The Importance of Life-long Learning - My Review of the Interaction Design Foundation


Making it in today’s Design world means being ready for anything. As new businesses continuously change they way we interact with products and services in our day-to-day lives, opportunities for designers have expanded far beyond the traditional discipline that was taught in the classroom 20, 10, or even five years ago. Even now, the curriculum in many universities can only scratch the surface in teaching the design skills required to keep up with an every changing and expanding design market. As the VP of Service Design at a Digital Learning Agency, I see this happening first hand as we expect Instructional Designers to become Learning Experience Designers, expanding beyond the traditional models to build a new approach that encompasses User Experience and Service Design. There is no question that a mindset of life-long learning has become an essential part of a designer’s success. 

I found one of my favorite design education sites, The Interaction Design Foundation, a few years ago when I was looking to brush up on some User Experience fundamentals during a career shift that came with my return to the U.S. after a seven-year stint in Italy. I had moved to Florence to study and work in design and had specifically chosen a country where I could immerse myself in a new culture and language. In my last few years there, I had learned Italian well enough to work in the language and spent most of my days in a mix of Italian and English as I designed for both local Italians and international English-speaking clientele. It was a wonderful, world-expanding experience, but in the context of that environment, I hadn’t realized just how much of my design vocabulary had been developed in Italian! When I returned to the U.S. in 2015, and found it challenging to “talk shop" as I wasn’t using familiar design vernacular for my audience (a problem, I have discovered in my consulting work, that persists in the industry even when moving from company to company, let alone country to county.) So, I turned to online courses to refresh fundamentals and to re-build my English design vocabulary.

I wanted access to a variety of material, and selected The Interaction Design Foundation for its mission to provide accessible Ivy League level design education online, affordable membership fee and instructor support.  I took three courses in Design Thinking, User Experience and Design Research and found the classes easy to follow, yet challenging enough to remain engaged. And most importantly, I trusted the text resources as they came from notable Design textbooks, so I knew I was learning fundamental vocabulary and not jargon. The site sends reminders as new course work becomes available that helps you stay on track, but allows learners to move at their own pace. Even when I fell behind schedule as I completed a cross-country move, the course was still available to me when I returned to finish. 

IDF offered what I needed at a pivotal point in my career. I often recommend the site to the Instructional Designers I work with to improve their UX skills, and to many industry professionals and students looking to build awareness around Design Thinking methods. The education provided at IDF is useful to any life-long learner who is looking for flexible courses to expand their knowledge in today’s constantly evolving design industry.