user research as well as research into historical, theoretical and policy-based questions as a basis for design work. Additionally, you will be able to analyze designed systems and user flows in a variety of contexts.
  • Designing for complex systemic challenges: You will develop process techniques and skills to responsibly and respectfully engage communities and their histories in the process of developing design-based responses.

  • Address client, audience and user needs: You will understand and practice design as an active process of problem finding and solving that relies upon generating, developing and communicating ideas informed by and responsive to their context. You will demonstrate an understanding of your responsibility to clients, audiences and users — be able to articulate and clarify needs, structure design challenges, solve problems creatively and address conflict through the design process.
  • Evaluate the impact of design solutions: You will be able to approach design solutions with a focus on potential environmental and social impacts over their lifecycle as well as their capacity to contribute to equitable outcomes.
  • Professionalism: You will create persuasive presentation of work and be able to evaluate and defend design decisions and support arguments with research and case studies.
  • Leadership: You will practice leadership for complex design challenges and change through effective communication, organizational understanding, design strategy and self-reflective approaches to working with and guiding the work of others.