As a field, user experience is still fairly young. Many UX designers and strategists practicing today, myself included, may have studied a related discipline, like informatics or visual design, and made the transition out of school or later in their career. But as companies and schools acknowledge that UX is here to stay—and is valuable as a discipline—they’re looking to the talent pipeline and seeking out ways to expose potential UX practitioners to the field earlier in their education.

Enter the Institute for Interactive Design Technology. This pioneering program, part of Bergen County Technical Schools and based in Bergen County, New Jersey, offers public high school students the ability to learn about and specialize in a wide range of digital skill sets, including graphic design, digital art, and website and social media design. The career and technical education track is in addition to their core high school curriculum and prospective applicants are accepted into the program through a rigorous admissions process. Students tackle a variety of topics through their classes including logo design, digital drawing, color theory and color perception, smartphone app design, virtual reality, and more. The Institute for Interactive Design was looking to add user experience to the mix, which is where I came in. At DOOR3, we’re always interested in fostering talent in interaction design and I was excited when the school approached me to consult on their new UX program.

Designing a UX Program

Having grown up in Bergen County myself, I jumped at the chance to give back to my community and help foster a love of UX. I served as part of an advisory board of UX design professionals, educators, and business leaders, helping to develop and advise on the curriculum and vision for the new concentration. The Institute for Interactive Design Technology’s program is one of the first of its kind for high school students, so we worked to build the curriculum from scratch and helped to hire an instructor with a background in graphic design and user experience.

The program launched in the 2020-21 school year and I was lucky enough to get to teach a class based on my work at DOOR3: UX and design considerations for mobile apps. DOOR3’s UX team also served as a partner for the program, providing real-world exposure and perspectives for the curriculum team and students. While the first year was a little unconventional, with a hybrid of virtual and in-person instruction, it went well, with students debuting a range of impressive final projects, including apps relating to topics ranging from language translation to healthy eating and lifestyle change, and pet adoption to cosmetics for everyone.

For my part, I was so grateful I could give back to my community and foster the next generation of UX leaders. The program speaks volumes to the growth, success, and value of user experience as a discipline. It was exciting to be part of an initiative that is bleeding edge in technical education and bring DOOR3’s UX expertise to the table. To learn more about the Institute for Interactive Design Technology be sure to visit their website and check out our site to see more about the pivotal role of UX at DOOR3.

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