Four Insights for Current User Experience Design Students

Recently, a group of user experience (UX) design students from General Assembly visited our studio in Pasadena. This field trip was special not only because of the copious amounts of pastries available at work that day, but because I am a GA UX alumna now working full-time as a UX/UI designer. Transitioning from a marketing/design/front-end web development role to a full-time UX/UI practitioner position took a lot of dedication and determination. I was happy to share my experience with this upcoming group of designers and hopefully, my main takeaway advice can also help other design students.

1. Make Good Use of Your Time

We are all busy — particularly those who are going to school and working — but make time to attend meetups and technology events. Living in Los Angeles, there are many opportunities across the city to meet designers, get work critiqued or attend talks about the latest design trends. If you’re willing to take it a step further, look out for hackathons, or similar events that challenge teams to come up with a unique tech solution that addresses the event’s theme. Many of these events are free and teams can always use a UX/visual designer. Don’t be afraid to show up on your own. I had attended Jawbone’s Women’s Health codeathon last year and that opportunity changed my life. I met new friends, formed a team and we won the competition. I ended up with a great piece to add to my portfolio. Working a little bit harder will help you stand out — especially if you only have school projects in your portfolio.

2. Be Open Minded to All Kinds of Tech in All Sectors

In my GA UX program, we focused primarily on mobile app design, which makes sense since the majority of the web’s users access the internet using a mobile device. I didn’t really think that I’d end up working primarily in enterprise software; however, that’s what I have been doing for the better part of 11 months. There are plenty of “hot” tech trends that young designers are probably just itching to explore (i.e. augmented reality, 3D printing, etc.), but facets of technology such as enterprise software enable the designer to create great experiences for a large audience. Remember, every facet of technology needs good designers.

3. Discover Which UX Processes Appeal to You

When you are a student in a user experience program, you will most likely approach a project in a linear fashion by first talking to users, conducting research, sketching, prototyping, wireframing, testing and iterating. While you are learning about processes and tools, use this time to explore what you enjoy about UX or visual design. Do you love research and talking to users? What about brainstorming and sketching, or perhaps creating UI elements? Discover what appeals to you the most. This will help when you ultimately look for a job. Someone who is confident in many processes might be a better fit in a studio environment where one may be asked to jump in at any point of a project and perform a variety of tasks.

4. Stay in Touch with Classmates

Sounds like a no-brainer, but classmates drift apart. Try to collect each other’s contact info and keep in touch. For example, my UX class made a simple shared Google document that allowed us to share email addresses and social media links. A core group of us have been able to meet up a few times since our class ended. Brunch is always appreciated.

About the Author

Diana is a UX/UI designer currently working in Pasadena where her work ranges from enterprise software design to mobile app design. Previously, she worked in all aspects of marketing and design, including front-end web development, UI explorations, print design and copywriting. She is a world traveler who has lived in Germany’s Black Forest and down the road from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.

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