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Department Of Design

Design Evolution: New Design Program Focuses on Meeting the Needs of an Ever-Changing Field

New Product & User Experience Design Program Offers a Multifaceted Learning Experience to Aspiring Designers

Interface of "Villi" an App Designed by Holland Seamons
Photo by Holland Seamons

With the increase of hybrid physical and digital designs in the world of product design, professors and faculty of the BYU Department of Design sought to increase the chances of success for design students as they go forth to serve. Beginning in the fall semester of 2023, the Department of Design introduced a new major to help students prepare to enter the ever growing and evolving product design field. The Product & User Experience Design program is a multifaceted learning experience that teaches students to design both physical and digital products.

The new program takes the strictly physical teachings of the previous industrial design program and combines it with digital skill sets learned through user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design. Associate Professor Richard Fry said, “The students who will move forward in this hybrid program will get a lot more digital experience that they did not have in the industrial design program. There is a whole new suite of programs and a new target.”

“If you look at physical design, we are designing cartop carriers, backpacks and desktop computers. On the other hand, with digital design there are apps, web pages and user experiences in the digital space,” said Fry. The program’s hybrid approach opens doors for design students, allowing them to look beyond simply digital or physical design. From the media displays found inside cars to multimedia experiences in museums, these mediums come together in a variety of ways.

"Villi" Design Elements
Photo by Holland Seamons

Holland Seamons, a senior design student with an emphasis in user experience design, had the opportunity to TA for the program’s introductory class during the fall 2023 semester. “I was so excited to watch this new blend of physical and digital curriculum shape these upcoming students into spatially and accessibility-aware designers,” she said. “The intro class is all about end-to-end thinking—from when a user picks up a product to when they finish the task. Because the students delved so deeply into a specific product space and problem, the skills and insights they gained will seamlessly translate across every medium they encounter.”

The program’s focus on exposing students to new ideas, mediums and approaches creates a unique place for students to experiment within design. “I was challenged to think bigger and embrace the process, and because of that I feel like I am graduating as a lifelong learner of creativity and design,” Seamons said. Following graduation, she will begin working for Nike as a digital product designer.

Fry noted that an element of digital product design has existed within the field for many years. By creating a new program, the department created a unique opportunity for students. “There are so many experiences that have always been there, but students have never really had the opportunity to tackle both physical and digital design,” he said. “Through the new program, students will still have those opportunities to be physical or digital and they will also have more opportunities to expand their scope into a hybrid space.”