A whiteboarding design challenge from one of my internships. I got in!

50 Things I Learned from Spending 3 Years As A UX Intern

Over the last 3 years, I’ve worked as a UX design intern at 2 independent advertising agencies and a famous product company based in Australia. As a passionate and young beginner, I learned how to be open to different perspectives — and how I actually didn’t know anything at all.

This list is a culmination of the important lessons I picked up along the way. I hope this helps you in your own path as a designer, as I continue to tread mine. Enjoy!

  1. Design isn’t about how things look — it’s a plan, strategy, and an execution.
  2. Appreciate the small details. Things like whitespace, padding and consistent iconography go a long way.
  3. Most UI redesigns are done without the context of business goals or user needs, goals and motivations. They’re just there for eye-candy.
  4. Yours ideas are just assumptions. Therefore, all assumptions should be tested.
  5. You also have your own set of biases and prejudices, so it’s important to neutralize and bracket them.
  6. UX design isn’t done in a silo. Interview, inquire, observe. Step away from the computer screen.
  7. Designers who can code have the advantage. It’s not a requirement.
  8. Research methods are your best bet to an informed design.
  9. Qualitative data provides context to quantitative data—these are partners-in-crime.
  10. Presenting UX findings is part of the job.
  11. The term UX is ambiguous, people have different conceptions, definitions, and meanings for it. However, I think it’s about making products & services easier, and more delightful to use.
  12. Articulating design decisions is very important so your stakeholders can trust you.
  13. Just create an MVP and test it out. You’ll learn along the way.
  14. Bureaucracy brackets the growth of UX in traditional organizations.
  15. Your portfolio should show your thought process, more than the final “look” of the product.
  16. Psychology is deeply intertwined with UX. Learning it will give you an edge.
  17. Nothing else matters more than the humans who will use your product. Design for them!
  18. The true UX experts design for scenarios.
  19. Your perception of the world changes when you understand UX.
  20. Learning about the Dribbblisation of design: most product design decisions are shallow and are aimed at looking good. UX designers need to aim beyond the looks and come up with solutions that have a solid research foundation.
  21. Your formal education won’t be able to keep up with the industry, so curate your own design education. (Though, it’s worth noting that thinking critically, negotiating, presenting ideas, and doing research are essential skills to be learned while you’re in school. These are skills important to a UX designer.)
  22. Design systems make prototyping faster. However, they’re hard to maintain. Nevertheless, you can try to start practicing it with Brad Frost’s Atomic Design.
  23. Gestalt Principles, Occam’s Razor, and Fitts’ Law for UI design solves most UX problems.
  24. The best companies in the world hire hundreds of UX designers because they inevitably bring in more profit in return.
  25. Finding different UX mentors is crucial to your growth as a designer.
  26. Hiring a UX designer is more cost-effective. What will happen to your time and resources when you find out people wouldn’t use your product anyway? Hire a UX designer before you lose your money.
  27. UX is more than just building apps or websites. It’s about representing the user in the whole design process.
  28. One of the best soft skills to have is to listen.
  29. Creating a strategy document at the beginning will guide all design decisions and will help you thwart evil client suggestions.
  30. Eye-tracking should only be done when absolutely necessary— when it’s the best way to solve a research question.
  31. Avoid leading questions when doing interviews.
  32. You have to independently learn both Android and iOS ecosystems to be an effective UI/UX designer.
  33. You can specialize within user experience. Are you an analytics guy? a UI guy? a facilitator guy?
  34. You know someone is a good designer if they can demonstrate intentionality in their design decisions.
  35. You will eventually choose if you want the “product” kind of UX or the “agency” style.
  36. Product UX is deep in nature. You get to think about and work on one thing for a long time.
  37. Agency UX is about determining logical next steps and low-hanging fruits for quick deadline projects.
  38. You meet the best designers at UX conferences.
  39. You have to keep track of all the new tools. The current ones I study are Sketch, Framer, and AdobeXD.
  40. Personas can inform design. Base them on real data.
  41. Educating clients and stakeholders about UX is part of the job. Not doing so will cause you more headaches in the long run.
  42. You appreciate how architects design physical spaces and how they care deeply for their users.
  43. Users can have a wide range of emotions, motivations, and perceptions that can influence how they see your brand—ultimately affecting the product as well.
  44. There are tons of UX resources out there. It’s easy to find them. It’s easy to learn the methods, the tools. The hard part is actually applying them to specific business situations and contexts.
  45. If you’re the lone UX wolf at your organization, it’s your job to get others on board with design.
  46. Go to more meetups. Meet more people. Listen and learn. Connect with people who you look up to. That’s one of the best ways to learn.
  47. Follow your UX inspirations.
  48. Read UX articles daily. I get my daily resource at Sacha Greif’s sidebar.io.
  49. Listen to UX and design podcasts. I like Design Details because it gives me an insider look at how UX is done in San Francisco.
  50. Mediocre standards translate to mediocre products. Always design for greatness.

Thank you for reading! Check it out on LinkedIn or Invision Blog too. :)

Alexis Collado has interned for award-winning companies such as Jump Digital Asia, Freelancer.com, and NuWorks Interactive Labs—usually being the first UX Design intern. He had been passionate about web design and user experience ever since high school so he founded User Experience Society — the first student organization of aspiring UX and product designers in the Philippines. Alexis is relentless in seeking challenging opportunities that push his knowledge and talents to the limit. You can reach him at alexis.collado@uxsociety.ph.