Demystifying Interaction Design

Devin Ross
Feb 22 · 3 min read
Image for post
Image for post

In my UX/UI design program, we started off by learning about all the different subsets of design that we could eventually work in. Our instructors walked up through a list of design roles and responsibilities separated by whether they fell under the UX umbrella, the UI umbrella, or a solid combination of both.

Most of the different roles and their distinct responsibilities made sense to me. They seemed split into roles surrounding strategy, research, creation of the design itself, etc. These roles and their processes/practices were clear enough.

But once we started talking about interaction design (or IxD), the distinction became a bit fuzzier. We learned that it fell under the UX umbrella, but it was a more specific subset than UX as a whole. IxD can very easily sound almost identical to UX. They both shape the entire experience of someone using or interacting with a product. Both roles often take part in the same research processes and work within the same teams. It doesn’t help that many people and employers use the terms interchageably.

Image for post
Image for post
Image by Dan Saffer

The visual is a bit intense, but it grasps the idea behind IxD vs UX. Ever heard of the whole “every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square” thing? That’s how I now like to think about IxD and UX. IxD is 100% UX, but UX is not 100% IxD.

That whole paragraph sounds a little crazy, so instead I’m going to outline quickly what I now understand Ixd is — along with what I known it is not.

Interaction design is…

…the design of the interaction between the users and the product/service.

…design that involves words, time, aesthetics, motion, sound, space, etc.

Image for post
Image for post
Interaction Design Foundation

…often used synonymously with UX, and has many overlaps with UX.

…many times takes into account things like ergonomics and physiological aspects of interacting with a product

Interaction design is not

…usually a separate role, unless at a large organization like Google or Apple. It tends to be combined with a UX design role.

…entirely the same as UX. It is usually considered a subset of UX but as explained here, there are marked differences between the two.

Image for post
Image for post
One more extensive graphic!

If you’re interested in learning more about IxD and how it stands apart from similar UX roles, I’d look here, here, or here. There is a ton of material out there and so much more to learn about this field, as well as many online certification and education courses to learn more.

Devin Ross

Written by

Reader, writer, designer, singer, animal lover.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +775K people. Follow to join our community.

Devin Ross

Written by

Reader, writer, designer, singer, animal lover.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +775K people. Follow to join our community.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store