Interaction Design Research Centre


Ron Wakkary
Professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT)
Simon Fraser University Surrey Campus
BFA, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, MFA, State University of New York at Stony Brook, PhD, University of Plymouth
Tel: 778.782.2322

The Interaction Design Research Centre aims to support a key goal of SFU’s vision to “leverage its fundamental research strengths, close community connections, and partnerships and collaborations to become a global leader in research mobilization.” The centre will be located at the SFU Surrey Campus in proximity to the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, the school’s research labs, and the Solids Space Prototyping Lab. The centre will also engage in activities and collaboration across FCAT and SFU campuses. The centre aims to embody a community engaged, socially conscious outlook, and interdisciplinary approaches that best exemplify SFU research. The centre aims to contribute to research excellence at SFU and demonstrate the relevancy and efficacy of its goals and vision to the larger world.

Interaction design focuses on knowledge and processes in the design of computational technologies for people, and understanding of how people interact with one another as well as technologies to carry out varied interactions in work and leisure domains. It is an interdisciplinary area of study and practice that draws on design, human-computer interaction, participatory design, engineering, computer science, sociology, anthropology, communication, science, technology and society studies, psychology, fine arts, cultural studies, narratology, and other related fields to create design innovations. The primary research communities for interaction design are the design, computing science, cognitive science and electrical engineering communities. However it has broader impact in arts and culture, social and work based use of technology, psychology and the humanities.  Interaction design plays a role wherever technologies and people interact, which is now an everyday occurrence. Interaction design is poised to have an impact on industry, government, health services, entertainment, education, cultural heritage, community, and non-profit organizations.

Exploring new ideas and advancing research in interaction design will be central among the key objectives of the centre. The centre will draw on research strengths of SFU researchers who have advanced new ideas in areas of mobile, wearable, ubiquitous, and tangible computing that have led to new understandings of human interaction, learning, entertainment, art, environmental sustainability, cultural heritage, design, and other areas.

The centre will continue to draw on the interdisciplinary efforts of SFU researchers. Interaction design research at SFU have drawn on theories of social sciences, ethnography and social methods in design to develop new methods that highlight the social uses of and contexts in which  technologies are developed and used, and engage stakeholders in ways that are democratic and empowering. Interactive and contemporary arts research and practices have informed interaction design through phenomenological, experiential and expressive investigations of interactive technologies. Significant collaborations with the sciences like artificial intelligence, cognitive science and user modeling have led and will continue to lead to innovations in adaptive systems, visual analytics, and intelligent interactive systems. Ethnographic work has been used to develop in depth understanding of many taken for granted aspects of interactions, which must be supported in design.

In order to maintain the necessary and fruitful interdisciplinary aspects of interaction design research, the centre will promote future interdisciplinary research and partnerships.

The centre will also strive to close the gap between the current professional practices and use of technologies and new knowledge in interaction design research through collaborative research and training with partners beyond the academic community.

The centre will aid organizations to better engage their communities and clients through interaction design, and through such assistance, improve design and economic returns.

The Interaction Design Research Centre will focus on research and community engagement in the area of interaction design, the design of interactive technologies for use by people. The centre will bring together researchers at SFU and external partners with the aim of advancing new research in the field of interaction design.

The centre will engage local and national industry, community organizations, and government to pursue research opportunities, solve problems, and enable training related to interaction design. The centre will engage the professional interaction design communities and will actively support undergraduate and graduate training, internships and career placement.


The centre is dedicated to enhancing the efficacy, capacity, and quality of interaction design research locally and internationally. Key objectives for the centre include:

  • Advance new ideas, methods, and concepts in interaction design;
  • Expand the recognition, role and scope of interaction design in industry, government, financial and other organizations;
  • Promote interdisciplinary research and collaborations in interaction design;
  • Engage industry, community organizations, and government on the role and opportunities for design knowledge, quality of design of interaction design technologies, systems and interaction design related research and training;
  • Contribute to the translation of knowledge about interaction design from academic settings to settings in which design takes place;
  • Enhance the ability of organizations to engage with their constituencies through interaction design;
  • Partner with professional interaction design firms and companies to broaden awareness of the value of interaction design research and opportunities for collaborative research and training;
  • Support undergraduate and graduate training, internships and placements in interaction design related fields.