What is an Interactive Media Degree?

Interactive media is digital media that interacts with the customer or user. It is communication in which the user’s inputs drive the computer program’s outputs. In less technical terms, it is another way to process and share information and to communicate with one another. It allows us to be active participants in the media we consume.

Putting on a virtual reality headset; opening an application or ‘app’ on your smartphone; visiting a website that uses video, animation, or sound to captivate your senses; playing a video game; participating in situational demonstrations in a training video – each of these media experiences is interactive.

User experience (UX) is the overall experience a user has with a company’s products or services. User interface (UI) design is focused on the look and layout – how each element of the product will look, including buttons, texts, images, and any interface elements with which people interact.

Degree programs in interactive media provide students with the knowledge and skills to work in UX and UI design, project management, and communications roles in a diverse range of industries.

Program Options

Associate Degree in Interactive Media – Two Year Duration
At the associate level, programs in interactive media are often offered in conjunction with web design. The typical curriculum brings together basic aspects of interactive media design (IMD) that feature audio, video, still images, animation, text, and data.

Graduates come away from their studies with the knowledge and skills required to work in assistant roles in multimedia production. The majority of associate programs incorporate some general education courses in areas such as English composition, mathematics, general science, and social science.

Bachelor’s Degree in Interactive Media – Four Year Duration
Bachelor’s degree programs in interactive media prepare students to create the user experience (UX) / user interface (UI), from touchscreen applications and websites to motion design and video. Bachelor’s grads are equipped to take on roles that involve all aspects of digital media, from concept to pre-production, production, and post-production.

Despite the difference described above, both of these undergraduate programs are built around courses like the following:

  • Communication Foundations: Media, Art, and Design – the purpose of communication, communicating effectively and professionally, improving communication to meet audience needs, and communication techniques for interpersonal relationships, teamwork, public speaking, and intercultural environments
  • Fundamental Communication Skills – practice in developing the correct conventions of writing; examination of the most common grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure difficulties; skills for revising, editing, and correcting written work
  • Design and Conceptual Process – typography, digital color, composition, imagery, and ideation; the social, emotive, and symbolic aspects of color; the fundamental design principles including rhythm, balance, scale, texture, patterns, framing, hierarchy, and grids; imagining new applications for web and integrated media technologies
  • Web Design – how to use HTML (hypertext markup language) and CSS (cascading style sheets) to create intuitive website interfaces, web publishing using FTP (file transfer protocol) software to connect to a web host
  • Digital Illustration and Imaging – using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to create layouts, graphics, images, and illustrative elements for design and media, including website, apps, video production, motion graphics, and animations
  • Photography for Integrated Media – the basic principles of manual photography in a digital environment; basic editing and digital manipulation for web and digital media-based content
  • Web Technologies – overview of the skills needed to become a front-end web designer and developer; topics include web design, web host management, project workflow, and version control (tracking and managing changes software code)
  • Video and Audio Production – producing video and audio assets for interactive and web design projects; videography concepts, pre-production, and basic video and audio editing skills using Adobe Premiere for video editing and Adobe Audition for audio editing
  • Interactive Design and Animation – heightening the User Experience (UX) by adding interactivity and animation to static web content
  • Coding for Design – introduction to the JavaScript programming language and how it can enhance the design and presentation of web pages
  • Infographics – advanced animation techniques to increase interactivity – the communication process that takes place between humans and computer software
  • Design Studio – the creative processes required to develop an individual design aesthetic; the relationship between image and text and the use of metaphor in visual communications
  • Motion Graphics – introduction to the concepts of motion graphics and the basics of 3D elements and environments using Adobe After Effects; creating content using imagery, video footage, and animation sequences; using typography, color, depth, and compositing to create motion graphics for various screen sizes
  • Interactive Media – introduction to the creation of virtual environments found in some galleries or at special event venues; developing interactive spaces using projectors, standard and touchscreen monitors, gesture-controllers, and other devices
  • Collaborative Projects – real-world projects with an industry partner or partners
  • Field Placement – application of skills and hands-on practical experience in a working environment

Master’s Degree in Interactive Media – One Year Duration
Master’s programs in interactive media prepare students to be leaders in the field, to think strategically across media platforms, plan and create media content, and manage information in a digital age. Classroom learning, team projects, and individual capstone projects are all components of the typical curriculum. Some programs also offer professional apprenticeships.

Master’s level interactive media programs are comprised of advanced courses in areas such as these:

  • Media Law and Ethics
  • Media Writing
  • Theory and Audience Analysis in an Interactive Age
  • Interactive Writing and Design
  • Producing Interactive Media Design
  • Visual Aesthetics
  • Digital Media Production
  • Intellectual Property Law
  • Multimedia Storytelling
  • Virtual Environments
  • Interactive Media Design for Training and Instruction
  • Interactive Media Management and Economics
  • Application (App) Development
  • Special Topics in Interactivity
  • SEO, Analytics, and Social Media
  • Digital Brand Communications
  • Game Design and Development
  • Contemporary Media Issues

Degrees Similar to Interactive Media

Animators are artists. Their art is producing images or ‘frames’ that when combined in sequence create an illusion of movement called ‘animation.’ Degree programs in the field teach students how to use animation software and hardware to create characters and stories for the motion picture, television, and video game industries.

Typical components of the curriculum include two-dimensional and three-dimensional art and animation, storyboarding, life/human and background drawing, layout, and digital painting.

Computer Graphics
This degree field teaches students how to develop graphics software. Coursework includes drawing, graphic design, digital modeling, multimedia applications, and software engineering.

Computer Science
The field of computer science is focused on computer systems and how humans interact with them. Courses cover mathematics for computer science, artificial intelligence, data structures and algorithms, and introduction to program design.

Desktop and Web Publishing
Programs in desktop and web publishing teach the design and layout of printed and digital documents. Coursework includes web design, multimedia design, writing, and editing.

Game Design
Degree programs in game design teach students how to create, develop, and produce video and computer games. Foundations of a game design curriculum typically include game theory and history, pre-production and production techniques, storytelling, graphics, animation, digital music and sound, and programming.

Graphic Design
The goal of graphic design is to produce visual concepts to communicate messages. The discipline uses layout, color, and other creative concepts to design logos and branding packages that inspire and captivate consumers.

Illustration degree programs teach students how to tell stories and communicate ideas visually. They cover traditional manual drawing, digital art technologies, and art and illustration history. Some programs may include painting classes or offer concentrations in a specific kind of illustration, such as book illustration, fashion illustration, exhibit drawing, animation and cartoon drawing, and medical illustration.

Multimedia Arts
This degree program involves creating images and content using the latest design techniques and technology. Animation, audio, interactivity, still images, text, and video are examples of multimedia arts. The core curriculum consists of courses in 3D digital art, animation, design concepts, interactive design, storytelling, and writing for media.

Photography degree programs teach the technical, creative, and business skills required to be a professional photographer. Courses cover the history of photography, black-and-white photography, color photography, lighting techniques, materials and processes, two-dimensional design, digital photography, and photography as a business.

Web Design
Degree programs in this field teach the principles and practices of web design and the communication, collaboration, and project planning and execution skills demanded by employers and clients.

Skills You’ll Learn

While earning their degree, students of interactive media gain skills that are valued in the world at large. They learn to:

  • be imaginative and creative and to appreciate creativity, art, and design
  • be storytellers
  • develop spatial reasoning
  • look at the world through many different lenses
  • develop and express their own style
  • understand that everyone has a different viewpoint
  • observe, think critically, and pay attention to details
  • look for ways to improve their work
  • accept and use criticism
  • be courageous in proposing sometimes bold and daring ideas
  • communicate and work in teams
  • interpret data concerning consumer psychology and behavior
  • use creative / graphics software
  • be organized project managers, able to work to deadlines
  • be persistent, yet adaptable
  • use computers, printers, scanners, and other technologies

What Can You Do with an Interactive Media Degree?

Graduates of this discipline work in a wide variety of fields which use interactive media to engage and connect with people and organizations.

Potential places of employment include:

  • Advertising agencies
  • Corporate in-house departments such as training and development, communications, marketing, and sales
  • Digital agencies and entertainment studios
  • E-commerce
  • Educational institutions
  • Game studios
  • Government departments and agencies
  • Interactive and motion design studios
  • Media and publishing companies
  • Mobile app designers
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Self-employment
  • Software design firms
  • Tech firms such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon
  • Web and graphic design studios
  • Web studios

Potential titles include:

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