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Studying design for the next century

Brooke Boland

At JMC students learn to create digital user experiences that attract audiences and encourage them to share their experiences.
Studying design for the next century

User Experience (UX) is an approach to design that focuses on enhancing user satisfaction, improving its usability and accessibility and making products more engaging.

UX design uses technology to create an experience – but the focus is on the experience not the capacity of the technology.  Digital design students learn to build apps and design web sites but they think in terms of the user not the bells and whistles.

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At JMC Academy UX has become a core concept for students in the Digital Design Course, providing them with a mindset that goes beyond design into marketing, social media, psychology and system architecture.

JMC Academy lecturer Andrew Barnum said in focusing on UX, the Academy was establishing a pioneering approach to design education.  ‘We are in frontier territory. We aren’t in something where there’s any kind of “This is how it’s done”.’

Students turn to the examples where UX has enhanced both the cultural and the commercial space. The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Tasmania changed the way visitors experience art by eschewing traditional labels for an interactive mobile device. On arrival visitors are given “The O”, an iPod touch that is free to use and delivers information about the artwork in the gallery.

The device does not direct users, it responds to their interests, using an internal positioning system to locate the visitor in space and tell them about the work they are looking at. It also helps them remember and share their experiences through a function that emails the individual tour they have taken to keep as a memento.

Find out more about the Bachelor of Digital Design

Student opportunities

Digital Design students at JMC are using the same kind of smarts in their projects. They also work in collaboration with other disciplines to apply UX thinking to game design, music and animation.

One of the most exciting opportunities for students is applying this UX thinking to creating new technology-based and interactive experiences. In their final semester, some JMC students travel to Los Angeles to attend the LA Film School. They begin developing a project idea in their professional area which they are able to follow through over the next 12 weeks.

Lecturer Barnum said the approached yielded amazing creative work.  ‘I have a particular student at the moment who is actually proposing a theatre experience that is based on a very old play, but uses  texting in the theatre.’

The UX economy

Developing UX skills gave design students much broader skills from building audiences to responding to client briefs and developing commercial campaigns.  For example, they understand what makes the users want to participate in an experience or share it with others, valuable commodities in the digital economy.

 ‘There used to be clear boundaries between the artist and the audience but now that is becoming much more blurred, that’s where the experience is happening. The curation is coming from two sides.

‘I think the whole name of the game now is, “I’ve had an experience and I want to tell other people about it.”’

 ‘The generations that are now in the design schools are the examples of this new kind of consumer and maker at the same time. They are mashing, making, testing and trying. The key thing is that they are all learning to actually articulate an idea before they make it,’ said Barnum.

To find out more about studying Digital Design at JMC, visit http://www.jmcacademy.edu.au/courses/digital-design

About the author

Brooke Boland is a Melbourne-based freelance writer.

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