21 April 2021

Switching careers from graphic design to UX design: how I got started

If there’s one good thing that came out of COVID, it would be me questioning myself if I was content and fulfilled being a graphic designer. I have been doing graphic design for over 10 years now, where do I go from here?

Most of my designer friends were already product designers, a term which I was unfamiliar with at that time. After some research, I quickly realised that UX design is what I was meant to be doing and it’s only a natural progression as a graphic designer. Not to mention how cool a UX case study looked with all the research techniques and findings which I was unfamiliar with at that time, but it definitely piqued my interest! 😎

Where to start?

To begin my journey, I got in touch with as many friends I have who were already UX designers. Learning about their day-to-day life, job scopes and how/when did they made the leap from graphic design.

From there, I read up about the industry with the free articles online. Here are some free articles from InVision that were shared by a friend which gave me an idea of the industry:

  1. Principles of UX Design
  2. Fundamental UI Design
  3. Making a Product Design

To my knowledge, it is possible to be a UX designer if I was persistent and motivated enough to read and practice them in my daily life and work. But I didn’t think I was disciplined enough for self-studying and needed a structure to help me learn, thus I signed up to an online bootcamp (General Assembly and Academy Xi are some of the more well-known bootcamps in Australia, I went with the latter).

Bootcamp fees are not cheap but we need to ask ourselves if they are worth the investment for the career switch. Think long term, a small price for a job that is in-demand and will give us fulfilment.

These bootcamps offer full-time (3 months) or part-time courses (6 months) to suit your needs. I personally enrolled into a part-time course as I did not want to leave my full time job and it has been working well for me.

Other work arounds that one can get into the industry is via:

  1. Passion Projects — Ever came across a problem that you think can be improved if you put your creative spin on it? Study the UX ways on how this can be achieved and practice your skills on this. This can help you develop a good design thinking process and the final results can be also used in portfolios.
  2. The Internet — There are thousands of free articles, blogs and newsletter that can help put the whole UX design process together.
  3. Get a Mentor — If you have a good friend who is already a UX designer, get in touch with them. Buy them dinner and ask them if you can get their opinion from time to time if you are ever at a roadblock or simply just talk about the industry. UX designers are passionate about the industry and will often be more than happy to share and discuss about this.

New beginnings

Going into my bootcamp, it was absolutely essential to begin the course with an open mind, leaving anything I know about design behind. Over the course, I was introduced to new methods to conduct research, validate problems, ideation techniques and design solutions that are focused on the user. On top of that, meeting other like-minded people who are on the same journey was so refreshing and motivating!

Crazy 8s workshop to produce ideas for my problem

Human centred design has been around for a long time. Only now that it has been seen as a major industry that can benefit lots of businesses. As a graphic designer, this is something I have been unknowingly practicing– picking colours, fonts, imagery that relates to the user.

Online zoom session


Having a background in graphic design is definitely helpful as there are a lot of similarities with some of the softwares used in UX (Figma, Adobe XD, Sketch) and it’s just a matter of getting used to it.

High fidelity prototype designing with Figma


Learnings

The journey is part of the outcome: How we arrive at the final design is with a variety of research techniques that can help uncover key insights and findings that will ultimately help your final design.

Paper prototyping

Presenting ideas: Presentation is something that I was never comfortable or confident in doing but with actual research and validated findings, there is almost nothing to be afraid of. After all, you are simply presenting facts with support behind the design. In UX, you will be constantly presenting your ideas to your clients to involve them in the process of designing the solutions.

Storytelling: Sell your design, how did your design help your primary user? Creating a story from the discovery of the problem to the final design is an important element in UX as it brings your design to life and makes it more human.

Storyboarding the user journey

Iterate, iterate, iterate: Your design is constantly evolving with feedbacks from users. Only these testings can inform you of how the user actually feels about the product. After all, we are designing for the user.

Lo-fi prototyping the app design

Stop focusing on aesthetics: If a font looks better when it’s small but is not legible to the user, it is not a good design. Sure the design has to look good, but it has to be functional first and that will always be a priority.

Current state

Having completed my first project which I have posted on Medium here and I have to say that it has been a really fun and enlightening experience. I have learned and grown so much as a designer and it has only been 3 months! 😉

We are now on our second project and I have volunteered to be the project manager (Something which I would have never thought I would do in the past). I will be uploading part two when that is completed.

If you too are considering about making a career switch to UX, hopefully my personal journey will inspire you to gather your courage and take that first step. I truly believe this will be a rewarding experience.

Thank you for reading! If you are going through a similar phase or journey, say hello at brianfoong@gmail.com or connect with me on LinkedIn so we can share our experiences and chat about it.

I’d also like to thank Jaemie Dela Pena, our mentor for all the valuable guidance and advice she has provided. She has been amazing and wonderful at bringing life and positivity into all our group sessions!