Why User Experience Design?

Changing the course of my career. / photo I took in Sydney, Australia

I completely fell into the black hole of desolation the moment we got back home from our honeymoon in mid-January. Sure, being gone for a few weeks was great for self reflection and more importantly, adventure, but I learned during this time I needed to redirect my energies. Or maybe I am in just constant need to having to move my feet across unknown territory constantly growing and learning.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to work for myself. I always needed another outlet. This may be a result of being raised by Polish parents who worked two jobs most of my young life and instilled this work ethic, but I also had this immense need to keep creating. Regardless of how many hours I had worked at my day job, I would always return to my creative endeavors — skipping past social outings to my letterpress studio to crank out new work. For me, nurturing creative energy is important. It’s like exercising — creating something from nothing takes a lot of energy, but if you do it often and outside your paid job, you become a stronger designer and artist.

Paper Parasol Press was born as a response to exercising my creative energies.

Paper Parasol Press Card

The move from Chicago to San Francisco gave me an opportunity to quit a job I loved, albeit complacent in, to run my own business… finally! Yay! Dream achieved! Not so fast. The past few years have been an adventure and I would never trade in this experience for it helped mold me into the person I am today. I still love it, but had plateaued professionally. It was also turning into a bad relationship. I worked insane hours for little pay. A lot of these hours were doing the same mundane movements — packing, printing, packing, shipping, packing… Did I mention packing? My packing process is folding greeting cards and putting them in cello sleeves. It’s miserable for me. Imagine doing this with maybe only a few hours of paid help a week, if I was lucky. And then the space needed to operate something like this. Space, in general, in the Bay Area is hard to come by. Luckily, I have an extra storage unit in our basement for my inventory. As a small business owner you work with amazing customers and clients, but you also have to be weary of people taking advantage of you. It taught me valuable lessons in sticking up for myself, but it was also exhausting.

package hell

I hated what I was doing, which was less and less design work and more and more hunting down late payments and packaging cards. I went to find all my answers on the internet to all these problems. I decided I would get a design job and go work with people once again! As I job hunted UX design kept coming up in the job titles and descriptions. My husband, an accessibility developer at LinkedIn, kept urging me toward UX design. After all, the talented designers there had a background in it and he loved working with UX designers.

The first thing I did was read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. I was hooked. Things I had thought about and wondered about were all part of being a User Experience Designer. As a print designer, you hardly ever consider the user. You just make something pretty the client wants, but this was a whole new ball game. It was the job I wanted. I could and needed to consider users! I could put my empathy to work and combine it with my design skills. The eureka! moment.

Steal Like an Artist // Austin Kleon

I researched and researched programs. I am one of those people that needs to go into a classroom setting and put my all in instead of online or part-time courses. I also knew I could do a full-time immersion program while still working, since I am in control of my own hours. The UXDi program at General Assembly seemed like the best bet. I busted my ass to get as much of Paper Parasol Press stuff packaged and prepared before diving in. I went to visit my best friend in LA and took a quick trip to Portland with the husband in anticipation of not having a vacation for a long, long time. Let’s do this.

Now that I am finished with the program I am ready to find a UX Design job. Even more so now that my portfolio is up and running. Not only do I want to keep sharpening and building off my visual design skills, but I want to work with a team of people to help me grow as a UX designer. This is going to be a career that I need to keep learning in, as trends and technologies change. That’s pretty exciting stuff, especially for someone like me who is always hungry to learn.

Overall, I took the risk to work for myself and I succeeded. If I had never taken that chance, I would have never known.I operated a boutique stationary business successfully, met other amazing small business owners, and grew as a person and a designer. I give so much credit to those who switch careers up and take risks. It really takes guts to put your life on hold and make a move and I am forever thankful to go through this experience with 39 like-minded individuals. It’s not easy taking the dive or after the fact, having to reset your career.

If you are thinking about becoming a UX designer or enrolling in an immersion program, feel free to contact me about my experience.