An inside look at BYU’s new Product and User Experience Design major

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Product and User Experience Design students work on physical products in the workshop. The new program combines physical and digital elements of user experience. (Katelyn Dayley)

BYU’s industrial design major is giving way to the new Product and User Experience Design program which allows students to combine physical and digital aspects of design.

“The fact of the matter is … probably at least 25-50% of the … former industrial design students end up doing UX products within five years of graduating anyway,” Seth Christensen said.

Christensen has taught design classes at BYU for the last two years and plans to teach the introductory course for the new Product and User Experience Design program this fall.

Design sketches illustrate a hand-held kitchen mixer. Product and User Experience Design students focus on both physical and digital aspects of product design. (Katelyn Dayley)

Katelyn Dayley, a sophomore from Maricopa, Arizona, was part of the program’s premier semester in Fall 2023. Dayley described the new program as a mix of art, business and experience design.

“I always thought I wanted to do marketing or graphic design and then UX design seemed to fit right in as a good blend of both,” Dayley said. 

Dayley said she often gets questions about what exactly product and user experience means and what the major entails, so she has a succinct answer on hand.

“It’s the study of how people interact with products, whether digital or physical, to understand how we can improve them, make them more accessible, more enjoyable to use and better meet the needs of the user,” Dayley said. 

Christensen explained that BYU’s Product and User Experience Design program differs from other design programs, which are mainly physically oriented with only a few digital classes.

“There’s no other major that I’ve encountered that truly gives half of their focus on digital and half of their focus on physical,” Christensen said.

According to Dayley, students spend class time creating mockups of apps and products. One of her recent projects was creating a blood pressure monitor that is easier and more intuitive to use.

“I like being able to see and use the things that I make and design. … It’s really satisfying to see your work come to life,” Dayley said. “I just find joy in making things easier to use.”

Polyurethan prototypes for a utility knife design. Product and user experience design students work to make products more accessible and easier to use. (Jackie Durfey)

Christensen said the new program is limited enrollment, accepting 20-30 students each year. Dayley encouraged interested students to enroll in the introductory course early on, speculating that it will fill up quickly.

“It feels like it is (competitive) and I’m grateful for that, it helps me want to do my best in the class,” Dayley said.

She also mentioned the smaller class size allows for one-on-one help from professors and close friendships with peers.

According to BYU’s undergraduate catalog, students have to submit a portfolio to gain pre-major status, then take the introductory course and submit another portfolio to be officially admitted into the program. 

Going through multiple application steps is one of the more difficult aspects of the program, according to Dayley.

“Forming really good friendships and knowing there’s a possibility that we might not all continue through the track together can be a little stressful,” Dayley said.

Current seniors in the previous design major and related programs showcased their final projects in April in the Harold B. Lee Library. These projects were all digital, rather than both digital and physical like they will be in the new program. 

Camille Alvarado, a senior from Peru studying computer science, became interested in user experience design through a class in the CS program. She teamed up with other students to create EasySpeak, a software that uses AI to assist people with severe speech-related disabilities in communication. Using eye gaze software, they aim to increase communication speed for individuals by 80%.

A BYU student explains her work on a digital product. Digital work will be combined with physical products in the new Product and User Experience Design program. (Jackie Durfey)

This new program is moving from the College of Engineering to the College of Fine Arts and Communications. Students interested in the new Product and User Experience Design major should look at the major map and register for the introductory course DESPX 115 this fall.

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