Michigan State University
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Experience Architecture
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Frequently Asked Questions about XA and the XA Major

1. What is XA? Is this a degree in architecture?

2. What jobs can I get with a degree in XA?

3. Why is this major in the College of Arts and Letters?

4. Who are some well-known XA professionals?

5. Who can I talk to about the degree?

6. Can I earn a second or additional major in XA and Professional Writing? or XA and Art/Art History/Design?

7. What is the history of XA? What does the future of the career look like?

8. Is there a study abroad for XA students?

9. What will skillsets will I obtain with an XA degree?

10. What type of projects will I work on?

 


 

1. What is XA? Is this a degree in architecture?

This video is a good place to begin: http://vimeo.com/52634329

An experience architect does not design buildings—she or he uses interdisciplnary methods to design information or artifacts to be used by people who want or need to access a variety of material at any given time on a variety of platforms and devices. The experience architect believes that information must be easily accessible, intuitively designed, and ethically constructed for people. We call that “creating a positive user experience,” which means an organization deliberately designs positive experiences for the people who use their products, which could range from a website with health care data and plans to accessing a bank statement with a mobile app.  

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2. What jobs can I get with a degree in XA?

The infographic is a useful place to begin: http://www.onwardsearch.com/career-center/ux-careers-guide/.  

The Experience Architecture major will provide you with versatile tools and skills in research and design to prepare you to lead teams, design information, and research the needs of different types of users throughout the world. Graduates of this program will work with many organizations—from software companies to nonprofits—to help each organization build positive user experiences for their clientele. You will receive cutting edge coursework in project management, web authoring, content management, user-experience research, interactive design, and much more, making you an expert at identifying and advocating for the needs of users and familiar with divergent software environments and platforms. Coursework is also centered around the idea of collaboration and teamwork as all of your classmates will have different strengths whether they be made up of engineers, designer, and information designers. 

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3. Why is this major in the College of Arts and Letters?

XA's home is in the Humanities because of our empathy for people. A variety of methods and philosophies exist for creating websites, apps, services, policies, and etc., but we believe in a people-centered approach that enables users of things like websites, apps or any other digital environment or service to interact in ways that creates positive and valuable experiences. Such an approach requires a strong foundation in understanding the contexts of people and societies. 

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4. Who are some well-known XA professionals?

There are many well-known XA professionals practicing in the field today. You can look up the work of Kim Goodwin, Jared Spool, Leah Buley, Peter Merholz, and many others. You might also look up the work being done at Conferences such as UX Week, SIGDOC, etc.

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5. Who can I talk to about the degree?

For general questions about the degree, please contact Director of the XA Major Dr. Liza Potts at lpotts@msu.edu.

You can also contact our advisor Laura Essig at essiglau@msu.edu.

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6. Can I earn a second or additional major in XA and Professional Writing? or XA and Art/Art History/Design?

In short, yes, you can. However, you should make sure to discuss this decision with our advisor, Laura Essig at essiglau@msu.edu. There are important differences between a secondary major and an additional major that you should understand.

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7. What is the history of XA? What does the future of the career look like?

In the newly expanded version of The Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman explains "...in the early 1990s, the group I headed at Apple called itself 'the User Experience Architect's Office...'" It is arguable that experience architecture has roots in Taylorism. Leah Buley claims "...Taylor's research into the efficiency of interactions between workers and their tools was an early precursor to much of what UX professionals think about today..." 

As products, services, and policies continue to evolve, so will XA. Peter Merholz, in part, explains why XA will continue to be a viable and emerging career. “User experience arises from the sum total of interactions with an organization’s products and services.” Studying and architecting positive, valuable experiences for people will likely continue to be a vital part of many organizations an institutions. 

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8. Is there a study abroad for XA students?

There is a study abroad for XA students through the Professional Writing program in the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures Department. For more information about study abroad opportunities visit the WRAC page: http://wrac.msu.edu/professional-writing/study-abroad/.

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9. What skillsets will I obtain with an XA degree?

Coursework will give you opportunities for gaining broadly applicable skillsets in experience design, usability, user experience research methods, and project management. Additionally, the major will expose you to a variety of new technologies.

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10. What type of projects will I work on?

You will be exposed to hands-on coursework that prepares you for the workplace. Additionally, your classes will introduce you to the theoretical understanding that will be useful and applicable to the practice of XA in any field.

One project that all XA students will complete through out their classes are Professional Portfolios, created and coded completely from scratch in Intro to Web Authoring and expanded and improved upon in Advanced Web Authoring. Not only are these extremely useful for students to showcase their skillsets and projects to future employers, but they are able to learn coding in things like CSS3 and HTML5 throughout the process. See our XA Alumni portfolios for examples.

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