Ab initio

How do I become a UX designer?

Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

If I really want to succeed in becoming a UX designer, then I have to do the work in order to prove I’ve already become one. And while doing so, I must continue to learn “a thing or two.”

That’s because in my head I’ve got it all figured out. I know the process. I understand what I need to do if I land a project or where I should start if I find myself in a new setting where I need to conduct research, as well as plan, design, and facilitate interviews or user testing sessions, for instance.

But at other times I feel like I’m just kidding myself and this is just babbling.

While not trying to beat around the bush, I’m already into my 3rd year in my attempt to follow my dream to get into the design industry. Sometimes the fact I did not manage to do more work to demonstrate my ability and show I am a designer gets frustrating and demoralizing. For me, of course, above anything else, I wish to work, make mistakes and learn from them. On paper everything looks great, but in practice it’s always different.

Prude and hubris at the same time?

Here is what I’ve done so far that I believe has made me both too confident and too modest at the same time.

First, what set me off on this path was the discovery of the famous book from Donald A. NormanThe Design of Everyday Things”. Clicheic maybe. But this was inspiring for many reasons at that time.

“Communication is especially important when things go wrong”

Some things were pretty familiar and obvious to me, but were not that clearly defined. So although my job has become less motivating lately, I admit I’ve learned a lot from working in several different companies over the years as a quality assurance engineer.

I blame it increasingly on myself for my lack of involvement on the human side of things. That is what attracted me most to this industry and set me on this discovery of UX in the first place. When looking for quality one should always focus on human centered design, good communication and product knowledge.

I’m already aware that when something goes wrong, we have to be informed correctly about what happened. This was articulated so beautifully(in the above mentioned book) and it helped me realize I was missing out on doing the same for myself.

So what exactly was going wrong and why didn’t I display an error message to inform myself?

I did not know exactly, but around the end of 2018 I started discovering new pieces about this domain and about myself. I started understanding my lack of motivation and my hunger for design knowledge.

404 Page not found — from my 33/100 days UI design challenge back in 2018 😅

I’ve completed a few online courses on two of the most well-known online platforms. From those I’ve got certificates I shared on social platforms where, of course, I promoted myself for doing and learning. I actually have enjoyed doing them. I discovered some interesting things, but I could argue that these brief courses can be called advertising for UX rather than the real deal…

This was still a good starting point though, so I could get an idea on what the tools and processes are that’s needed daily in a researcher’s job or as a UX designer (talking to users, writing, conducting interviews, reporting on the findings, ideating, designing, etc.).

So even though I did not get the real feeling, I was starting to get a reading at least.

This is when I really started diving into design more.

Discovering the Interaction design foundation (IDF)

The courses contained much more information regarding different paths one can take in this industry (user researcher, UI designer, UX designer, Interaction Designer, etc.)

Here there is plenty of information, backed up by research, and people with great experience behind them. This can help anyone understand tools and processes more in depth. There are a lot of courses and some are taught by veterans in the industry. And yeah, there is also a big community around it.

I’ve managed to finish about five courses on IDF (a few are still ongoing: Visual Designer, Gestalt Psychology — which I’ve picked up again lately and hope to finish soon since it’s very helpful). I’ve learned a lot from these and I can always go back for information when I want to practice the theory.

A taste of UX

In 2019 I took a course in Bucharest at the SIIT where I really came to understood what the practice of UX should be. Research has to be done in a satisfactory manner and from it the hypothesis we want to test has to be somehow obvious.

Empathy map for the 2019 project — improving mall indoor navigation

The project involved teamwork and real life experiences of interacting with users, fieldwork and the whole package of expectations vs. realities, insecurities and lack of confidence when performing, etc. The single regret I had was not being able to finish my project in time in order to test its design with users.

The takeaway was a big update on the practicalities of things.

Closer to the real deal

But before that I think I’ve dedicated too much time to other activities too early:

  • Google Front-End Web Dev course
  • Reading the “Sprint” book — Which I know I did not have to do, as a short summary could have sufficed.
  • Learning Blender and Unity and making a short game.
  • VR courses on EdX.

I enjoyed doing them all and there were some nice experiments. My only hope is I will get to use the information from them in the near future.

And now?

Now, I’m on a whole new journey in the UX design industry.

A few months ago I started a mentorship program that will give me the tools, knowledge and experience to nurture the confidence I need to call myself a Designer.

It’s an online platform that offers mentorship called Mento.

But more on this in the next post I want to write about, in which you’ll hear about another cliche because: Sometimes the hardest struggles to overcome are the battles within ourselves.

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