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Answers to the most frequently asked questions.

The IxD Program

For the most frequent updates and news about the Interaction Design (IxD) program follow us on our social channels: Instagram, facebook and twitter. This website always has the latest application dates and deadlines.

Only two private universities in California offer a bachelor’s level degree in Interaction Design (also referred to as “User Experience Design”). The programs at these two universities cost around $160,000 – the four-year degree at SMC costs just over $10,000. Over 100 letters of support poured in to affirm the need for SMC’s degree from Los Angeles tech and entertainment companies including giants like Microsoft, Warner Brothers, Disney, Fox TV, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Amazon Web Services. SMC Board of Trustees Chair Rob Rader called SMC’s bachelor’s degree “a natural choice” for a college that sits in the heart of Silicon Beach and the LA entertainment industry.

Students take classes in the state-of-the-art facility, the Center for Media and Design (CMD). The CMD is newly remodeled and located in the center of Silicon Beach, which is home to 500 technology startups and companies including Google, Yahoo!, YouTube, Buzzfeed, Amazon.com, Apple, Inc., Netflix, Snapchat, Tinder and more. Learn more about the Center for Media and Design campus.

The IxD program consists of 2 years of upper-division IxD classes including 3 general education requirements (as seen on the homepage). The upper division curriculum requires a full-time commitment (12 or more units per semester), and must be taken in sequence.

However, you must apply and be admitted to the IxD program in order to enroll in the upper division IxD courses. Admission is not guaranteed. Candidates must have met the major preparation from lower division requirements and are selected based upon grades, a portfolio, and other supplemental materials. Read more about the admissions process and requirements in the ‘Admissions’ section of the FAQ (or check out how to apply page).

Interaction Design

The formal definition as defined by ixda.org is: “Interaction Design (IxD) defines the structure and behavior of interactive systems. Interaction Designers strive to create meaningful relationships between people and the products and services that they use, from computers to mobile devices to appliances and beyond.” 

With so many emerging innovations such as mobile apps, smartphones, medical devices, wearable technology, connected appliances, and self-driving cars, technology and design are converging like never before. A new breed of designer who understands the user and a user-centered approach is required. 

Designers must consider the following questions: 

  • What is the user’s experience and how do people interact with their devices? 
  • How do you design a system across a range of devices and contexts, knowing that this is often the first contact point for a business or service? 

ℹ️ - Here’s a great example of what an Interaction Designer does — Meet Noah, interaction designer for Google, and the design team at Amazon.

In “Silicon Beach,” Southern California, and state-wide there is overwhelming industry demand for highly trained people in User Experience (UX) and Interaction Design (IxD), and the profession is highly paid. The median salary for UX or IxD professionals in Southern California is $115,000, according to a 2014 salary survey by the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA). 

The need for a baccalaureate level degree in Interaction Design is evidenced by examination of labor market gap analyses and current job postings in the field. Area companies such as Activision, Capital Group, DIRECTV, Electronic Arts, Google, Snapchat, Sony Pictures, Symantec and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, to name a few, have all posted job opportunities for IxD/UX designers. 

Students completing a four-year degree program in Interaction Design may find positions as a designer, web designer, mobile designer, information architect, user experience designer and interaction designer. Experience pays while entry-level creatives are landing good jobs, the designer salary range for experienced professionals is higher, especially for roles requiring more technical skills. 

ℹ️ - Here’s a sampling of starting compensation from The Creative Group Salary Guide.


  • Graphic designer (1-3 years): $39,750–$56,750
  • Graphic designer (5+ years): $67,500–$93,000
  • Package designer: $59,500–$91,000
  • Visual designer: $66,000–$99,250
  • Front-end web developer (3+ years): $80,000–$119,500
  • Web designer (5+ years): $83,250–$118,000
  • Interaction designer (5+ years): $88,250–$124,500
  • UX designer (1–3 years): $52,000–$79,500
  • UX designer (5+ years): $92,750–$138,000

Source: How Magazine

Students who complete the bachelor's program in Interaction Design at Santa Monica College should expect to learn:

Technical skills

  • User Research: Conducting field research, usability studies, research synthesis, and data analysis
  • Interaction Design: Building flow, form design, micro-interactions, and transition animations
  • Prototyping: Experimenting and learning through paper, digital interfaces, and physical making.
  • Front-End Development: Coding valid HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and jQuery
  • Visual Design: Understanding the use of color, grid, layout, and typography
  • Mobile Integration: Creating consistent experiences through responsive layouts, touch interactions, and input techniques
  • Project Management: Incorporating iterative design, agile practices, and software development life cycles
  • Information Architecture: Planning experiences through site mapping, modelling, and wireframes

Soft skills

  • Design Thinking: Solving problems iteratively in a non-linear process by challenging assumptions, redefining problems, and testing prototypes.
  • Presenting: Sharing thoughts and design concepts with peers and stakeholders
  • Facilitating: Extracting design requirements and project direction from peers and stakeholders, while promoting a shared understanding
  • Critiquing: Receiving, giving, and training peers and stakeholders on constructive feedback
  • Storytelling: Communicating and affirming to peers and stakeholders how decisions were made, how principles were arrived at, and how the design will improve the lives of the users
  • Sketching: Communicating emerging design ideas quickly and exploring problem space with peers and stakeholders

Leadership: Providing vision, direction, and passion to peers and stakeholders.

Check out the student spotlights on the homepage to see some examples of student work.

ℹ️ - Every graduating cohort in the IxD program holds a senior showcase in June during their final semester. Student work will be on display. Follow our Instagram to get updates about the next showcase.

Admission

We encourage a broad range of educational backgrounds to apply to the program! We are looking for:

  • Students in junior standing (60 CSU transferable units) who meet the academic requirements.
  • Individuals who have earned a previous Bachelor’s degree.
  • International students.
  • Individuals who are graduates of a Graphic Design program (or related) and/or who possess work experience in design are eligible to apply to the IxD program.

Make sure to meet with an academic counselor to ensure you are eligible to apply!

Fall Admissions Priority Consideration Deadline:

January 15 of the same calendar year.

Fall Admissions Rolling Admissions Deadline:

May 15 of the same calendar year.

Applicants who submit before the Priority Consideration Deadline of January 15th, are likely to hear about their acceptance status earlier than those applicants who submit during the Rolling Admissions Deadline.

  1. Speak with an SMC IxD Counselor to see if the IxD Program might be right for you and establish your IxD Major Preparation plan.
  2. Enroll at SMC and set ‘Interaction Design’ as your intended major.
  3. Complete 60 lower division units of CSU transferable general education and IxD Major Preparation Requirements, which can be fulfilled by completing SMC’s Graphic Design Associate’s Degree with a User Experience Certification and IxD CSU General Education pattern or the IGETC for CSU.

    ℹ️ - Courses from a regionally accredited college or AP/IB/CLEP credit may be acceptable pending Counselor approval. If you’ve attended another college, be sure to meet with a Counselor to review your transcripts and create an education plan.
  4. Apply to the IxD Program. Once you’ve completed your Major Preparation, you must apply to enroll in the final 2 years of Interaction Design B.S. upper division courses. These upper division courses must be taken in sequence.

No. Only students admitted into the IxD program are allowed to enroll in the upper division courses that make up the IxD program.

We are looking for students in junior standing (60 CSU transferable units), or individuals who have earned a previous Bachelor’s degree.

During the Admissions Review Process, we review the following materials:

No, there is no application fee for students.

Currently, the IxD Bachelor’s program enrolls around 25 students per cohort.

New cohorts begin every Fall. Another cohort is added each Fall if enough people apply. We currently do not start cohorts in the Spring, but may in the future pending demand.

Portfolio

Your portfolio should consist of 3-5 projects. The portfolio should be a curated body of work that demonstrates your understanding and interest in design. The portfolio should be edited to highlight your best and most relevant design work. You can choose to include professional, class assignment and/or self-initiated works. Types of projects you can include are websites, apps, products, interaction design, user experience design, and print.

  1. Show the way you think about problems. Faculty wants to read about your thought and decision making process.
  2. Show your process. How did you go from problem or concept to solution? Show your brainstorms, research, sketches, user tests and photos to visualize your process.
  3. Tell a good story. Use language, visual hierarchy and design to make your portfolio engaging and easy to understand.

You can use this outline as inspiration or guidance. However, you’re highly encouraged to tell your story in your unique way. Focus on telling an engaging story of you and your projects, and don’t be afraid to just go for it and submit your portfolio!

Tuition and Financial Aid

For in state and out of state tuition information, please visit Santa Monica College’s tuition page. In state tuition for the four-year program (not including books and other expenses), would be about $10,000. The cost does not factor in federal and state financial aid awards.


For international student tuition information, please visit Santa Monica College’s international student tuition page.

While there is financial aid for the IxD program available, it is need based. Students will be considered based on information provided in their FAFSA application.

Please refer to Santa Monica College’s Financial Aid page for more information.

Curriculum

In order to be considered for admission, students must complete English 1, English 2, CSU GE Math and have 60 units completed by the end of the Spring semester. The suggested lower division courses for major preparation for the Bachelor’s in IxD follows the existing SMC Associates degree in Graphic Design with a concentration in User Experience.

For a complete listing of the suggested lower division courses, please sign up to speak to a counselor to receive more information. Meeting with a counselor will help you meet admission eligibility, general education, and graduation requirements for the Bachelor’s in IxD Program.

The baccalaureate curriculum builds upon the Associate level coursework and focuses on industry-identified areas including interaction design studio courses, product design, coding for web development, cognitive psychology, interactive storytelling, tangible interaction, an industry-sponsored senior studio, project management and portfolio preparation.

Please see the curriculum listing on ixd.smc.edu for more detailed information on the offered upper division courses.

Yes, our current Graphic Design Associate's degree program will continue to be offered as usual.

Alumni

Take a look at the industry page at ixd.smc.edu/industry-partners, to learn more about how IxD alumni can stay in touch and support the program.