What’s New in Interactive Media?

Here’s one of the most cutting-edge design fields in which to earn your degree.

Interactive media devices such as tablets and cell phonesBy Sarah Stevenson

It wasn’t long ago that interactive media primarily referred to video and computer game design or the development of web sites.

In a few short years, though, we’ve seen the rise of smart phones, tablet computers and other mobile devices that have brought interactive media not only to our fingertips but into our pockets.

Opinions vary on what the fastest-growing areas of interactive media design will be over the next year, but whether your focus is on the consumer experience, the marketing angle or the technical side, designers must pay special attention to mobile devices as a critical part of their overall creative strategy.

Interactive Media Goes Mobile

Despite uncertainty in the face of current technological innovation, there are a few areas that everyone seems to agree are on the rise:

  • Tablet apps for professionals and students, from medical exams on your tablet computer to textbooks on your Kindle or Nook
  • Interactive movie and music tie-ins with bonus content and games
  • Augmented reality apps such as GPS navigators and travel guides for your phone
  • Increasingly personalized marketing that ranges from interactive catalogs to holographic advertisements

Picking the Right Interactive Media Degree

It’s a challenge for educators to keep up, but interactive media degree programs are increasingly adding app-related curriculum to their already-existing courses on designing for games and the web. Choosing the right program involves a lot of research, but ultimately, you’ll want to pick a program that gives you a solid education in fundamental design topics, as well as providing courses in the area you plan to focus on, whether it’s game design or mobile apps. Here is a selection of common courses you’ll find in interactive media degree programs:

  • Design Fundamentals
  • Mobile Experience Design
  • Introduction to Game Development
  • Interactive Entertainment Design
  • Interactive Media Design for Training and Instruction
  • Web Site Development
  • Typography
  • Digital Imaging
  • Information Design
  • Business of Interactive Media

Where the Jobs Are

Last year, AIGA (American Institute for Graphic Arts, the main professional association for graphic designers) researched the five hottest cities for interactive media degree graduates looking for jobs in the field. Of course, where you search for work is going to depend heavily on your area of expertise in interactive media design.

  • If you design interactive media for entertainment, Los Angeles is the place to start looking. Both digital agencies and entertainment studios are good places to look.
  • Interactive designers with marketing experience will find job opportunities just about everywhere, but the San Francisco Bay Area, Portland, and New York are looking particularly good for those who want to work in advertising or e-commerce.
  • Mobile app designers are a hot commodity, of course, especially in the Bay Area, Seattle (home of tech firms like Microsoft and Amazon), and New York.

Sources: Aquent/AIGA; Mashable Tech; Tripwire Magazine; In the Crowds.

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