So you want to be a UX designer: Taking the leap from graphic design to user experience

FCTG Recruitment_Talia_141019-10

After working in the industry for ten years as a designer spanning print, web and digital mediums, Talia Yat was ready to take on her next big challenge - User Experience (UX) Designer at Flight Centre. Here, Talia shares her insights on transitioning from graphic design into a UX role.

Why UX is a great career step for graphic designers

As we continually see the rise in digital products, so has the need for greater focus on user experience and interactivity, making UX designers in high demand. There are many overlapping skills and similarities between graphic designers and user experience designers, which means it’s often an easy transition for those looking at pursuing a new role in UX. For many of us, as graphic designers we are already familiar with design conventions such as colour, shapes, imagery, patterns and placement. We tend to already have an understanding of the principles of design thinking and placing users first. Moving towards a UX design role gives graphic designers a huge advantage, as we bring not only our eye for strong aesthetics and creating visual hierarchies but also our knowledge of trends and conventions in the industry.

Becoming a UX designer: steps and tools

The biggest difference I have found when transitioning to UX design, is that it becomes about designing for use and making sure the business goals align with the product and user, rather than designing to communicate a message or focusing purely on aesthetics. In terms of process, graphic design is more linear. It usually spans from analysis, through to design and finishes once the project has launched. Whereas, for a UX designer it is more of an iterative process, often based on design thinking methodology and flows through the stages of empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. The product is continually evolving and adjusting according to user feedback.

Before I moved into UX, I was concerned that it might involve less work on the tools and be purely focused on strategy and research. However, after becoming a UX designer, I have found that it is a great balance between the two. I am focusing more on motion design (transitions and acts of delight), tone of voice (copywriting) and prototyping useful and usable products. I also have the opportunity to conduct user research and analysis, interviews, create personas, user stories and map out customer journeys, and perform usability testing to evaluate designs.

Any studying you do to move into UX does involves learning some theory and practice. Taking an officiated course isn’t necessary, especially if you already come from a design background. However, it is definitely an option with all the courses and opportunities that are readily available.

Most of my knowledge comes from reading UX blogs and online articles (Medium, Muzli, UXPlanet.org, IDEO, Smashing Magazine to name a few!), and learning through online courses (Coursera, Skillshare, +Acumen, Udemy or good ol’ Youtube/Google). Designers may find that a lot of the theory already involves things they do, whether consciously or not. However, explicitly reading up and self-learning UX will give you a better understanding of the UX process, methodologies, approaches, and ways to validate and improve on designs. Attending workshops and meetups can also be a great way to start networking with like minded people in the industry, and picking up new skills along the way.

Beyond just theory, it was important for me to learn how to use common UX tools before transitioning. I would recommend learning Sketch, Adobe XD, and InVision, Principle or Protopie for prototyping. Picking up challenges like Daily UI, can also help perfect your craft. Those who’ve worked in digital design also have a huge advantage when it comes to UX. I found that my work on responsive websites and progressive web apps taught me a lot on the skills and considerations that already form part of the UX process.

Further skills you need for UX

UX differs quite a bit from other fields that utilise design and requires you to develop a different way of thinking. Here are some more skills good UX designers need:

Know your focus

It’s important to remember your end purpose. In fields such as marketing, it's all about the visual aesthetics, 'making it pop', being loud and conveying the message. With UX design and focusing on interfaces, you need to consider how a user will interact with the interface to achieve their goals.

Have empathy for your users

Improving on your empathy and people skills will also get you far, especially when performing user test sessions and interviews. Since UX is so people-focused, being able to talk to strangers and getting their open and honest feedback on your designs is a great skill to have.

It’s an iterative process

UX involves a lot of user research, planning, wire-framing, testing and measuring those results. As designers we can be quite shy and sensitive about our designs, and the more tests and interviews you perform, the easier it is to receive feedback, try new things and constantly improve on your designs and the product.

Transitioning to UX at Flight Centre

Since great customer experience is central to our success as a business, Flight Centre invests a lot into UI/UX design. Working as the UX designer for the Flight Centre mobile app gave me the opportunity to be on the tools, design complicated user flows and interfaces, and ultimately, focus on a user's experience.

When transitioning into UX, it’s important to get real-life experience in user testing, and measuring and improving on your designs. By being around a strong team of talented UI/UX designers who you can learn from and collaborate with, it allows you to truly dive into the skills you need to become a great UI/UX designer.

Moving into UX design doesn't have to be a scary or daunting move. The key to improving your skills is to find a great company that fosters growth and has an emphasis on the user experience. If Flight Centre sounds like a place where you’d like to take your UX career, read more about what we’ve been up to and search current openings on our site.

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