I got this last month from Michel, a lovely student from Eindhoven:
“I am currently looking for an internship in HCI/ID, but I am suffering from a “typecasting”-effect. Many companies ask for “interaction designers” when they really mean “graphics designers” or “css monkeys”. The fact that I have a background in computer science just makes things worse by adding “programmer” to the list of stigmas. My interests lie in the more physical kinds of interaction, but it’s really hard to find the right positions for that. Do you have any advice as to how I might better find the right places? Any help would be greatly appreciated!”
This felt deeply familiar of course as when I graduated in 2006 and it was a problem even then (I ended up working as a visual designer / information architect for a year even if my portfolio of work was much more product-based).
I try to explain to people what an interaction designer is in the way that I understand it, and in the context of the business I built, it makes sense. But in isolation, it no longer means anything on the market. Physical computing is too embedded in academia and is starting to feel old. Bill Verplank had suggested Physical Interaction Design, but it sounds a little clunky. So should we be concerned by this? As per Michel’s email, i think so. Graduates become senior designers, strategists, creative directors, etc. rarely interaction designers.
Lack of terminology ultimately leads to lack of identity and the dilution of a field into the market, unnoticed. Something to think about for the start of the week :)