How I made the transition to UX design
A year ago if you told me I would be designing apps as a UX designer and websites more than I would be designing brands and marketing, I would have laughed. Right about this time I was still in Chicago working at sears and ramping up for the holiday madness. For anyone who has worked in retail during Holiday, they can tell you that it’s stressful. Especially if you’re in marketing. I was excited about the new stuff I was going to create, but also a little burnt out. I also didn’t have very much experience doing anything else but this and branding. But I am here, now a senior designer at an established company designing apps and web pages in-house. The transition can be hard, especially when no one wants to give you a shot. I thought I would highlight some things I worked on that got me in the door in hopes that you too can transition into UI/UX if you want to.
1. Moolah Budgeting App
My degree was 100% in print (and that was only 3 years ago!), but for one of my projects, I chose to design an app. This was the first time I had ever been forced to think about how multiple screens relate to each other and not just how they look. For my final project, I put together the flow, without even realizing. Of course now, I realize there are a bunch of experience flaws, but it got me thinking about user experience design and this was really the first step into this world.
2. My website redesign and blog site design
When I re-designed my portfolio site in 2012 and my blog in 2013, both times proved to be a HUGE learning experience for me, both on what design trends are out there, and to define a style guide for a website. This was the first time I had found a developer and paid them to make my dream sites come true. Doing these passion projects taught me about how to work best with a developer and what to define so that they have everything they need.
While working briefly at an agency, I had a chance to work on an integrated marketing campaign. While this job was still very heavy on visual design for this campaign, I was given a chance to dive into their website psd file, play around with how they structured their files, and start thinking
4. Wireframe Class
After my two websites, I noticed I spent a TON of extra time in the visual styling aspect of the project because I changed my mind about the layout, which then acted like a domino affect on all the decisions I had already made. I learned the hard way that using wireframes to block out your content first is the best way to go. So I learned more about wire framing from a skillshare class and created a concept for a corgi adoption site.
Going to conferences like UX thursday , How Interactive Design Conference, or an event apart are a great way to network with passionate people and learn the most innovative stuff from the experts. After attending UX thursday, I left with a much better understanding of where user experience originated and where it’s going.
6. Leveraged network
I never thought my network would really ever get me a job. Not because my designer friends aren’t totally talented, but because I kind of suck at asking my friends to be on the look out for me. Luckily my friend Marek is really good at networking and knew I was looking for a job. He asked me to come interview for the designer position at his company, coco. He was looking for someone who could be his right hand person, supporting both UX/UI and marketing efforts. This was my first foot in the door. A lot of the work I did was still in concept stage when I left, so I made this little graphic to demonstrate that I did some work, but you just can’t see it. So those are a few things I did to ease into doing UI and UX design. To recap:
- I started in marketing and UI and slowly moved into UX
- I bought books and went to conferences about UX
- I had a good mentor who taught me a ton in a short amount of time
- I learned about user centered design
- I did passion projects that used skills like wireframing, UI, icon creation, etc.
I can’t wait to share with you some of the big projects I’ve been working on, including some more I did at coco. It will all come in the next month or so.