When I came to DT, I was a little nervous about switching up my career path. Previously, I was a branding designer on the east coast and now I’ve made a huge transition to being a UI/UX designer on the west coast. Talk about a leap career-wise and geographically. It is a big thing to switch from one path to another. Being a branding designer and a web designer are two different things. In the past, I had worked alongside web designers so I had a little plus in my back pocket when I started here.

One thing that is different from my previous job is the amount of research that you have to do when it comes to UI/UX. At my previous company, we did light research before we started a project. Here at DT, we do a lot more research, not only at the beginning of a project but throughout as well. It is a great feeling — you learn a lot about the client, what they do, and how their customers use or perceive their product or service. You get a lot of insight into the client’s industry too, but you also learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to design in general.

Research Techniques

Coming from a branding background, the most common research I have done in the past involved creating moodboards. Something I’ve learned is that no one really does moodboards the same way. In the past, I would have placed images (mainly logos) on a blank canvas with the help of a branding questionnaire, and then presented it to the client. When it comes to web design, you can’t really just create one single board to demonstrate a look or feel for a project. You have to break it down into different parts (navigation, buttons, icons, typography, tables, etc.) –here is a reason you add the “s” at the end of moodboards.

Boost Your UX Skills View Reading List

A new tool that I was introduced to for research is Google Analytics. For someone who has never looked at GA or any other type of analytics software, it can be a very scary thing. I’ve learned that Google Analytics is definitely something that can give you great insight into the user experience of a website and how people use the website.

Since I’ve started at DT, I have experienced a few different group exercises used in researching a project or discovering some kind of solution to a problem. One exercise that I found pretty cool was the “User Journey.” I find that it is a great way to see how much of an understanding you currently have of a client’s website or product. It also helps you gauge the results you want after the the project is complete and in review.

Everyone is a Little Bit of a UX Expert

Something that I never really realized is that anyone and everyone can become a UX expert. Within the first couple of weeks of starting at DT I was in a room with another designer and one of our strategists and contributing to my very first project. I was super nervous and felt kind of out of place. I soon found myself giving ideas and opinions on how things could work by applying my own experiences.

In this day and age we are all using smartphones, tablets and other devices so regularly that we pick up on how we believe things should work, what would make them better or worse. We interact with technology every day, sometimes more than we interact with each other. Even though someone may not be trained in the art of UX, there is a little bit of an expert in each and every one of us.

Constant Change

In the design world, whether it is branding or in web design, things are always changing. With web design things are more dynamic and change more quickly. A new trend, whether it is visible like flat design or with smartphones enabling gestures, things tend to get implemented quickly and become widespread fast. I can remember when iOS 7 first came out and within a couple of months everyone’s app was “up-to-date” with the latest design craze apple pushed forward.

In branding, once a brand is established it tends to evolve, but much more slowly. Changes within a brand are more subtle. Most people never even realized when that Google changed the kerning of their iconic logotype last May. When things change within a website, it tends to be more dramatic and widespread. One of the biggest trends with branding is “keeping it simple.” It is something that stems from what Mies van der Rohe said in the early to mid 20th century: “Less is more.” Fast forward a 80+ years and we are still following that same philosophy with branding, for the most part. The branding trends tend to last a lot longer and fizzle out slower–but of course branding has been around a lot longer than web design.

UX Designer

So Far, So Good

This whole process has been a real learning experience for me. Four months ago, I had little to no UI/UX experience. Something that really has been a great asset to the learning process is the people here at DT. Whenever I need help on something or have a question, I can literally just tap someone on the shoulder and they will help me out with whatever I need. It is awesome.

Comments
  • k

    Rocky, can you share some insight into how you were able to get a UX designer position with no direct UX job experience? Or any advice for other people in that situation? All of the UX job postings I see not only require years of former UX designer experience, but they often want years of coding experience too.

    • Cory

      In this field I believe it’s all about getting your foot in the door. Oftentimes that involves swallowing your pride and accepting a pay cut or job opportunity with a company that has much to be desired, but once you build your experience and have that first job on your resume, finding UX jobs gets easier.

      I think it’s somewhat unreasonable to expect your first job to be as awesome and bright as the author’s. That’s not to say these type of jobs aren’t out there, but they are difficult to find.

    • Rocky Roark

      Its really close to what Cory said, its about getting your foot in the door and most importantly who you know (networking). I had come out to San Diego for a design conference in June of last year and met some of my future co-workers here at DT while at the conference. When I was looking for a job last year, I simply reached out to one of them and asked if he knew of any opportunities. I wasn’t going to try DT because of my lack of experience. Dustin LaMont, saw my drive and passion for design and got me into contact with their hiring manager and I flew out for an interview.

      Sometimes companies aren’t looking for someone who is an expert in UX, but they are looking for someone with a passion for design and a strong work ethic that they can help grow into that position. It takes a leap of faith on both sides of the coin.

      When it comes to coding knowledge, from what I’ve seen and heard, you don’t have to be a “unicorn”. You don’t have to be a master of both design & dev. What they sometimes are looking for is someone who at least understands whats going on in the back end of things or at least are willing to learn more about it.

      What I believe is that you have to work hard to get anywhere in life and especially in design. No one is lucky enough to graduate college, do just the bar minimum and land their absolute dream job. You have to put in the long hours reading, observing, creating and developing to truly get where you want to be. Just keep working hard and never lose that thirst for knowledge and creativity. (:

    • k

      Thanks Cory and Rocky for your insights. Helpful stuff. I’m definitely by no means fresh out of college or new to design — I got a degree in graphic design and have been a design practitioner in a variety of ways ever since. Have taken a 12week bootcamp in UX too. I read obsessively and practice my UX even pro bono because it’s what I want to be doing the most. Just don’t have that UX title on the resume yet, though in my heart of hearts it’s the slice of design that I resonate with the most, and am the most naturally proficient at. The storytelling and translating that to others is the biggest hurdle because all they see is a gap where “that title” is supposed to be.

      I also have some knowledge of the front-end dev side of things, though have no desire to become a full-time or even part-time developer. Definitely agree that knowing how all the systems work together makes you a much stronger candidate though.

      Great story, Rocky, about how you were able to jump into your new role from your DT conference connections. Thank you both for your tips, strategies and encouragement! Very much appreciated. 🙂

    • k

      Thanks Cory and Rocky for your insights. Helpful stuff. I’m definitely by no means fresh out of college or new to design — I got a degree in graphic design and have been a design practitioner in a variety of ways ever since (10+ years ago). Have taken a 12week bootcamp in UX too. I read obsessively and practice my UX even pro bono because it’s what I want to be doing the most. Just don’t have that UX title on the resume yet, though in my heart of hearts it’s the slice of design that I resonate with the most, and am the most naturally proficient at. The storytelling and translating that to others is the biggest hurdle because all they see is a gap where “that title” is supposed to be.

      I also have some knowledge of the front-end dev side of things, though have no desire to become a full-time or even part-time developer. Definitely agree that knowing how all the systems work together makes you a much stronger candidate though.

      Great story, Rocky, about how you were able to jump into your new role from your DT conference connections. Thank you both for your tips, strategies and encouragement! Very much appreciated. 🙂

  • Hey Rocky,
    It is great to hear about another designer’s switch to UX/UI. I didn’t make the decision to go into the path myself, but I had always wanted to, simply because I enjoy story telling as well as video games. My graphic design role ended up being merged into a UX/UI role because the interaction designer left the company. Score! I am glad you pointed out that everyone has their opinion of how things should work. Over time, you see whose input you trust more than others’ 🙂

    • Rocky Roark

      Thanks!

      Yea it made me a little nervous, moving cross country to a new city and state, doing something completely different then what I was used to. The good thing though was that it’s exciting. Its a grand adventure, learning new things and developing new skills. I’m glad that I was able to have this amazing opportunity and have so much fun doing it!

      I had a couple of opportunities come up in the month or so between my previous job and working here at DT but I turned them down because they were doing the same old thing I was doing. I wanted a change and I got it. (:

  • Gui Corte Real

    The part “everyone is a UX Expert” is not true. There are a lot of “pretenders” out there. You need a lot of experience to in the moment of designing a simple button you question yourself a lot of questions that you already passed by, and that’s the expertise moment. The UX thing is becoming a boom because, of course, print is dead because the methodology behind is dead too, imagine that you as a print designer made the User Journey test, wouldn’t your print design become a lot better?

    • Gergely

      Agree with Gui.
      First of all, UX can mean totally different roles in multiple companies. At my company the UX role is something which is really inspiring for me and I learned a lot about that. As a designer I really enjoy the work with UXers, but I could never do the totally same job: interviewing, usability testing, writing summaries, shape the current or possible issues, describe personas, dig into data (and Google Analytics is really-really just the tip of the iceberg). If I do all of these, I wouldn’t have time for designing and solving problems, which I love to do.
      You can have a good eye for UX of course, but you need a huge amount of empathy with the users, and have question yourself a lot. That’s why I love to work with UXers – they always pull me back to the reality. 🙂

  • Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I’m a greenhorn designer who has been focusing mostly on logo design and branding for the past few years and I’ve finally gotten to a point where I feel comfortable applying for some junior designer positions. I’m currently interviewing with a small organization that works with startups and smaller business on branding but also web design and development. My biggest fear was not having ANY experience in designing for web/mobile outside of WordPress. But, what they have been reiterating to me is that they are looking for the right FIT more so than the right EXPERIENCE. They told me they’re interviewing me based on my proven passion for great design and my willingness to learn and accept criticism. I’m still nervous that, if I get this job, I’ll be given a task that I have no idea what to do with, but they’ve been very reassuring that they’re willing to work with me on those types of scenarios. Reading this article is very encouraging and even if I don’t get this specific position, I will certainly keep trying!

  • leeloo

    “Something that I never really realized is that anyone and everyone can become a UX expert.” Well I’m sure you didn’t intend to trivialize an entire industry with that statement, but it’s a bit like saying everyone who can talk about health can be a doctor. You’ve only scratched the surface of the work involved in getting a design right for a specific user group. Participating in a discussion about it doesn’t require any expertise at all. We do that with end users all the time. It’s what you do with that input – the research, the evaluating, the testing, the prototyping, the validating and testing again and at some point producing the final design. That is the “work” of UX that in fact takes quite a lot of expertise to understand what works and why. Our assumptions (the ideas we come up with in the discussion you reference) are often proven wrong once we do the actual research with the end users. Every project is different. Every group has different needs. If you are basing a design on anything but what comes from real research, you’re doing it wrong.

  • Thank you for sharing about your journey into the field of UX. I’m a beginner myself, and I’m really excited about where 4 months can take me.

  • Иван Джупына

    ” trained in the art of UX” broken link

  • Michele Paolella

    Thanks for sharing. It would be helpful to understand the steps you took to obtaining a UI/UX job.