Schooled: Emily Carr University of Art and Design

One of Canada’s most renowned art schools, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design touts an interaction design program that aligns with the industry, challenging students to find innovative, real-world design solutions.

Founded as the Vancouver School of Art in 1925, ECU moved to Granville Island in Vancouver, BC, in 1980. In 2006, the school opened the 10,000-square-foot, $5 million Intersections Digital Studio, a state-of-the-art modular building fully outfitted with projectors, displays and sound equipment.

The Details

Emily Carr University of Art and Design

  • Program type: bachelor of design in interaction design
  • Duration: 4 years
  • Program cost: CA$1,899.45 for 15 credit hours per term for domestic students. CA$6,113.70 for 15 credit hours per term for international students. Application, materials, graduation and other fees apply.
  • Admissions: Prospective students must submit an application, official transcripts, a digital portfolio and a questionnaire. Portfolio and application fees total $50.
  • Online learning options: none

The interaction design program is fairly new, as well—launched two years ago, its multidisciplinary curriculum is built on years of design education. The current curriculum focuses on user experience, information architecture and visual communication.

“The interaction design program differentiates itself from other schools by focusing on creating effective experiences with post-artifact outcomes,” says Bonne Zabolotney, dean of design and dynamic media. “Students are encouraged to imagine design as a tool for changing behavior and an agent for social innovation.”

The ECU program merges usability and functional design with behavioral psychological concepts, emotional design methods and business model creation. The students learn to build prototypes using standard tools and technology, testing and presenting their concepts. One such example is Vanessa Whiteley’s Qora smart glove, designed to assist stroke survivors with memory retention and to the ease the burden of asking and answering repeated questions.

“Our program is unique in how it allows its students to discover their blend of conceptual thinking and craftsmanship,” Zabolotney says. “The program’s mission is to train future interaction designers with a unique mixture of core skills that help them become the most impactful, useful and in-demand.”

ECU welcomes international students, boasting a multicultural student body of with 1,828 people representing 50 countries.

Program highlights

ECU’s interaction design major is multidisciplinary, four-year design program with a strong emphasis on studio work and student projects. Students learn about data visualization and service design, as well as how to design for emerging areas of technology, like mobile applications, tangible interfaces and ubiquitous computing.

Emily Carr University student Kay Wong

Noteworthy faculty

Haig Armen is an assistant professor and the founder and creative director of LiFT studios, an interaction design boutique agency in Vancouver, BC. He has also been honored with a handful of international awards, including a number of Webby Awards and the Art Director Club Gold Medal.

Noteworthy alumni

Emily Carr University’s alumni include artists in all mediums: Filmmaker Bruce Dowad has directed commercials for Nintendo, Ford and Chevrolet. Designer Kelly Deck is the director of her own full-service interior design firm specializing in private residences. Visual artist Brian Jungen is the first living Native American artist to exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Author Douglas Coupland wrote the bestseller Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. 

Schooled is a series of profiles of accredited higher-education programs for interactive design. See our full list of interaction design programs here. 

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