Becoming an Interaction Designer: Skills Needed & IxD Career Paths to Explore

The term interaction design was co-coined by Bill Moggridge, designer of the first laptop, and Bill Verplank, a designer with a concentration in human-computer interaction. But, what does it mean? And what does an interaction designer do, exactly? In this article, we’ll provide an overview of interaction design and the potential career paths those interested in this industry can take. 

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What is Interaction Design?

“Interaction Design (IxD) is the design of interactive products and services in which a designer’s focus goes beyond the item in development to include the way users will interact with it.”

– Interaction Design Foundation, Interaction Design

Interaction designers analyze every aspect of the user experience, looking at how the user interacts with the visual elements of a product as well as the functional elements. Interaction designers think about how people perceive the product, what need or desire it fulfills, what situations it will be used in, as well as the product’s limitations – employing various design skills to make something that will please the end user. 

“Interaction Design is the creation of a dialogue between a person and a product, system, or service. This dialogue is both physical and emotional in nature and is manifested in the interplay between form, function, and technology as experienced over time.”

– John Kolko, Author of Thoughts on Interaction Design (2011)

an image of a person taking a picture of a fallen leaf in the grass

The 5 Dimensions of IxD

  • 1D – Words/Texts
  • 2D – Visual Elements
  • 3D – Physical Space or Objects
  • 4D – Time
  • 5D – User Behavior


The 1st dimension of IxD looks at the words that are used on a website, mobile app or digital product. The words used in any element of the design can impact the user’s perception of the overall product. So, it’s important for designers to use concise language and tailor their tone to the intended audience.

Visual Elements

The dimension of visual elements includes non-written, graphic elements such as images, graphs, or typography. These elements are often used to support the written words or make a user interface design more visually appealing. 

Physical Space or Objects

The 3rd dimension involves the physical space or objects that the user will interact with when using the product. 


The 4th dimension, time, focuses on elements of the design that change periodically. This can include sound files, videos, gifs, or other animations. 

User Behavior

The last and perhaps most important dimension of IxD focuses on how the user interacts with the product. During the design process, interaction designers may employ usability testing to gauge user behavior and help create intuitive designs. 

a person taking a mobile phone image at a concert

2023 Job Outlook for Designers

While the world of tech is certainly going through an interesting time, there is good news! The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for digital designers, such as those who work in interaction design, are expected to grow in the coming years. 

“Overall employment of web developers and digital designers is projected to grow 23% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. About 21,800 openings for web developers and digital designers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.”

– The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Web Developers and Digital Designers

Skills Needed to Work in Interaction Design

Like many design careers, the educational requirements for interaction designers varies from company to company – with some requiring a bachelor’s degree and others requiring a high school diploma coupled with previous work experience. 

However, there are key skill sets that design professionals should hone. Those include:

  • User Research
  • User Experience Design
  • Design Strategy
  • Empathy
  • Coding
  • Wire-framing & Prototyping
  • Knowledge of basic design principles
  • Knowledge of Adobe Photoshop and the rest of the Adobe Creative Suite 
  • Critical Thinking & Information Analysis
  • Collaboration
    • and many more skills, depending on where you land in the industry. 

“It is easy to fail when designing an interactive experience. Designers fail when they do not know the audience, integrate the threads of content and context, welcome the public properly, or make clear what the experience is and what the audience’s role in it will be.”

– Edwin Schlossberg, American Designer 

Common Job Titles for Those Who Work in IxD

Those who work in IxD can take a variety of career paths. Here are some common job titles to look out for. 

  • Interaction Designer
  • UX Designer
  • UI Designer
  • Visual Designer
  • Digital Designer
  • User Researcher
  • Product Researcher

Online Resources to Sharpen IxD Technical Skills

Interaction Design Foundation

Interaction Design Foundation offers a variety of self-paced certificate courses in user experience, journey mapping, and more! 

Interaction Design Specialization – UC San Diego

On Coursera’s platform for MOOCs, the University of California San Diego offers an IxD specialization that helps students hone skills in storyboarding, Heuristic evaluation, paper prototyping, R programming, A/B testing, and user experience design.

Web Developer has a host of articles and tools geared toward developers and designers. Want to sharpen your CSS skills or learn more about coding animations? This site will certainly come in handy.