s we begin the second year of Loop, we are devoting the fourth issue to descriptions of actual projects carried out in a diverse range of education programs. Our intention is to create a snapshot of the current state of teaching in interactive media, inviting faculty and graduate students to submit their best work from the past two years.
As we looked over the entries, we were reminded how difficult it is for instructors and students to fairly represent the thought and effort that goes into interaction design projects. As teachers of interactive media, we are well aware how difficult it can be to create stand-alone, prototype presentations that can truly stand on their own.
Most of the projects represented here are conceptually and technically complex. In our classes, we often require individual students or teams of students to formally present their work—from initial stages to final prototypes. These presentations allow students to clearly articulate their understanding of users and to relate design concepts to particular usage situations. Capturing these aspects of a design in a buggy and often incomplete prototype is a very hard thing to do. We ask our readers to consider these obstacles while viewing the projects in this issue.
We have attempted to optimally present each project by including a written description, screen shots and working prototype wherever possible. Only a small number of entries are completely finished projects. We have been forced to make compromises that will make viewing prototypes difficult for some readers. While many of the prototypes contained in Loop Number 4 play directly from the website, some exist in forms that are limited to particular computer platforms and configurations. In these cases, technical limitations on playing files are clearly stated in captions accompanying download links.
We received a handful of entries that consisted entirely of non-interactive, stand-alone animation. This compelled us to consider what relationship animation has with interaction and interface design. While we do consider digital animation as being a part of what has come to be known as “new media,” pure animation projects do not address the fundamental questions of interaction design which are the main focus of Loop. Still, we acknowledge the close relationship that kinetic and time-based imaging has with this focus. We elected to include the work of University of Illinois at Chicago student, Agatha Wilkowska, an animation that we felt demonstrated a particularly excellent integration of narrative, moving image and technology. We look forward to featuring more of these types of projects in future issues of Loop.
In our original call for entries, we tried to convey an emphasis on submissions from educators and graduate students rather than undergraduate students. We believed that articulated course work and project descriptions would be as valuable as the projects themselves. But it seems we were not as clear as we should have been, because we received a number of entries directly from undergraduates, many unaccompanied by project descriptions. We also received far fewer entries from educators than expected. Of the graduate student work we received, only two were from outside the U.S.
Although we considered all entries, we felt we could not accept those submitted directly from undergraduates. Others were ruled out due to insufficient documentation or excessive file size.
Despite these difficulties, we were pleased to receive a number of very well documented project descriptions from both faculty and graduate students. We have included a broad range of work, from small, one or two-week assignments to larger efforts that took many weeks, and in some cases required teams of students to plan and produce.
In the end, we believe we have assembled projects reflecting a reasonable representation of the many programs in interaction design education today—but not all. Not represented are a number of programs of interaction and human-computer interface design, both in U.S. and internationally, that we hope will be submitted to the next Annual of Student Projects.
The projects presented in this special issue of Loop are not intended to replace the more extensive “teaching interaction” case studies Loop has featured in the past. They are instead “project miniatures,” providing a glimpse into the structure and content of a broad range of teaching situations. One project, in fact, will make the transition to a longer article. We have invited Marc Rettig of Illinois Institute of Technology to report more fully on his course that produced Robert Zolna’s project, “Look Space.” We openly invite interested faculty to submit extended teaching case studies proposals to Loop at any time.
Finally, we should mention that the selections for this issue reflect solely the judgment of the journal’s editors. We did not intend to make submissions to Loop Number 4 a competition. We chose works based on the diversity, completeness and quality of their concept. The decisions of the editors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AIGA.
We hope you enjoy this first collection of projects, and we invite your feedback.