3 Things I learned during my UX internship at Clinc

This past summer I had the once in a lifetime opportunity of working at Clinc as a Product Design intern. As the sole web designer for the AI training platform, I stretched myself to understand how AI training works. Fast forward to a few days ago my colleague told me my designs were being built. With excitement I thought back to the key takeaways from the internship:

  1. Design from what you already have
  2. Tell, don’t show
  3. Take the initiative to propose and execute your idea

1. Design from what you already have

The task of “building a design system“ sounded so daunting at first compared to how comprehensive and complicated the iOS design system or the Google Material Design system are. Initially, I spent nearly a week to tinker with the buttons. Admittedly, I had no idea of how to build a visual language, not to mention code the real thing. After binge read several articles on how to create a visual style guide, I started to draw all the widgets in the sketch file without consideration of what the pages should actually look like.

This was a big mistake. If you want to maximize your time, forget about polishing every widget. Start from what you already have and quickly move to the mockups. Even one page is worth a thousand words than several widgets. Why?

First, you can clearly feel how the visual style looks like and so do your colleagues. Second, you want to maximize your time on the most useful widgets. Leave the less useful ones for the future. Third, you can separate the design from the coding. I can’t stress this enough because that’s exactly how our brain works.

2. Tell, don’t show

Your colleagues are short on time and only care about the info that is most relevant to them. It makes no sense to throw a bunch of mockups or the link of the prototype to them and let them figure out how your design actually works. Communication is always hard. Communicating the problem, the recommendations and the evidence is even harder.

If you want to make sure you communicate your idea clearly, prepare your deck and talk in person. The deck is an extremely powerful tool to structure your ideas and make your arguments more effective and memorable. Besides, it’s also a good deliverable for future reference. In terms of talking in person, no communication tool is better than talking face-to-face. By answering your colleagues’ questions in real time, you sound more confident and persuasive.

3. Take the initiative to propose and execute your idea

The only secret to making an impact is to take the initiative. I experienced many pains and gains during my internship. It might not be easy to understand at first sight, but pain comes and goes.

You might think to yourself:“Well, they seem only care about delivering features and the importance of design is totally neglected.”

No. Take the initiative.

Or maybe:“ I don’t feel the momentum to work hard and I have no idea whether my design would be implemented or not.”

No. Take the initiative.

“But they just don’t care and — ”

No. Take the initiative.

Chances are that your colleagues have a lot on their plates and they haven’t put your part on the roadmap. Your execution would be deeply appreciated once they have more time to think through your ideas.

As Jason Zimdars said in his Medium post:

If you see something you want to do, go do it. Someone will tell you if should stop. That can sometimes be hard for new folks to understand — and sometimes the only feedback you get that you’re on the right track is nobody is telling you it’s wrong — but once you figure that out, you’ve got super powers.

Special thanks to Lu Huang, Alex Shye and the rest of the Spotlight team!

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