UX Design: 7 practical ways to become a UX designer

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Orla

Are you interested in a career in UX design?

If so, have a read of this post which outlines the difference between UX design and graphic design. And what you can do to become a UX designer.

What is UX design?

Designers: we’re all designers, and in a sense we’re all UX designers.

Designing something other people are going to interact with? Yes, that’s UX. But in the last number of years UX has become more of a discipline rather than another skill, or module you learn along the way. 

The Interaction Design Foundation describes UX as :

“…the process of creating products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, and function.”

You can read more of our thoughts on UX here.

How is UX design different from graphic design?

Emotive design: A graphic designer may focus on what type of emotions a certain colour or image provokes. A UX desginer, on the other hand, will consider the entire experience and not just one element. UX designers often have a much wider remit of caring about how the user feels about a product and the experience as a whole. Tapping into empathy becomes a UX designers first point of reference.

Iterative problem solving:  Graphic designers tend to do most of their research at the start of a project. They have some iterations with their client. Once approved the new brand, logo, or book design etc lives a long life. A UX designer also has this process upfront, but they regularly reassess how the product is performing for users. They keep it up to date with the most recent design trends, particularly on mobile. If an app isn’t as modern as the devices operating system, it begins to feel out of date very quickly. This is damaging to a brand. The old saying “good design lasts forever” isn’t applicable to UX.

Multifaceted – UX designers often need to know about psychology, information architecture, and interactive design. While these are all specialised areas in themselves, it’s of benefit to the designer to have an understanding of how these elements may benefit or harm an experience. Many graphic designers turned UX designers would describe themselves as “T-shaped” people. They have both depth and breadth to their skills.

How to become a UX designer?

Many of the design skills of a graphic designer are transferable to UX design. Your typography and layout skills will be of great benefit, and it’s easy to pick up best practices to apply to mobile or web. However with UX, there’s a need to mix both empathy and logic. We cannot simply say this is the best option because it looks the nicest (Graphic designers shouldn’t do this either but we know it happens!). Design decisions must be backed up by why it is the best option for the end user. 

1. Do an online course 

You can do an online course such as this one from the UX Design Institute. It only takes six months. You take an exam at the end and are fully qualified.

Check out this list from Medium which gives the top 30 UX online courses: 

You can also take a number of different UX design courses on Udemy.

Not everyone needs an official qualification. If you’ve got the interest, talent and the time, there’s lots you can learn for free online and from publications. 

2. Do a classroom course

If you are looking to do a classroom course, you can do a masters in IADT. You need to have an undergraduate or demonstrate experience to the level of an honours degree.

3. Get involved in the community

Get out to as many UX or design related events as you can. Dublin has regular Dublin UX meetups, and Creative Mornings, as do many cities. If time is not on your side, a lot of countries and cities have their own Slack communities. This is a great way to keep up to date and share knowledge. Slack is often the first place people post job opportunities before hitting the job sites or LinkedIn. If you’re a working parent or carer, or a remote worker or freelancer, it’s a great way to still feel part of the design community.  

4. Follow the right companies and people online

InVision – InVision are a powehouse of knowledge. Their contributors are vast and always publishing the latest UX design thinking. You can follow them on any social network, but the best way to make sure you don’t miss anything is to subscribe to their newsletter. 

Laura Klein is the author of Build Better Products & UX for Lean Startups. She’s a regular guest for popular podcasts, and speaker at high profile events. 

Karen McGrane is an author, speaker, professor, and regular contributor to the UX community. Both her twitter feed and website have regular resources available. 

Luke Wroblewski is currently a Product Director at a small company called Google. LukeW as he’s known, tweets often and promotes humanising technology. 

Tobias van Schneider describes himself as working at the intersection of product and design. In a past life he was the lead product designer and art director of Spotify. He has a strong visual aesthetic that’s heavily influenced by contrasting strong typography and contrasting colours and use of photography. 

5. Consider doing an internship

Internships are hard to come by, but not impossible. If you see an opening for an internship and decide to apply, you’ll be up against a lot of competition. From the beginning, you’ll need to make yourself standout. Make sure you write your intro or cover letter specifically for that role, and not a standard one you send off for any old job. Keep it short, and try to put a little of your personality across. Finding the people with the right skills is one thing, finding the people with the right personality fit is another but important aspect. 

6. Try the process for yourself – create your portfolio

You’ll need to show some UX work in your portfolio. Real projects, with real clients and real problems to be solved are best, but if you haven’t got that far yet, be sure to have some personal UX projects in there too. Make them varied to show that your style is adaptable. However, if you’ve got other great design skills like illustration, typography etc, include them too. You’d be amazed how many applicants for UX roles show little or no UX design in their portfolio.  

7. Learn as much as you can

There are endless resources online but make sure the sources you’re reading are up to date. Read Creative Bloq, UX Collective, Google Design, UX Planet etc. The digital UX landscape moves so quickly it’s important to constantly keep on top of new patterns and affordances. If working in the mobile space, it’s important to be familiar with Google’s Material Design guidelines, and Apple’s human interface guidelines. You can learn more about the importance of this here. 

Best of luck on your transition to a UX designer.

Orla Cassidy

Lead UX/UI Designer