I am finding it hard to believe that this time last year I was finishing my last year of college. I had no idea where I’m going to end up, but I knew one thing — that I want to be a UX designer. My dreams came through and I’ve been a Junior UX designer at Threefold Systems for over 9 months. Since then, I significantly extended my knowledge, so I decided to do a little update about some of the things I have learned working in the field. This has been an amazing journey but there is still so much for me to learn. I am sure that at this time next year I will have way more to add to this list. But as they say — it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey — the journey of learning something new every day. And there is no destination in UX, as there is always something new to learn, it can get pretty overwhelming.
Working as a designer is unquestionably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I have always been interested in psychology, art, and technology so UX design is definitely my Ikigai. Does that mean I’m finding it easy? Of course not. There’s so much to learn and I had moments where I felt like I can’t do anything right. But there are way more moments where you feel like you are learning and getting better.
Being a junior can sometimes feel like you’re on a rollercoaster. Yes, it’s going to be overwhelming at times. Yes, sometimes I felt like I was taking one step forward and two steps back. Sometimes I felt like I was even getting worse. Looking back, I know I just need to relax. It’s been a bumpy ride, but I would be worried if it wasn’t. At the end of the day, if you’re not getting challenged then you’re not learning anything new. I learned to take a step back and remember that I’m still new to all this. What helped me the best was focusing on exploring my ideas, learning new, interesting things and making the best out of it! There isn’t a designer who knows it all. Why? Because there’s always something new to learn! Technology is and will be changing at an unbelievable rate and human brains will never stop surprising us.
When you are only starting your career as a designer, working for a company that values design is extremely important. I think one of the things I learned very recently is to how important it was to find a place of work that values my opinion and where I’m encouraged to grow. From speaking to other designers, I found out that not every company is like that which made me realize how lucky I was to end up at Threefold. Not only the work that we do has helped me grow in so many ways as we work on a variety of different projects for clients all over the world. As our clients are from different sectors, our end users are all so different. Because of that, each project is different and there hasn’t been a day when I didn’t learn anything new. The working culture is also amazing as I get to collaborate with so many talented and passionate people. We are all encouraged to try out new things and to improve how we work. For example last year we ran our first design sprint which has been a great success and we began doing them regularly. We all learn from each other as we do things like lunch&learns, go to conferences and do monthly design talks. We also love a good laugh and there is a great support network if you ever need help. I think working for a company that ticks all these boxes have been so important and I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t have such great support.
Working with amazing people has the perks of being able to see how they design and find out how they got to where they are now. Learning from our team lead is not the only thing that helped me to become a better designer. I always try to find time to read articles written by other designers. I got into a habit of reading a couple of articles from Medium while having breakfast before work, and that helps me to wake up and get my brain thinking. We also have a UX slack channel where we can share anything interesting we found like articles or books or just ask questions. But I discovered that designers aren’t the only people I can learn from. Since I began my UX journey, I have been trying to understand struggles developers are facing. This made me realize how important collaboration between our teams is. In previous jobs, I was either the only designer or only worked on a design team so it’s refreshing to see what can be created when we all work together. As they say — two heads are better than one, especially if those heads come from different backgrounds.
I do LOVE getting feedback and I am very lucky to work on a team where we are very open and honest about our designs. Sometimes it can be extremely easy to get attached to your work and take any criticism personally. Learning how to have a healthy attitude towards my work made me focus on weaker areas and help me grow instead of dwelling on mistakes I made. I always remind myself that making mistakes makes you a better designer as you can learn from them.
While we’re on the topic of detaching yourself from your work, I would highly recommend questioning what you’re actually doing. And I don’t mean doubting yourself, this is all about questioning why you did something the way you did it. This is something that I am still learning and trying to do, but I try to question all my decisions and choices. It can be hard, especially when working on small things that I want to quickly finish. I think of it as my little critique session — I step away from my design for a second, come back to it and just question it. It helps me spot mistakes or inconsistencies that I haven’t seen before. It also prepares me to answer questions that team members or clients might have about it.
Coming from more of an “artsy” background, for a long time, my designs were quite full on. I liked showing off “my skills” as much as possible by adding too many details and ornaments that were unnecessary. When I started working I began getting questions about why I added some decorations and quickly realized they don’t add value to my designs. The first time I realized I am a fan of more of a minimalistic approach to design was at “The Future” conference in Dublin listening to Love Creative’s talk. The talk was mainly focusing on brand design but there was one thing said that really stuck with me —
“In an even busier world, simple means stand out”.
Back then I liked what I heard but didn’t really understand it. Since then I’ve been really trying to put myself into the end users shoes and I began really appreciating those words. It’s very easy to get caught up in the utopian world of Dribbble and Behance and forget why and who you’re designing for. I still find it very tempting to add some elements to my designs to make them look pretty or even add features that could be hard to understand or use for certain types of users. Always being aware that users come first and that making their lives easier is our goal has been a huge eye-opener. It is something that our team preaches as “Be simple and easy to use” is one of our design principles. We can make the user’s life easier by letting them complete easy tasks without distractions — there is no need for complexity.
There is way more I have learned working as a Junior UX designer as this career is probably one of the most varied and interesting that you can choose. As there is so much depth to it and so much to explore, it can be overwhelming. Having a great support network and a great mentor is half of the battle done and if I was to write everything I was taught in the past 9months, this article would turn into a book. I am so grateful that I found a career that I love and even though I still have a long way to get to the level I want to be at, and I am excited to see what the future holds!