From Dailies to Post-Its

What editing videos has taught me about UX

After 7 years working in advertising as a video editor and motion graphics designer, I recently decided to give it all up and enroll in a UX bootcamp. But as it turns out, I wasn’t giving up anything at all. I was merely recontextualizing a lot of what I was already doing everyday in the edit suite. I know it sounds crazy, but UX design is a lot like editing commercials. As I hone my skills as a designer, I’m reminded of the lessons I learned in my past life. And seeing as how “hybrid thinking” is all the rage these days, I figured I would share a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way as a commercial video editor…

It’s all about buy-in

This past week, me and my fellow bootcampers found ourselves learning the basics of stakeholder interviews. In one of our readings, there was this quote that said “Get stakeholder input if you want them to value your output.” As soon as I read that, I started having flashbacks to my early days working as an assistant for this fashion and beauty editor in New York. He used to always say to me, “It doesn’t matter what you think. People are in love with themselves. If you want someone to like your idea, then the best thing you can do is make them think it was their idea in the first place.”

The takeaway — Involve your clients and get their feedback early on in the process.

You are never “done”…

Whenever I reach out to UX designers for advice, the common response to a lot of my questions is “it depends.” Whenever someone would ask me how long it takes to edit a 30-second commercial, I would tell them the same thing — “it depends.” For every hour I would spend creating a new edit, I would often spend at least five hours taking it apart and putting it back together again. More often than not, the final spot that went on air looked nothing like the cut we started out with. There will always be lots of cooks in the kitchen and you have to do your best to make them all happy (even if you can’t). Editors say “revisions” and designers say “iterations,” but we mean the same thing.

The Takeaway — Don’t get too attached to your designs because sooner or later someone will tell you to change it.

…until you’re done.

I’d like to say that editing taught me all about the “non-linear” creative process of “restless innovation.” But the truth is that video production is as linear as it gets. When you wake up on the office couch, you realize just how real deadlines can be. Videos, for the most part, are capsules in time with a relatively short shelf life. Once a commercial airs on TV or pops up on a feed, it usually disappears into the ether never to be seen again. You go from job to job and you never look back. Knowing that is how it goes, you edit every job as if there is no tomorrow, making it as good as you can the first time around because there won’t be a second time. My point here is not that digital products are another perishable creative product to be used up and thrown away. Digital products are supposed be these living, breathing entities that are constantly evolving and adapting to the needs of their users. It’s this very notion of creating lasting experiences that attracted me to UX in the first place. Whether or not that is actually the case remains to be seen, but here’s hoping…

Kyle Howard has edited everything from interactive web videos to television spots for a host of major global brands, including Pepsi, Victoria’s Secret, Proactiv, Ford, Huggies, and the Chicago Cubs. He is currently expanding his professional life as User Experience designer at Designation, Chicago’s premier UX/UI design bootcamp.

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