From Developer to IA/IX/UX Designer

26 Jun 2006 - 11:43am
8 years ago
7 replies
1585 reads
Alvin Tan
2006

Hi,

Can any "developer turned designer" share their experience in transitioning to being a designer? I would like to know what you have been through before being a designer, how you got your foot in the door, and why you moved to being an IX/IA/UX designer.

I have been most of the time a software developer since I stepped out of school last 2004 and lately I'm realizing than I'm enjoying wireframing and designing flows more than coding it (and more conscious usability-wise than the project's requirements analysts). I plan on relocating to the US when I get an H1 job and would consider going to a seminar or short course - are these easy to come by in California or New York?

Lastly, most job ads posted here requires Photoshop/graphic design skills and I'm no guru in this aspect. I generally use Fireworks to manipulate graphics and create mockups screens but nothing extraordinary. Is this a requirement?

Thanks,
Alvin Tan
Philippines

Comments

26 Jun 2006 - 2:39pm
Michael Micheletti
2006

Hi Alvin,

I've gone this route, edging sidewise into becoming a designer by
designing and building UIs for nearly a decade before I had a designer
job title. Most developers hate to code UIs (lots of rework, always
late, no designer to help them, not really how they think) so if someone
volunteers and shows some aptitude the gig's yours forever. My first
dedicated design position was in a large organization that hoped I could
help bridge a gap between pure design talent and the dev team. I spent a
lot of time working on a style guide and front end coding examples as
well as doing interaction work.

There are advantages to taking this route. You are very aware of
high-cost vs. low-cost features, and can help to guide a project down a
practical route if you are resource-constrained. If you're an in-house
designer, you can gain the support of the dev team not only by steering
their projects to successful and on-time completion, but by your skills
and understanding of their world.

That said, there are disadvantages as well. It's hard to think like a
designer and like a programmer at the same time. The programmer brain
wants to go Make Stuff Right Now and can short-circuit the design
process. The designer brain wants to do another iteration of the doc and
test with the paper prototype again to make sure everything works
correctly. It's hard at first to recognize even that you have a
programmer brain, much less making all that noise about object models
and whatnot just go away.

Ah, photoshop. I live to skin apps, and have now spent more time
learning and practicing the photoshop craft than I spent learning Java.
There are degrees of photoshop skill, but I've yet to meet a designer
who didn't use photoshop for something every so often: building
wireframes, creating control graphics, adapting a screenshot of an
existing application and faking some change to the UI.

My recommendations for this path:
1. Volunteer to do the UIs of everything that comes your way as a coder.
If the project has a designer, stick close and ask lots of questions.
2. Read and study interaction design and use these practices in your UI
work.
3. Consider volunteering your services as a designer to a small
non-profit or creating your own side project to get more practice.
4. Build a portfolio of your design-related work.
5. Get comfortable in photoshop.

An alternative path would be to save up money, go back to school to
study design, and then make the leap. Hope this helps,

Michael Micheletti
In (for a change) Sunny Seattle

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Alvin Tan
Sent: Monday, June 26, 2006 10:44 AM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] From Developer to IA/IX/UX Designer

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]

Hi,

Can any "developer turned designer" share their experience in
transitioning to being a designer?

Lastly, most job ads posted here requires Photoshop/graphic design
skills and I'm no guru in this aspect. I generally use Fireworks to
manipulate graphics and create mockups screens but nothing
extraordinary. Is this a requirement?

Thanks,
Alvin Tan
Philippines

26 Jun 2006 - 2:44pm
Mark Schraad
2006

Alvin,

I would add to that, as an employer of UI, UE and IA designers, and a
recent job seeker, a graduate degree in the field is extremely
valuable. Cross pollination with social sciences, psych (cognitive
and behavioral), anthropology and business will all help in your
efforts. The better the school, the better the contacts, internships
and eventually opportunities. This is a best case scenario of
course... IIT, CMU and Stanford's d.school are all great options, but
there are many more. The tuition is expensive, but a pretty good
investment right now.

Mark

On Jun 26, 2006, at 3:39 PM, Michael Micheletti wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Hi Alvin,
>
> I've gone this route, edging sidewise into becoming a designer by
> designing and building UIs for nearly a decade before I had a designer
> job title. Most developers hate to code UIs (lots of rework, always
> late, no designer to help them, not really how they think) so if
> someone
> volunteers and shows some aptitude the gig's yours forever. My first
> dedicated design position was in a large organization that hoped I
> could
> help bridge a gap between pure design talent and the dev team. I
> spent a
> lot of time working on a style guide and front end coding examples as
> well as doing interaction work.
>
> There are advantages to taking this route. You are very aware of
> high-cost vs. low-cost features, and can help to guide a project
> down a
> practical route if you are resource-constrained. If you're an in-house
> designer, you can gain the support of the dev team not only by
> steering
> their projects to successful and on-time completion, but by your
> skills
> and understanding of their world.
>
> That said, there are disadvantages as well. It's hard to think like a
> designer and like a programmer at the same time. The programmer brain
> wants to go Make Stuff Right Now and can short-circuit the design
> process. The designer brain wants to do another iteration of the
> doc and
> test with the paper prototype again to make sure everything works
> correctly. It's hard at first to recognize even that you have a
> programmer brain, much less making all that noise about object models
> and whatnot just go away.
>
> Ah, photoshop. I live to skin apps, and have now spent more time
> learning and practicing the photoshop craft than I spent learning
> Java.
> There are degrees of photoshop skill, but I've yet to meet a designer
> who didn't use photoshop for something every so often: building
> wireframes, creating control graphics, adapting a screenshot of an
> existing application and faking some change to the UI.
>
> My recommendations for this path:
> 1. Volunteer to do the UIs of everything that comes your way as a
> coder.
> If the project has a designer, stick close and ask lots of questions.
> 2. Read and study interaction design and use these practices in
> your UI
> work.
> 3. Consider volunteering your services as a designer to a small
> non-profit or creating your own side project to get more practice.
> 4. Build a portfolio of your design-related work.
> 5. Get comfortable in photoshop.
>
> An alternative path would be to save up money, go back to school to
> study design, and then make the leap. Hope this helps,
>
> Michael Micheletti
> In (for a change) Sunny Seattle
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
> Alvin Tan
> Sent: Monday, June 26, 2006 10:44 AM
> To: discuss at ixda.org
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] From Developer to IA/IX/UX Designer
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Hi,
>
> Can any "developer turned designer" share their experience in
> transitioning to being a designer?
>
> Lastly, most job ads posted here requires Photoshop/graphic design
> skills and I'm no guru in this aspect. I generally use Fireworks to
> manipulate graphics and create mockups screens but nothing
> extraordinary. Is this a requirement?
>
> Thanks,
> Alvin Tan
> Philippines
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org

27 Jun 2006 - 11:43am
Jackson Fox
2006

Alvin,

> I would add to that, as an employer of UI, UE and IA designers, and a
> recent job seeker, a graduate degree in the field is extremely valuable.

This is the route that I took and it has worked out quite well. After
graduating with a Computer Science degree in 2002, I went to grad
school in Information Science in an effort to transition into design
work. I was able to get an assistantship that covered tuition and some
living expenses, so I didn't really "loose" any money while I was in
school. Most importantly, I gained a lot of design and usability
testing experience through class projects (frequently sponsored by
campus and community groups) and I made contacts that helped me find a
job right after graduation.

-- jackson

28 Jun 2006 - 11:08pm
Alvin Tan
2006

Jackson,

Where did you get your grad education in Information Science? I graduated from a Computer Science degree last 2004 and I'm thinking of taking this route (hopefully have time for work while studying). I'm still hoping I can get into a junior role without grad school though.

Alvin

----- Original Message ----
From: Jackson Fox <jacksonfox at gmail.com>
To: Mark Schraad <mschraad at mac.com>
Cc: ixda <discuss at ixda.org>
Sent: Wednesday, June 28, 2006 1:43:29 AM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] From Developer to IA/IX/UX Designer

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

Alvin,

> I would add to that, as an employer of UI, UE and IA designers, and a
> recent job seeker, a graduate degree in the field is extremely valuable.

This is the route that I took and it has worked out quite well. After
graduating with a Computer Science degree in 2002, I went to grad
school in Information Science in an effort to transition into design
work. I was able to get an assistantship that covered tuition and some
living expenses, so I didn't really "loose" any money while I was in
school. Most importantly, I gained a lot of design and usability
testing experience through class projects (frequently sponsored by
campus and community groups) and I made contacts that helped me find a
job right after graduation.

-- jackson
________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
(Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org

28 Jun 2006 - 11:15pm
Alvin Tan
2006

Michael,

It's good to know that you have successfully gone this route and thanks for sharing your experience. Did you ever had to create your own website and showcase your work before getting your designer role?

Alvin Tan

----- Original Message ----
From: Michael Micheletti <michael.micheletti at twistpair.com>
To: Alvin Tan <vin.tan at yahoo.com>; discuss at ixda.org
Sent: Tuesday, June 27, 2006 4:39:41 AM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] From Developer to IA/IX/UX Designer

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

Hi Alvin,

I've gone this route, edging sidewise into becoming a designer by
designing and building UIs for nearly a decade before I had a designer
job title. Most developers hate to code UIs (lots of rework, always
late, no designer to help them, not really how they think) so if someone
volunteers and shows some aptitude the gig's yours forever. My first
dedicated design position was in a large organization that hoped I could
help bridge a gap between pure design talent and the dev team. I spent a
lot of time working on a style guide and front end coding examples as
well as doing interaction work.

There are advantages to taking this route. You are very aware of
high-cost vs. low-cost features, and can help to guide a project down a
practical route if you are resource-constrained. If you're an in-house
designer, you can gain the support of the dev team not only by steering
their projects to successful and on-time completion, but by your skills
and understanding of their world.

That said, there are disadvantages as well. It's hard to think like a
designer and like a programmer at the same time. The programmer brain
wants to go Make Stuff Right Now and can short-circuit the design
process. The designer brain wants to do another iteration of the doc and
test with the paper prototype again to make sure everything works
correctly. It's hard at first to recognize even that you have a
programmer brain, much less making all that noise about object models
and whatnot just go away.

Ah, photoshop. I live to skin apps, and have now spent more time
learning and practicing the photoshop craft than I spent learning Java.
There are degrees of photoshop skill, but I've yet to meet a designer
who didn't use photoshop for something every so often: building
wireframes, creating control graphics, adapting a screenshot of an
existing application and faking some change to the UI.

My recommendations for this path:
1. Volunteer to do the UIs of everything that comes your way as a coder.
If the project has a designer, stick close and ask lots of questions.
2. Read and study interaction design and use these practices in your UI
work.
3. Consider volunteering your services as a designer to a small
non-profit or creating your own side project to get more practice.
4. Build a portfolio of your design-related work.
5. Get comfortable in photoshop.

An alternative path would be to save up money, go back to school to
study design, and then make the leap. Hope this helps,

Michael Micheletti
In (for a change) Sunny Seattle

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Alvin Tan
Sent: Monday, June 26, 2006 10:44 AM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] From Developer to IA/IX/UX Designer

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]

Hi,

Can any "developer turned designer" share their experience in
transitioning to being a designer?

Lastly, most job ads posted here requires Photoshop/graphic design
skills and I'm no guru in this aspect. I generally use Fireworks to
manipulate graphics and create mockups screens but nothing
extraordinary. Is this a requirement?

Thanks,
Alvin Tan
Philippines

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
(Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org

29 Jun 2006 - 10:28am
Michael Micheletti
2006

Alvin,

Yes, I'm also a fairly adept front-end web developer and felt that it was important to have an online portfolio to be taken seriously in that role. I'm a little slow adding work (so no pictures of radio dispatch consoles alas) but you're welcome to visit: http://www.deepgraysea.com

I've done a fair bit of interviewing design candidates and have noticed that the more pure interaction design focused people do not often have noteworthy online portfolios or blogs. The lack of an online presence is no hindrance to a candidate with a strong interaction design background and education IMHO. I would expect that front-end web devs or graphic designers have an online showcase though.

Michael Micheletti
Seattle, WA

________________________________

From: Alvin Tan [mailto:al_vinx1 at yahoo.com]
Sent: Wed 6/28/2006 10:15 PM
To: Michael Micheletti
Cc: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] From Developer to IA/IX/UX Designer

Michael,

It's good to know that you have successfully gone this route and thanks for sharing your experience. Did you ever had to create your own website and showcase your work before getting your designer role?

Alvin Tan

29 Jun 2006 - 11:16am
Brandon Flowers
2004

While having an online portfolio or blog may help, I found that having a
printed ( nicely bound and glossy ) Interaction Design autobiography
containing various samples (vision statements, personas, wire-frames,
treatments, etc) is a much more helpful aid during the interview. Each
page acts like these great cue cards while you walk the interviewer
through your IxD story. I say put away the computer, and talk face to
face.

You can also mail out a two-page brochure version or even you can ( or
have your head-hunter ) show potential employers a few key samples
online without having major website portfolio.

My site -- www.headwinds.net -- is one giant j-peg with hotspots -- it
took me about 2 hours to put together and I had no problem finding work
in Toronto doing both IxD and Flash development. I spent a few days on
the print version though.

cheers,

Brandon.

________________________________

Brandon Flowers
User Experience

brandon.flowers at eloqua.com

Phone: (416) 648-0099

Eloqua Corporation
553 Richmond Street West
Toronto ON M5V 1Y6

________________________________

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Micheletti [mailto:michael.micheletti at twistpair.com]
Sent: June 29, 2006 12:29 PM
To: Alvin Tan
Cc: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] From Developer to IA/IX/UX Designer

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]

Alvin,

Yes, I'm also a fairly adept front-end web developer and felt that it
was important to have an online portfolio to be taken seriously in that
role. I'm a little slow adding work (so no pictures of radio dispatch
consoles alas) but you're welcome to visit: http://www.deepgraysea.com

I've done a fair bit of interviewing design candidates and have noticed
that the more pure interaction design focused people do not often have
noteworthy online portfolios or blogs. The lack of an online presence is
no hindrance to a candidate with a strong interaction design background
and education IMHO. I would expect that front-end web devs or graphic
designers have an online showcase though.

Michael Micheletti
Seattle, WA

________________________________

From: Alvin Tan [mailto:al_vinx1 at yahoo.com]
Sent: Wed 6/28/2006 10:15 PM
To: Michael Micheletti
Cc: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] From Developer to IA/IX/UX Designer

Michael,

It's good to know that you have successfully gone this route and thanks
for sharing your experience. Did you ever had to create your own website
and showcase your work before getting your designer role?

Alvin Tan

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
(Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org

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