10 Weeks to Learn UX

It’s a fork. And it’s in the road. Get it?

Hi. Danny Yoerges, here. Actor/puppeteer extraorinaire. Or at least that’s what I’m calling myself for now (sans the extraordinaire bit, unless I’m feeling cheeky). I’m transitioning out of acting into the great big world of UX Design. To do so, I’ve enrolled in General Assembly’s UX Design Immersive. This blog will become a place for me to dump thoughts and ideas as I make my way through the class.

Let me start with a bit about myself (I’m super good at talking about me). I’ve been acting professionally since 2009, performing in NYC, Washington DC, and as a puppeteer on the national tour of War Horse. Before all that I attended a conservatory, called the North Carolina School of the Arts, where I got a BFA in acting. As you might imagine, this degree doesn’t get me very far in other professions. But that doesn’t mean the skills I acquired at school and on the job aren’t applicaple to different fields. My experience as an actor leads me to believe UX is not only a good fit for me, but that I’ll excel in it.

UX design takes the actor’s craft of character study and applies it to real world scenarios. In ascertaining how to improve people’s interactions with products and services, UX designers ask questions like, “Who is this person? What do they want? How do they behave?” If you’re an actor, chances are you’ve spent some serious time with these questions. Great performances come from actors’ deeply empathetic understanding of the people they’re playing, and that you can only get from turning over every stone in the research stage.

Digging into character research is like peeling an onion. You ask questions, and are never satisfied with the answers, because you know there’s always a layer underneath. The process is immensely gratifying for me, because it’s a chance to indulge my insatiable curiosity. I like learning about people and figuring out what they want. UX design is a natural fit.

Of course you can’t attribute all great acting to thorough research alone, and the same goes for design. Emotion plays a huge part in any good storytelling, including the story of a user’s interaction with a product. UX desingers seek out emotional connection to inspire action. As an actor, I notice those connections intuitively. I can help companies identify emotionally evocative elements of their products and devise strategies for framing those key components to positively affect user behavior. To put it simply, I can help companies tell better stories, which helps build better relationships with users.

Acting has also uniquely prepared me for collaborative, creative endeavors. Actors, writers, producers, directors, and technicians all speak slightly different languages in the pursuit of their objectives, and I developed an ear for those languages. UX designers have to work as members of design teams, as well as communicate with various other key decision makers, like developers, marketing teams, content strategists, and executives. With my background in the theatre world, team playing comes easy to me.

So yea, I don’t have design experience. I don’t know tech. I haven’t even spent an extraordinary amount of time thinking about websites and apps. But I don’t see any of that as a disadvantage. I’m a blank slate, ready to have a whole new set of skills etched into me. Beginners mind is my favorite state of mind. Onwards and upwards!

Check back in as I update you on my progress, share things that inspire me, and muse on UX Design concepts as I learn about them. Don’t be shy to share your thoughts in a comment! I’d be thrilled if this became a forum for new UX Designers like me to hear from existing practitioners.