I’ve haven’t posted anything in quite a bit, and this has been rattling around in my head ever since May. I’ve always wanted to do a post on my experience with the Interactive Media Design (IMD) degree at the University of Washington’s Bothell campus. This degree was announced a couple of years ago as a degree that sought to merge the rigorous practices of Computer Science with the amorphous and ever expanding blob that is the media arts. The website boasts that graduates of the degree will be able to boast the following skills:
- Demonstrate a solid understanding of core theories and learn advanced concepts related to the analysis, design, development and implementation of interactive media projects.
- Use contemporary media design tools, technologies, processes and techniques.
- Create a variety of interactive media projects that demonstrate breadth and depth of knowledge.
- Focus on methods and approaches for effective team building and productivity.
- Establish specialized knowledge and skills in a student‐defined, media‐related specialty area.
- Experience intense team‐oriented projects that require working with faculty and media design specialists from a variety of disciplines.
- Gain a thorough understanding of quantitative and qualitative analysis techniques used throughout the media process.
- Develop a thorough understanding of technology infrastructure and systems required to support next‐generation media projects.
- Practice effective communication techniques – including documentation, project updates, formal presentations to a variety of audiences, and creation of an effective portfolio.
Pretty tall order for a new degree. Especially one that looks to create competent designers who can master both the arts and the sciences. I am a student under this new degree and It has been a full year since I switched over to the degree from Media and communication studies. From my experience so far with the degree there are very profound differences between Interactive Media Design and Media and Communications.
- 1 creative director responsible for maintaining the creative vision of the project and interactive with the stakeholder.
- 1 designer (Game, Interaction or something in between) who is responsible for working out how the product will work.
- 1 Narrative designer/director who is in charge of creating the narrative.
- 1 producer or project manager who is in charge of keeping everyone on track and making sure deadlines are met.
- 1 product manager who is responsible for the marketing aspects of the product.
This structure isn’t exactly rigid. The IMD program mostly focuses on creating applications that match the University’s wants and/or needs with some focus on entertainment applications like games. There was a project I worked on back in September of 2013 where I was put in charge of writing the script. the project was a Tox map that described…something. When the project started there was no data to product a narrative from, which made everyone’s job difficult as we were grasping for straws on how to even make one work. We eventually figured it out–just before the discovery that a toxmap that had very similar functionality to what we had spent weeks designing already existed! In the end I learned a lot about team work.
So How did it go?
First and foremost, Interactive Media Design has you not only learning how to create media software, it puts you within a studio environment with your fellow class mates where you have to create software and various other media within teams. How is this different from the Media and Communications degree? Well, they both have you in groups creating projects but with the IMD degree, Teamwork is absolutely required! Almost all classes have you separated into teams working on the assignments that you are given by the instructor. Most students, who were reared through the K-12 system, have probably been in situations where they’ve been in teams and have either ended up doing all of the work, or not being able to do any for some reason. The IMD degree doesn’t ask, it demands that you become a productive member of a team- but not at the get go! Now as stringent and strict as this sounds (especially the way that I’ve typed it), It’s actually a very good thing. When I first entered the degree, I was not a team player. I withheld information, I was silent, I tried to keep my work to myself only to submit it at the due date completed. In a traditional system, this works just fine, but with IMD, even if you do things this way, you still run the risk of not passing due to the peer reviews that you might get from your fellow class mates.
My peer reviews were beyond terrible due to my inability to be a good team mate. This changed as I went on with the degree though.If there is one saying that summarizes all of the projects that I have done as an IMD student it’s:
“From chaos to order.”
Every project that I have been on starts out as a near chaotic mess, I was unsure of what to do or how to act or what my position even meant. As the project carried on however, I started getting used to my role, and my team.
Is it Worth it?
The IMD program is extremely general, compared to say Digipen’s game design programs which are extremely specific. The theology behind the IMD program being so general though is that the graduates will have skills that can be applied to multiple disciplines. Though this theology is good, there isn’t enough yet to support it. Of the classes the students have to choose from it’s either experimental art forms or SQL databases and computer hardware. These things are changing though which is really good. To be fair these are good skills to have, but if I want to be say, a graphic designer, then learning the ins and outs of a computer, along with how to program an maintain a database wouldn’t interest me in the least. Vise versa if I’m into computer hardware and have to sit through a class where I have to animate something. Another challenge that it can have is that information is thrown at you in rapid succession- more rapid than you would normally have with education.
So how do I handle these challenges?
Well, as one of the 20 or so students that remain from the original 32, I’ve learned to utilize other sources in order to supplement my education and help guide me toward my goal. There’s also the Digital Future Lab, which offers internships to students sometimes that have them working on either games or interactive software! The nice thing about it is that it counts as experience that you can put on your LinkedIn or Resume to use when you apply for your first job! There’s also the various other projects I do that can help contribute to my resume.