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Nothing Compares 2 UX

Hey there, design reader!

You have now arrived at week ten of my UX Academy Journey—a weekly series following my experience as a part-time student in Designlab’s UX Academy, Weingart cohort. 

It’s been a full ten weeks of bustling skill-building lessons—schedule mastery, atomic design methodology, and battles with a bad bout of imposter syndrome, to name a few—and as the end of Phase 1 of the program nears closer (just two weeks to go!), I’m left feeling ever busy and a little bit frantic. 

I’m also so enlivened and brimming with anticipation.

Those of you following these posts may remember, I had a mixed bag of both enthusiasm and a tiny bit of apprehension as I set off along this road just two and a half months ago. Most of my hesitance, it became clear, was more about fear—to leave my job and embark on a new career—and self-doubt—was I capable enough to succeed in a brand new world of UX design? 

The fear was both natural and necessary (if you’ve ever had a unsatisfactory job—and who hasn’t—you know what I mean); career settling was not an option, and this is ultimately what pushed me to take this leap. The self-doubt was, well, a pretty relatable experience for most new UX designers, it turns out. 

Yes, the work has been rigorous, but how else could a crash course in one of the most up-and-coming tech industries be? I still feel like I’m only just beginning to scratch the surface. 

But the experience—my experience—has not disappointed. I’ve spent nearly every weekend since February bent over a laptop or notebook, learning and trying and then trying again, and every minute of it—even the ones full of frustrating roadblocks and tangential rabbit holes—has reminded me why I decided to do this thing in the first place. 

Here are my top seven reasons why I’m (still) excited to be a student of UX design.

Doodles

I can actually sort of sketch… who knew?!

1. It’s fun!

Have I mentioned just how fun?! 

In just short eight weeks I’ve learned to apply research and interviewing skills to solve problems, sketch both by hand and on the computer (a goal 31 years in the making!), and turn my amorphous ideas into actual, working prototypes you can click through (or tap). 

And I’m only at the beginning! 

2. It’s a multiverse 

My past work history has been varied to say the least, mostly because I haven’t been able to sustain a base level of interest in any one job. Roles transition from new and engaging to redundant and menial relatively quick, and I’m left searching for something new to engage both the mind and the soul.

What is UX Design?

Wondering what UX design even is? Well, that’s a tricky question, because it’s a lot of things. Image credit: envis-precisely.com

But not with UX design! Oh, no! Here there’s almost a never-ending stream of new avenues, applications, and problems to solve, and each one is catered to the specifics of one project and its users. There’s no fear of losing steam—there is always a new world to explore just on the horizon.

Calling it multifaceted, even multi-dimensional, just wouldn’t be enough...

3. It’s still new 

I’ve had a job where people consoled me on my career choice more times than you would believe or I would care to share. That’s what happens when you hitch your cart to what society perceives as a dying wagon (echem—print journalism—echem, echem). 

And while I still believe in free press (that’s a story for another day), it’s fun to be working in a field that ignites a passionate response from people for a less discouraging reason. 

Cowgirl/wannabe UX design unicorn

Cowgirl/wannabe UX design unicorn. It’s good to have goals! Image credit: Conor Ward/UXMuch

When I talk about my future career with friends, family, or even strangers, most of them have no idea what UX actually is—but they’ve heard of it, and that goes a long way in terms of cultural clout. To them, the world of UX is the new frontier, which sort of makes me some sort of cowgirl riding in on my horse, cutting my teeth, seeking out adventure and guiding the visitors to safety. 

And what little kid doesn’t dream of being a cowboy/cowgirl at least once in their young lives? None! That’s right people: childhood dream fulfilled! 

4. It’s the Renaissance in job form 

Because of its many forms and endless applications, UX design is a game changer for multipotentialites who refuse to stick with just one project/job/career/path/life. 

When I scale back and think about the reasons I’m so enjoying my exploration into UX design through a wider lens, I see it for what it is—the metaphysical meeting point of all of my favorite things: art, science, technology, and yes, humans. 

Venn diagram of UX Design

A simple, beautiful Venn diagram of the broader scope of UX design. Image credit: Peoplevendor

For anyone looking for an open-ended career path with lots of potential futures, who could resist a job that could be, quite literally, anything you make of it? 

I couldn’t. That’s why I’m here. 

5. It’s “disruptive”

Industry-specific jargon aside, UX design as a job (or rather, many varying jobs) is here to stay, and its focus on designing for the user ensures that it will be, at least for as long as we, the users, exist. Because of this intrinsic tether between user and designer, UX design is constantly changing, evolving and iterating itself based on changing user trends. 

Designers muse about what this changing tide will look like, but the truth is, we’ll find out soon enough—the future is inevitable, and the processes will continue to evolve to match it as it comes. 

6. It’s in demand

Remember that rising tide of UX design I’ve been talking about this whole article? Well, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak.

2018 UX Design Jobs

Personal and professional satisfaction aside, we’re all on the hunt for gainful employment, are we not? I, for one, like the look of these figures... Image credit: creativegroup.com

Today, UX designers are one of the most sought-after new tech roles, with some 238,000 UX designers and growing working with 129,000 companies just across the US alone. Pair that with a rising salary—the average UX designer’s wage in 2018 is $93,000!—and flexible work options (UX designers have ample opportunities for both full-time and freelance/self-employment work), and you have a highly competitive market with lots of potential points of entry. 

7. It’s full of beautiful surprises 

With every unit so far I have had the opportunity to try out new skills and discover hidden gems of new elements of design work I didn’t know I could enjoy so much—like logo creation!

The assignment was to recreate the top three icons identically, and then develop another six originals to match—an exercise in rapid skill building. 

Icon designs

Working on food icons also made me so hungry I spent the rest of the night baking. So, SO fun! 

This project was my first time using Adobe Illustrator in any kind of productive capacity. Where Photoshop and InDesign had made (more) sense to me due to years of repeated rudimentary use, Illustrator has always been an elusive program hidden at the top of a giant steep learning curve. If you’d asked me a week ago whether I thought I could learn the program well enough to create a set of unique icons based on illustrations in just one afternoon, I would have laughed in your face. 

But then, following this icon tutorial, I shocked myself, and did. And I probably never would have discovered I could do it—and actually enjoy it—if I hadn’t taken the plunge two and a half months ago. 

I’ve come out of these past ten weeks of hard work feeling overwhelmed, yes (I’m still at the tip of the UX design iceberg, after all), but also invigorated and encouraged and confident. And excited for more—for the next twelve weeks of Phase 2 and the new career opportunities that have already started to follow. 

Next week, I’ll be getting to play around with a whole new way to prototype (can you say animation?!)—if all goes according to plan. Though I’m sure the exploration will be creating more work for myself than is absolutely necessary, that’s perhaps what I love about my new UX design path the most—the ability to explore my strengths, learn new skills, and find ways to fold personal innovation into my work. 

Who could ask for more?

Looking for a change of careers?

Designlab’s UX Academy program offers rigorous curriculum, personalized mentor support, and a thriving, global student community. Ready to launch your new career as a UX designer? Get all the details here

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