A DESIGNER'S JOURNEY INTO UX DESIGN
Blog Post, Posted on February 18, 2014
We all have those key moments in life that help shape and define our path. More specifically, the career, or what-we-want-to-do-when-we-grow-up path. I had one of those defining moments that spanned over the course of 6 weeks and culminated during an evening of shop talk over beer and pear cider with a classmate and our UX Design instructor at the Elysian on Capitol Hill.
What led up to this evening was the completion of a 5-session course in UX Design at the School of Visual Concepts taught by Michael Smith, Senior Interaction Designer at Frog. Highly recommended for those who like me, have evolved and adapted organically into an ever increasing and consuming digital space and are practicing aspects of it, but never had formal training in UX Design. The foundation and framework taught by Michael will make you feel like you can go and conquer the world... and/or the next digital project.
As I still take time to process all that I experienced in the class, there are three lessons that have already fundamentally changed me as a designer. (This is apart from the UX Design philosopies and methodologies taught in the class – you'll have to take the class yourself for that!)
1. Sketch, sketch and sketch some more.
If there is only one thing you can remember from this class, it's this. Michael made sure this was engrained into our brains. And it made me realize that although I do a lot of sketching at the start of every project, it benefits to stay in this part of the process a little longer. It provides a platform to rapidly generate a lot of ideas without being married to that one you believe is perfect. And it trains you to be more patient and work through the solutions with your sketches (vs. letting it spark an idea, but then working through the solution on the computer). There is something very freeing during this process which opens up the creative thinking and problem solving even more. And it's just fun.
Compilation of sketches for our class project – ideas on improving the user experience of buying groceries using a self-checkout machine.
2. Be iterative – (i.e., Don't obsess over the end deliverable… too much).
This ties into my previous point. Don't be in a hurry to have a finished product (to hit that budget or stay within your hours), so as to miss out on all the collaborative, idea-generating opportunities that can happen with iterative steps along the way. This can suppress taking more risks and pursuing different ideas that may or may not work, but could take you down the path to an elegant user experience that will dramatically improve engagement for your client's business.
Our group post-it notes and discussion based on our initial observations during the research phase of the project.
3. Ask the question, as a designer, am I playing the game to show that I can differentiate or am I actually doing something that is contributive to the user? (Question posed by a designer in the film Objectified – a documentary film we were assigned to watch at the beginning of class.)
As a designer whose job IS to differentiate in the brand world, I had to let this one sink in a bit. And I confess. I like doing things that are different and unexpected. But as Michael pointed out, there is a difference between branding and the brand promise (the DNA of the product). This question helps to keep me in check and the user in mind when making decisions about the interaction, visual design, or the entire user experience of the product.
To say that it's been an interesting and challenging process as a designer to evolve and adapt organically into an ever increasing and consuming digital space is an understatement. It can feel overwhelming at times. But this class brought back into perspective what I appreciate about UX design – the focus on human behavior and interaction. As a Japanese designer in the filmObjectified stated, "Design needs to be plugged into natural human behavior." So simple and yet so profound.
And so it all came together and hit me over my pear cider at the Elysian. As I look back on my journey as a designer, the constant and unwavering inspiration and motive throughout it all has been about connecting with human emotions and behaviors. (Check out my blog post onReconciling Process and Intuition for more.) The practice of UX Design has increased my focus, given me a way to fine tune my intuition, and the language to articulate and formalize it as a process.
My journey as a designer in a simple diagram.