Professor Grinfeder works with student in the XR Lab.

Featured Major: Interactive Media

Professor Grinfeder works with students in the XR Lab.
By UM Undergraduate Admission

Professor Grinfeder works with students in the XR Lab.

Featured Major: Interactive Media

By UM Undergraduate Admission
This month's featured major comes from the School of Communication. The Interactive Media program prepares students to research, prototype, design, and build products in business, social, academic, and cultural contexts.

The Department of Interactive Media focuses on digital product design, emphasizing ethics and a well-rounded understanding of how technology impacts our society. Students are encouraged to be curious and imaginative, think out of the box, and experiment with innovative solutions to human problems.

Emilie Duran (she/they), Class of 2022, Interactive Media major from Pembroke Pines, FL

Why did you choose this major?

I was looking for a program where I’d get to be creative, but still stay in a STEM field. Once I found interactive media, I realized it was the perfect mix of everything I didn’t know I would love. 

Did you know that you wanted to study this before you got to UM? If not, how did you discover it? 

I actually came to UM for biomedical engineering. In my sophomore year, I spoke with my advisor about wanting to do something more creative, as well as coding, and he suggested I try interactive media. I switched my major shortly after. 

What’s been your favorite class for this major? 

Front-End Fundamentals has been my favorite class so far. I accomplished so much over the semester: I built a few websites and started creating my portfolio. I even find that I am applying some of the same skills in my game development work! 

What is it about this major that is exciting to you? 

The opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of! Two years ago, Professor Clay Ewing introduced me to the New Experience Research & Design Lab (NERDLab). I started working there as a game designer, building my portfolio and getting access to new indie games and extended reality (XR)/virtual reality (VR) advancements. It also allowed me to code a lot more than I ever would’ve imagined, which has helped me tremendously. I’m even working with a professor on an XR proposal. Sometimes I have to take a step back and reflect on how cool the things I get to work on are and how I’m in such an exciting time in my life. 

What are you planning to do once you have completed your studies? 

I’m hoping to go into the game industry as a designer and developer, then design school in a few years. I’d love to work for a worker co-op studio, or maybe start my own.

 

Max Zussman (he/him), Class of 2021, Interactive Media major from Stamford, CT

Why did you choose this major? 

I chose this major because it combined my interests in design, technology, and psychology into one amazing curriculum. The interactive media program truly helped prepare me for a career in product design and UX/UI design, two careers I did not know much about. It is a place to push creative boundaries. 

Did you know that you wanted to study this before you got to UM? If not, how did you discover it?

I had no idea that the interactive media program even existed when I applied! I was originally a philosophy major with no clear vision of what I would be doing with my degree. During my sophomore year, I took Introduction to Data Visualization and Infographics on a whim; that completely changed the trajectory of my academic career. The course, taught by my all-time favorite UM professor, Alberto Cairo, was fascinating. It posed such an interesting question: How do you properly display data while making it exciting? This question is meant for problem solvers and creative thinkers, a common theme throughout the interactive media curriculum. That course opened the door to the rest of the interactive media courses and the UX/UI and data visualization fields. 

What was your favorite class for this major?

Besides Introduction to Data Visualization and Infographics, there were a couple other standouts. Web Lab taught me the basics of HTML and CSS and I was even able to create a website centered around my love of music. Interaction Design I taught me the fundamentals of mobile design and how to think when designing for an app. Human-Computer Interaction boosted my knowledge of UX/UI while Physical Computing has allowed me to be hands-on, combining coding with build kits (and 3D printing!). 

What is it about this major that excited you? 

The courses are incredibly unique. Because there are three separate paths students can take—UX/UI, data visualization, and game design—I had the flexibility to really pursue my passions. Importantly though, you are required to take courses in each discipline, which helped me really figure out my interests. 

What have you been up to since you graduated? 

I started full time as an associate product manager for Condé Nast, which is the parent company to some iconic media names like Vogue, GQ, The New Yorker, and Bon Appétit. I am currently working on launching Condé Nast’s very first Design System Storefront as well as Wired en Español. It has been a welcome start to my career. 

Knowing what you now know, if you could give your high school self one piece of advice before applying to UMiami, what would it be? 

It would be to build better relationships with some of my professors. Since starting my career, I have really learned the importance of having a mentor on a professional level. A lot of my professors probably could have been more beneficial to my career and personal growth had I connected with them outside of the classroom and/or kept up those ties. Don’t be afraid to reach out to professors who have been in the industry to pick their brains; they will gladly share what they know as long as you ask!

Professor Lorena Lopez, 3 years at UM

What will I be learning with this major? 

Our program is a melting pot of the latest design and research trends and emerging technologies. The major prepares students to design digital products in all forms. Students can learn things from interface design, human-computer interaction, mobile-app design, and data visualization to game design, wearables, VR/AR, and other emerging technologies. It’s a cross-disciplinary major, where students can combine their interests in design, technology, visual arts, immersive media, and research and gain a unique perspective on not only how digital products and services impact humans, but also how they can be designed to have a positive impact on the world. 

What makes this major unique?

The focus on the intersection between technology, design, and human behavior. The degree provides an ideal technical, critical, and conceptual foundation for students who want to pursue fields that comprehensively blend technology and the arts. Giving our students a chance to explore so many avenues of research and creative expression within their interests is truly unique. 

What are the key characteristics you look for in a student? 

A desire to shape the world through innovation and design. We want students who are excited by new technologies and understand how to design for impact. The applications for what we do are endless and go beyond the apps on your phone or the websites on your screen. We want students who will use what they learn here to push for positive social, environmental, and economic change. 

What kind of research/hands-on learning can you do with this major? 

The majority of our classes are project based and involve hands-on learning. Students can easily get involved with faculty-led research projects exploring different aspects of the human-computer relationship. From interdisciplinary projects with schools across the University to partnering with local nonprofit organizations to game jams and festivals, students who want to go above and beyond in their learning and get deep into the research or design process have those opportunities. 

What are the career opportunities for this major? 

The beautiful thing about our major is that it is applicable in so many different fields of work. We’ve had graduates set off ready for various jobs titles, including product designers, design researchers, interaction designers, UX designers, UX researchers, digital communications experts, web developers, and many others. But their roles go far beyond the tech industry, as our alumni can be found working in large corporations, running their own agencies, in news organizations, academia, nonprofits, healthcare, museums, government agencies, all creating a wide range of products, services, and experiences in a myriad of industries. 

What excites you as a professor in this major? 

Every class I teach, I ask my students what they think is missing in the world. It can be something as small as an application to help you pick your outfit for the day or as large as designing new voting ballots for major elections. Regardless, every student has a different idea in their head, and with that comes the potential to be a creator and an innovator. For me, guiding my students through that design process of shaping their idea from concept to prototype to product is an amazing feeling. I’m helping prepare a new generation of innovators and leaders in the field of interaction design, and that’s pretty exciting.

Learn more about the Interactive Media program and other exciting opportunities at the School of Communication.