How does one start a career in UX design? How does one become a user interface designer? Here are some thoughts of six lead UX designers from Paypal, LinkedIn, EverNote, Box, Atlassian and Good Technology as to how they began their careers in UX and UI design.
Original articles from http://blog.invisionapp.com/
Moses Ting, UX Design Lead at LinkedIn
My career started in the technical realm; I graduated college with a master’s in electrical engineering and my first job involved developing sensor networks to protect buildings from biological and chemical terrorist attacks. Later on, I taught myself how to code and wrote full-stack code for a small software company with offices in Boston and New York.
“Ever since college, I knew that
I had a passion for design.”
I’d help friends and classmates with design-focused side projects. Even when I started my career, I just couldn’t stay away. I’d come home from my day job, eat dinner quickly, and put on my designer hat to work on freelance projects. I’d often lose track of time in the middle of the night perfecting pixels – I just loved it.
In 2010, I finally decided to take the leap and made design the focus of my career. My first truly design-focused role was at LinkedIn. It’s been a journey filled with excitement and growth ever since.
Jerry Gordinier, a UX Designer at Atlassian
When I was teaching English in Taiwan, I realized there was a need for a games database for ESL teachers and so I started to develop taiwanenglish.com – It started as just a database for ESL teachers to add games to, but then evolved into a language exchange social network. From there we developed another one called PenPal Roulette, which was supposed to be kind of like a chat roulette, with less questionable relationships. Shortly after that I went back to the University of Michigan for a Master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction at the School of Information there.
Joshua Taylor, a UI Designer at Evernote
I was one of those kids that was always wanting to make stuff, always drawing. Then somewhere in the middle of high school I took a 3D animation class (this was, like, 1997, so 3D animation was fairly new at the time). I was super into it and knew that I really wanted to do it, but I couldn’t go to college for it. I basically just sat through college being really interested in the design world. After I graduated I immediately jumped into doing design – it just seemed like the easy and most natural thing for me to do. Just like everyone else at the time, I started with Flash sites and eventually learned that that was a bad idea and I should be doing something else.
A few years ago, I was living in Salt Lake City working at a company designing web software. I really hated the company so I quit. At the time, my wife was five months pregnant, but I heard about an internship in Berlin with a guy named Erik Spiekermann. He had a really cool agency called Edenspiekermann. He’s just a super legit guy – one of the big names and somebody who really knows what’s going on. I was ready for something new so I just thought “screw it.” So I took the internship and moved to Berlin.
I did that for a little while and came back to the states to be there for birth of my daughter. After she was born, I went and got my master’s degree in Design and Art Direction in Barcelona. I think a lot of the design world tends to focus on agency and marketing work, so the majority of my learning was based around creating campaigns. I’m glad I have that background, but it’s inherently a very different process from product design.
“My path has been a bit unique.”
Every one of these events has led me in this direction – product design is something that I didn’t really know that I wanted to do until I did it. There are so many designers doing really beautiful, gorgeous things and when I look at their work, I know I’m not doing things as aesthetically extravagant. I was always kind of trying to find my place in that. In product development, you have real tangible problems you need to solve. Product design is affecting how people are interacting with the product and I think that’s the kind of thing that I’ve really enjoyed. It is very functional design that affects behavior.
Kevin Tu, UX Lead at Box
In college, I always had an interest in designing cars and user interfaces, but I didn’t know that there was a field called Human Factors or Human-Computer Interaction. At the time, I was thinking I’d probably have to go into mechanical engineering if I wanted to go into the car design business. Then I found out about the Engineering Psychology program at Tufts, which was the equivalent of Human Factors Engineering. It covered usability, ergonomics, user center design, computer-human interaction, and the psychology behind that.
“My first job out of college was solely focused
on usability research and designing specs.”
From there I got into consulting for web design and web applications, and then I came here.
Hannah Strobel, Principal User Experience Designer at Good Technology
One of my friends was a professional photographer and he taught me how to use Photoshop. I was fascinated by design and I knew I wanted to study it, but I didn’t want to just study art or photography – I wanted to work on solutions that improve people’s lives, and that’s why I got my B.A. in Communication Design. I’m now about to finish my MBA in Design Strategy at CCA in San Francisco. In this program, we’re learning how to apply design thinking, while still keeping the business aspect in mind, to drive innovation and solve real problems.
Chooake Wongwattanasilpa, Head of User Experience Design at PayPal
I got a Master’s degree in Fine Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When I graduated in 2000, the online movement was gaining momentum so I started to learn how to code and how to design web products.
I landed my first job at a financial research company called Morningstar and after that moved onto Motorola as a mobile designer, helping carriers adopt user interfaces.
Relocating to Silicon Valley in 2006, I joined PayPal working on the checkout product. After about three and a half years we realized in order to grow the Asia-Pacific business, we needed a design team in the region, so I moved to Singapore four years ago and have built up a team from 1 person to about 18 people.
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2 thoughts on “How six senior designers began their career in UX and UI design”
Wow, thanks for reading about my journey to becoming a designer.
You welcome Moses. You have an amazing story worth sharing.
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