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.
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.
…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.
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.