Mentor and motivate

Questions and answers from last week, when we welcomed the crowd of Ux-ling corner into the basement at Friday to talk about getting started with Ux portfolios, interviews and applications.

I wanted to share some commonly asked questions, and our answers.

1. I’ve got a background in xxx, should I talk about that at all?

Our industry is getting more and more excited about people with a range of skills; uxer with ethnographic / retail / hospital /corporate background, visual designer who codes for prototypes. Brilliant. 
If you have something else to bring to the mix you have a great, unique offering. You’ve got experience working with other people, in different industries, you’ll blend your skills and be able to adapt to different work tasks. Talk about what makes you different, it’s your biggest selling point.

2. How do I add personality into a portfolio?

All designers should be presenting their work, and your portfolio is a chance to show your voice and what your presentation style is like. It’s easy to spend time considering fonts and coloured accents, but don’t forget your words. How you talk about your work; the emphasis, pace and love you put into these words will tell someone more about you than a flourishy font.

3. I’ve not got any ‘real life’ work, are my coursework project valuable? Do I show them?

Your projects, coursework or otherwise are a chance to show your thinking. To get people excited about bringing that thinking into their teams. You’re being taught how to solve problems, make that your leading edge.

4. Do designers need to know how to code?

A big question doing the rounds right now. Having an understanding of the words used in coding is a really useful one, to have efficient cross-team conversations. Learning how to prototype in code is excellent, or to build components, or know responsive implications. 
Coding is undoubtedly a brilliant skill; so it visual design, and animation and UI, and AI … people will pick up what they are drawn towards, and what they can make a useful part of their toolkits. Everyone is using a mixture of skills. Pick so you can make yourself useful.

5. I don’t know all of the programmes well, what do I do?

We’re all always learning. Having a few tools tucked under your belt is great, it shows you’re ready to get started and can be trusted to produce good results. Instead of apologising for not knowing everything inside out (how dare you!) ask about the company’s training opportunities, or who you might be able to shadow to pick up the next piece of software in your repertoire.

6. How do I sell myself when I’ve had no experience so far?

Experience is great, but you’re also selling yourself on your ability. So prove your ability by generating briefs. Got an app you think could be better? Had experience with a service that felt unconsidered? Spend a few evenings redesigning it. Use your weekend to map the experience and draw up alternatives. Take the opportunity to try out a new prototyping tool too.

Got any more questions? Ask away!


For the earlier part of the evening, watch Paul and Ed walk through the portfolio creation process. Some do’s and don’ts and a *touch* of critique.