Getting into the UX World – how hard is it really?


As Australian and New Zealand Managing Director of a global Strategic design company, Designit, many aspiring User Experience (UX) designers and creators are approaching me for guidance. In fact, I have an hour set aside each week for those people who approach me with “can I pick your brains?”. I am more than happy to provide direction, but this is actually where it occurs to me that my own path was by no means reflective of what is required or expected.  My own experience was very much experimental because I was virtually finding my own way in an industry that was still in its infancy.


Because my own path involved a lot of trial and error, as well as the proverbial blood, sweat and tears, I am personally relieved that others will have a somewhat different experience now. I made some poor choices and didn’t even envision  I would be a regional MD of an international Strategic Design company, even though I can see now its exactly where I need to be.  Fortunately blue hair and skateboards in London, grabbing an ABN out of necessity and wielding a shaky business within an even more shaky relationship is what I may have done, but its not what you need to do to enter this exciting and ever-evolving industry.


Here are my tips:


  1. Look into getting a useful education. Obviously things in this industry are changing all the time, but a qualification will bolster your resume and it will give you the basics that every UX designer should know. Because this industry is in increasing demand, qualifications and courses are popping up everywhere. Short courses from General Assembly or Academy Xi will show you what tools are in the design toolbox and give you some opportunity to practice them, but they won’t help you know which tool to use when in real life project situations. That only comes with experience. Deep dive UX specialist courses are really only available overseas like Jared Spools Centre Center but taking selected units from university courses in Australia is now an option and you might find it’s not one course you need but bits and pieces from all different organisations to round out your knowledge. There are some interesting Masters Degrees now available here too but the most obvious education path isn’t necessarily the one that will get you the knowledge or the job.
  2. So you know how they say that learning a language is best spent immersing yourself in that culture? Well, this is sort of the same. If you are convinced that UX is your calling, you should be inhaling everything about it. There are some fantastic UX designers who put out amazing content on Twitter and Medium. Just a few of them you should be following are Joshua Porter, Christina Wodtke, Erica Hall, Dana Chisnell, Lauren Currie, Steve Portigal, Kim Goodwin,  Paul Boag, Aarron Walter, Jared M Spool, Andy Budd, David Armano, Indi Young and Luke Wroblewski.
  3. I have been employing designers since 2014 and I am impressed by their industry immersion. Obviously those who have come from employed positions in other organisations is another story, but if I am meeting someone new to the industry, an interest in the industry is awesome, but what else can you tell me? I don’t really care if you were paid or not to be immersed in UX and design. It could be an agency where you interned, or maybe your friend was starting up a new business and you helped them with their company profile and website as a favour. What can you tell me about your process and projects you’ve selected that show me you are more than just another human straight out of school or Uni who thinks UX is the place to be?
  4. Reach out to those you feel could share something of interest with you. Don’t be afraid to send established UX designers a message on Linked In, social media or an email to say that you appreciate their work. You may also have an opportunity to ask them something about a project they have been involved in, or about the industry in general. Having mentors is important and you can learn a lot about UX design and your own career in the process.


Realistically you may establish yourself in the industry in a similar way to me, or your path may be completely different.  UX design is so innovative that there really are no clear steps yet or a guaranteed opportunity to success.


However, as an MD, a commentator to the media and sought-after speaker for the industry I can only provide some guidance on doing what I feel would be useful.


Finally, you won’t get anywhere without passion. You need to be genuinely excited about experience design and about helping others. This was how I felt and how I do still feel, and I honestly believe that my enthusiasm about all that this industry offers ensures that I succeed.


By International Director on the Interaction Design Association Board and MD of Aus/NZ DesignIt. Australian pioneer in the experience design industry, Katja Forbes

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