When most people think of a career in tech, their mind immediately turns to software development. Being in tech means learning to code, right? And to be sure, coding is a great career. It’s well compensated, and there’s a lot of demand for it.
But what if, like me and so many others, you tried to code and it’s just not for you?
Design might be the opportunity you’ve been looking for to leverage your creativity, communication and problem-solving skills. This article is intended to offer a little bit of insight into the opportunities offered by a career in UX/UI design.
At their core, a UX Designer is a problem solver. The essence of UX determining what you’re building before you commit any resources to actually building it.
That means that before we pick a color or a font, and long before we write a single line of code, a UX designer’s role is to figure out, “What are we doing here? Who’s going to use this? And what problem does it solve in their life?” It’s only when we know the answer to these questions that we can make any headway in actually building something that anyone would ever care about.
You accomplish this by interviewing existing or prospective users, talking to Subject Matter Experts (aka “smees”, and yes, that’s really how they’re known), and doing competitive analysis to figure out what already exists out in the marketplace.
From there, you translate those insights into low-fidelity screens
Remember, at this stage, we’re still just trying to figure out, “What are we even building?”, and are not yet concerned with how it looks.
From there, we conduct usability testing to validate the value or efficacy of the proposed product (or, as is often the case, invalidate it by identifying problems with the proposed solution, then going back to revise and retest it.)
Once we’re happy with the configuration and arrangements of the wires, now it’s time for the UI team.
A UI Designer takes the research and work that was started by the UX team and brings it to life. The purpose of UI is to accomplish two distinct but equally important goals:
1. Use visuals to make an emotional connection with your user
Remember, what the UI team received from the UX team doesn’t actually look like an app. It’s still just boxes with writing in them. The UI Designer’s job is to take what we learned about our users in the UX phase and create a brand that’s specifically intended to connect with them on a very deep, social level. That is to say, great UI calls to you and says, “Hey! This is for you. I want you to pay attention to this.”
As a thought experiment, consider the styling of an app that’s intended to help your grandma remember to take her pills. Now consider an app that allows you to navigate all the best craft brewpubs in Brooklyn. Pretty different visuals, right? That’s because they have different users, who want different things out of an experience.
2. Guide the user’s intuitive interaction with the product
No matter how old you are, you’ve probably been using digital products (whether it’s a computer, a smartphone, etc.) for a while. And as a veteran internet user, you have a set of expectations about what a layout will look like and how it will behave. We call these “design patterns.”
These expectations are actually not unlike being the native speaker of a language. Native speakers can’t necessarily articulate the rules of their language, but they follow them instinctively and automatically. It’s inside of you. You just know what sounds right and what doesn’t.
Design patterns work much the same way. UI elements are always giving subtle hints to the user about how the product will behave, and what it expects out of them. And while the typical user can’t necessarily explain these expectations when everything’s working as it should, they get extremely frustrated when it’s poorly designed or the design goes against those expectations.
In this way, a UI Designer’s job is as much about guiding the user through the interface through the use of familiar design patterns as it is about aesthetics and branding.
So How Does That Work at DESIGNATION?
If there’s anything to know about DESIGNATION, it’s that the structure of the program is 100% the same as how projects are done in the real world. We run our projects the same way you will be expected to do them on the job because that’s what ensures you leave this experience well-prepared to actually do work in the real world.
Just a few of the ways this plays out in the context of the program include:
All of that means that when you graduate from DESIGNATION, you leave ready to hit the ground running, because you’ve already done it before. You actually have experience. Not just hypothetical academic training, but real life experience as a professional designer.
How to Decide if Design is Right For You
The best way to learn if you’re passionate about design is to do it. We have found people discover relatively quickly whether this is something they’re passionate about or not. But actually doing design might be a little easier said than done. Where do you start? How do you begin?
For that reason, the second best way to see if you’re a good fit for a designer career is to look at other designer’s portfolios. See their work and ask yourself, “Is this interesting to me? Is this something I could see myself doing?”
If the answer is yes, then a design career might be right for you.