This week we received an overview of what to expect from this module. The primary focus will be getting us ready for placement/ employment and learning more about the creative industry. I think this will be so helpful as we will be attempting to secure a placement this year.
Show and discuss your work as much as possible. It is the absolute best way to improve your project/skills and develop as a designer.
Following the module overview, we looked at a number of skills and approaches to take when working within the creative industry. As stated above being open to feedback and different approaches and ideas is a really important part of developing as a creative individual. This is a skill that I hope to build upon over the next year as I think it is was leads to greater creative development. A willingness to make changes and try new approaches is what makes the best designers in my opinion and therefore I hope to get lots of feedback and to try as many new approaches as possible throughout my education and into my career.
If you are stuck, make sure you ask. Time spent not knowing is time you could be spending on further development. (Any mentor who refuses to help or provide an alternate time when they can is NOT worth your time.)
For me asking questions is a bit of a balancing act as I also believe that it’s important to, where possible, find answers yourself through research and discovery as well as through exploration. However, when a directive is unclear or if I’ve hit a creative block that’s the time when I feel asking questions is a definite must. Particularly when you are dealing with a mentor or someone who has expertise in the area you are working in. In these instances, I think it’s always best to learn as much as possible about the process’s that experts use so that you can adapt what you have learned to any project or design piece.
Networking is a big part of any job however it is particularly important when you are just beginning in order to help with getting a ‘foot in the door’. While there are several ways to network, I think joining clubs and attending events are still some of the best “tried and true” approaches even if they are online (though probably better in person if possible.) Belfast Design Week is a great opportunity for networking near me where I can attend design events and experience new exhibitions. This is definitely an event I want to go to this year. Belfast design week is an annual design festival that started up in 2015. It celebrates local and international design in a variety of venues across the city. The design sectors included in the festival are:
- User Experience
- Graphic Design
- Interior Design
- Digital Design
- Product Design
- Game Design
- Maker Culture
User experience, Graphic Design, Illustration and Digital design all directly relate to our field making this a very well-tailored event for us Interaction Designers while there is also tons of inspiration to be gained from Architecture, Interior Design, Games Design and Maker Culture as well.
Other events such as OFFSET Dublin would be a great place to network and hear from experts across the globe. While COVID restrictions seem to have left OFFSET at a standstill hopefully as restrictions relax OFFSET’s events will kick off as planned in April. I think attending this event would be an amazing experience and provides a great variety of insights into a variety of creative roles.
Keep up to date with current research and trends
The importance of keeping up with current research and trends was also highlighted. This is incredibly important as Interactions Design is a fast-paced industry that will no doubt continue to grow and change. Therefore to remain current we will have to continue to learn and educate ourselves about new trends and popular approaches within the field continually as we progress throughout our careers.
In an interesting report on Design Futures found on the AIGE website the following statistics relating to the future of design are presented. The first shocking statistic is that work in print and online publishing is expected to decline by 14%. Graphic design and corporate identity work are expected to grow 4%, 3 % less than the average predicted growth of other sectors. However, web design and development is expected to grow by 15% and the software industry will grow by 24%. This demonstrates the importance of the topics we are covering in Interaction Design and how they will aid us in moving into the growing field of web design and the creative aspects.
It is advised in the article that technology is playing an outsized role in the “shaping of future design”. As a result information and design is no longer fixed, pages and editions are fluid interactions that can be customised for specific users and purposes. This means design and technology are continually being updated or increasingly nuanced responses to queries. This means working with rather than for people and places a stronger focus on planning, facilitation and research.
Overall this report has given me a deeper appreciation for the education we are receiving on this course which appears to tap into each of the outlined areas that come with working in an ever-changing and heavily technology-driven industry. I can see how the processes and research methods we are learning are preparing us for this. I don’t think we could receive any better advice than to always keep up to date with current research and trend in our industry as in 5 years time there could be entirely new research approaches, software tools and devices to design for. If we do not keep up to date we will fall behind and lose our edge in a competitive industry.
Design trends and lessons are also important to stay on top of in the state of UX 100 design lessons for 2021 a point that really jumped out to me was to stop using like and don’t like in our design reviews. This point is linked to an article that looks at how to reduce cognitive load for clients that end up getting caught up in a colour choice they don’t like rather than focusing on content that will actually impact the resource being designed.
This can be avoided by removing well know distractions such as colours, images, and icons. While there is no perfect solution to this problem until you get to know your client better. However, the following equation is provided as a starting point:
Personality + role / values + observed reactions = predictable behaviour.
An understanding of the client’s personality can be gained by simply meeting and communicating with the client.
Roles and values can be understood by evaluating the questions the client asks. This gives us an understanding of what drives the client’s opinion. An example of this is a client that asks about colour choices is interested in UI. An executive that is concerned about a CTA being too low on the page needs to know how this will impact conversions and sales. By understanding their role and values you can come equipped with the reasoning behind your choices and if possible the evidence to back it up.
Observed reactions can be noted during or after the first design meeting. This information gathered from observed reactions can almost be used like user testing feedback as it can provide unique insights into the project.
All of this goes to say try to move away from a subjective perspective when it comes to discussing design and try to start validating your choices by understanding the client’s concerns and values and providing an evidence base for the choices you are making. I think this is great advice as it helps you to stop taking feedback on your design work personally. It is not or at least it should not be about personal taste there should be a strong rationale behind every design decision you make.
Decide what role best suits you?
I spent a lot of time researching what career to move into following my decision to stop pursuing a career in clinical psychology. Before beginning this course I completed a 2 year HND in Graphic Design and worked in a marketing company doing some illustrative, UI and branding work. All of which led me to the decision to join this course to develop my skills and ultimately find a career in UX. My reasons for this were twofold. The first was that I wanted to have more involvement in the structure and functionality of the systems and website I was working with. I also wanted to put my psychology degree to use and get a better understanding of how to meet the user’s needs through my designs. I wanted to be in a position to make informed design decisions rather than simply guessing based on my own limited experience and preferences.
To establish, or in my case confirm, what area of design you are best suited for it is a good idea to establish where your skills and strengths lie. An example of this was provided in a great medium article Are you a good fit for UX? This article outlines the skills and traits that are necessary to have in UX. These skills include communication, collaborative and relationship-building, project management and problem-solving and analytical acumen.
Communication is important in two primary instances in UX. First of all, you need to be able to communicate with your team and stakeholders. This means using simple language, stating your rationale and avoiding assumptions or unwarranted leaps in judgement. UX designers also need to communicate with their users, they need to be able to break down complex processes and ideas, effectively persuade and tell stories in order to get the user to listen, care, and act
UX is a highly collaborative role. This means building strong relationships with others in different teams. UX also requires good project management and organisational skills as they need to work on multiple projects at one time which can mean prioritising, communicating progress, following up on outstanding items etc.
Problem-solving and analytical acumen is particularly important in this role in my opinion. UX designers need to be able to problem solves, design itself is all about problem-solving. They need to have good interviewing and listening skills as well as being good system thinkers and having the ability to adaptively consider the problem at hand.
Traits related to the UX profession are, being open to feedback, being adaptive and embracing ambiguity and emotional intelligence and curiosity. While I would love to possess all the above skills and traits I have to confess that I lack much of what is required to be a good UX designer. However, I do want to develope my skill level in these areas and learn as much as possible to pick up the above traits. I do believe I have some foundational abilities in these areas however I still have a lot of work to do. That said, I am excited at the prospect of developing and growing in the above skillset and do believe that UX design is the right fit for me.
In our workshop this week we had to write down on post-it notes the attributes we were hoping to find in a potential job. We also had to consider the attributes were hoping to find in colleagues or a place of employment.
The above board shows the final result. This was a great exercise as it gave us the opportunity to consider what our priorities are and what we hope to find in our future jobs and placement roles.
Some of the recurring attributes included a friendly work environment, a position that is well paid and flexibility in relation to hours and work-life balance (Flexitime). Some of the more outlandish suggestions were a scream-room and the ability to bring your pet to work. Both of which I can definitely see the benefits of. For me, primary attributes were:
- a position that I could learn a lot in and get additional training in
- a company that could provide opportunities for promotion and career development
- a company that values and places a strong emphasis on technology and design
- a position that is well paid
- working in a collaborative environment
- having the opportunity to change focus and move to a different position in that company
- fail-fast mentality
These are just a few of the things I hope to find in the various jobs I move into throughout my career however I must agree with the class that being in a friendly working environment will also have a major impact on job satisfaction. I do however think this will be hard to measure before actually jumping into the position.