Why Interactive Design is the Best Field

I made the decision over 7 years ago that I was strictly ‘RGB’. What I mean by this was that despite my 4 years of print design training as an undergraduate, I was going to focus on web design. It proved to be good move because, aside from a slight bump in ’02 after the Dotcom Bubble burst, I’ve always had projects to work on.
What is it about interactive design that makes it so good?
Its Interactive
It’s right there in the name! Interactive design is not a one-way street. You click a button on a website and it responds. You type on your keyboard and click ‘Submit’ to update your site. You visit a film site and are immersed in a cinema-like experience. You can view content, create it, change it, download it, or send it on to a friend. As an interactive designer, you create the environments people will interact with. You decide how controlled or free the project is. It’s a lot of hard work and responsibility, but it’s also a lot of fun.
Open Source Community Love
This is an aspect of interactive design that truly sets itself apart from other industries. The fact that you have the ability to view code on other sites and learn hands-on from other people’s expertise is indispensable. This is particularly helpful when working out issues in XHTML and CSS.
When you’re designing and building your project, you’re never alone. If you hit a wall, either creatively or technically, you have forums and blogs where people just like you are dealing with the same issues, and most of the time there’s going to be people out there who know more than you and and can provide you with some direction or even post sample files to download.
valuable resources I’ve used:
Sitepoint – great for CSS, PHP/MySQL
Ultrashock – great Flash resource
AListApart – focused on web standards, HTML & CSS
Flashkit – all about Flash
StyleGala – CSS-focused portal
Prototype – Actionscript-licious
Do It Yourself
The final reason I’d like to mention on why interactive design is so great is best exemplified by Andy Rutledge in a recent article he wrote on his site. He concludes that CarMax.com is a poorly designed site. His next steps are:
a) explain why the site is poorly designed
b) redesign the homepage to reflect a better design and thus, communicate better.
This is why interactive designers should NEVER complain they don’t have anything in their portfolio worth showing. If you need portfolio pieces, make them up. Find a site that sucks and make it work! Have you always wanted to redo Craigslist? Then just do it. What are you waiting for? I’m not suggesting redesigning complete sites for free for companies that aren’t your clients, but focus on a key area – the homepage, the video player interface, the navigation bar. You decide what needs the most help.
From a career standpoint it’s important for potential employers to know that just because you’re not technically ‘working’ doesn’t mean you’re not working. Don’t make 6 months of unemployment a reason to be embarrassed. Make it a reason a employer didn’t find you sooner! You’d be surprised how much work you could get if you decided to send one of your drop-dead, amazing comps to the company in question.
This is also important for your growth as a designer. Just like your body, you mind needs exercise too. You ever go away on a 1 or 2 week vacation and sit back at your computer and have to thing for a second what those key commands were? So keep lifting those Photoshop weights. Keep running laps around the CSS track.
Enough reading. Go be interactive. Enjoy it.