New to IXD, looking for some advice.

3 Oct 2007 - 9:31am
6 years ago
13 replies
633 reads
Brian
2007

Hi list, I just joined a couple of days ago, and I'm really glad I did. I
love the in-depth conversations about all aspects of IXD. I have some
observations and theories I'll be bringing up soon. Anyway, I'll try and
make these questions as quick and concise as possible.

I'm a 28 year old graphic designer with his associates from a community
college in...graphic design. My current job (which I've held for about 5
years now) has been designing print catalog and flyer creation systems in
Access/VBA/InDesign. (I've done some automation of page layout work here I'm
really proud of.) About a year ago, I was trying to create an interface for
one of my programs and I realized my "calling" is Interaction Design. Not
having any real experience or formal study in IXD, I went back to school,
hoping to get into NYU's independent study so I could take courses in their
ITP grad program. As a backup, I applied to the program that looked like it
would get me my bachelors the quickest: an independent study, liberal arts
program at the New School in NYC. That's where I ended up and I'm in my
first semester at the New School, taking 3 classes there.

That's where I am. These are my questions:

1. (I realize this is somewhat similar to the freelance question asked a
couple of days ago, but while those answers were helpful they weren't quite
for me.) I am getting ready to move on at my job. However, I realize that I
am in no way ready to take on an IXD job. At least not at a level comparable
to my current salary. Every IXD ad has requirements of 6-9 years
experience/degree in IXD, etc. How do I get a low-level, possibly part-time
start? If I weren't supporting myself, I'd apply for an internship but I
can't spare that time.

2. How can I document my interfaces in my portfolio? It seems like it would
require screen shots with heavy notation and a long summary of the
background of the system. Also, it's done in Access so while the interface
is decent looking, I was severely limited in the form creation and so, all
of the "quality" is in the behavior.

3. I'm unsure if my school will have the proper courses. I'm somewhat on my
own for picking classes; when I spoke with my adviser, he just pointed me
toward the psychology classes. I will (in theory) be able to take courses at
Parsons School of Design (part of New School), but I can't yet. I'd love to
hear some advice on what classes gave you the theoretical background you
reference on a day-to-day basis. I'm more worried about not knowing the
concepts than scrambling to learn a new technology.

Thanks for all your suggestions!
Brian Carter

Comments

3 Oct 2007 - 10:47am
Jason Witenstei...
2006

As a MFADT grad from Parsons, I'll try to help a bit in response to
question 3: (I'll let others take on the first two).

Classes in the Design and Technology program (now I think it's
Communication Desgin & Technology from the new website
http://cdt.parsons.edu/) are incredible and would definitely address
your needs. ITP is cool but Parsons CDT is all about Total World
Domination. You should have a look-see as to what's currently offered
but the faculty and professors there are top notch so go talk with them
and see what appeals to you. And most definitely hang out on the 10th
floor and schmooze with students (undergrad and grad they all gather
there) and get the inside goodies. You're definitely at the right place
and after you've gotten your feet wet, think about transferring into the
CDT undergrad program. You'll be glad you did.

Best of luck and give my regards to the 10th floor!

Jason Witenstein-Weaver

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Brian
Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2007 10:32 AM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] New to IXD, looking for some advice.

Hi list, I just joined a couple of days ago, and I'm really glad I did.
I
love the in-depth conversations about all aspects of IXD. I have some
observations and theories I'll be bringing up soon. Anyway, I'll try and
make these questions as quick and concise as possible.

I'm a 28 year old graphic designer with his associates from a community
college in...graphic design. My current job (which I've held for about 5
years now) has been designing print catalog and flyer creation systems
in
Access/VBA/InDesign. (I've done some automation of page layout work here
I'm
really proud of.) About a year ago, I was trying to create an interface
for
one of my programs and I realized my "calling" is Interaction Design.
Not
having any real experience or formal study in IXD, I went back to
school,
hoping to get into NYU's independent study so I could take courses in
their
ITP grad program. As a backup, I applied to the program that looked like
it
would get me my bachelors the quickest: an independent study, liberal
arts
program at the New School in NYC. That's where I ended up and I'm in my
first semester at the New School, taking 3 classes there.

That's where I am. These are my questions:

1. (I realize this is somewhat similar to the freelance question asked a
couple of days ago, but while those answers were helpful they weren't
quite
for me.) I am getting ready to move on at my job. However, I realize
that I
am in no way ready to take on an IXD job. At least not at a level
comparable
to my current salary. Every IXD ad has requirements of 6-9 years
experience/degree in IXD, etc. How do I get a low-level, possibly
part-time
start? If I weren't supporting myself, I'd apply for an internship but I
can't spare that time.

2. How can I document my interfaces in my portfolio? It seems like it
would
require screen shots with heavy notation and a long summary of the
background of the system. Also, it's done in Access so while the
interface
is decent looking, I was severely limited in the form creation and so,
all
of the "quality" is in the behavior.

3. I'm unsure if my school will have the proper courses. I'm somewhat on
my
own for picking classes; when I spoke with my adviser, he just pointed
me
toward the psychology classes. I will (in theory) be able to take
courses at
Parsons School of Design (part of New School), but I can't yet. I'd love
to
hear some advice on what classes gave you the theoretical background you
reference on a day-to-day basis. I'm more worried about not knowing the
concepts than scrambling to learn a new technology.

Thanks for all your suggestions!
Brian Carter
________________________________________________________________
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3 Oct 2007 - 7:49pm
Cwodtke
2004

This is general career advice, and I think it applies to your situation.
It's always easier to change title *within* a compan, especially if
you've built up some credibility. My advice would be to take a graphic
design job in an interactive company, prove your chops, help out as
often as possible, and earn your way to the interactive work. It means
planning 2-5 years out, but if you are looking at school you've already
got that mindset.

~c

Brian wrote:
> Hi list, I just joined a couple of days ago, and I'm really glad I did. I
> love the in-depth conversations about all aspects of IXD. I have some
> observations and theories I'll be bringing up soon. Anyway, I'll try and
> make these questions as quick and concise as possible.
>
> I'm a 28 year old graphic designer with his associates from a community
> college in...graphic design. My current job (which I've held for about 5
> years now) has been designing print catalog and flyer creation systems in
> Access/VBA/InDesign. (I've done some automation of page layout work here I'm
> really proud of.) About a year ago, I was trying to create an interface for
> one of my programs and I realized my "calling" is Interaction Design. Not
> having any real experience or formal study in IXD, I went back to school,
> hoping to get into NYU's independent study so I could take courses in their
> ITP grad program. As a backup, I applied to the program that looked like it
> would get me my bachelors the quickest: an independent study, liberal arts
> program at the New School in NYC. That's where I ended up and I'm in my
> first semester at the New School, taking 3 classes there.
>
> That's where I am. These are my questions:
>
> 1. (I realize this is somewhat similar to the freelance question asked a
> couple of days ago, but while those answers were helpful they weren't quite
> for me.) I am getting ready to move on at my job. However, I realize that I
> am in no way ready to take on an IXD job. At least not at a level comparable
> to my current salary. Every IXD ad has requirements of 6-9 years
> experience/degree in IXD, etc. How do I get a low-level, possibly part-time
> start? If I weren't supporting myself, I'd apply for an internship but I
> can't spare that time.
>
> 2. How can I document my interfaces in my portfolio? It seems like it would
> require screen shots with heavy notation and a long summary of the
> background of the system. Also, it's done in Access so while the interface
> is decent looking, I was severely limited in the form creation and so, all
> of the "quality" is in the behavior.
>
> 3. I'm unsure if my school will have the proper courses. I'm somewhat on my
> own for picking classes; when I spoke with my adviser, he just pointed me
> toward the psychology classes. I will (in theory) be able to take courses at
> Parsons School of Design (part of New School), but I can't yet. I'd love to
> hear some advice on what classes gave you the theoretical background you
> reference on a day-to-day basis. I'm more worried about not knowing the
> concepts than scrambling to learn a new technology.
>
> Thanks for all your suggestions!
> Brian Carter
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

--
Christina Wodtke
Principal Instigator
415-577-2550

Business :: http://www.cucinamedia.com
Magazine :: http://www.boxesandarrows.com
Product :: http://www.publicsquarehq.com
Personal :: http://www.eleganthack.com
Book :: http://www.blueprintsfortheweb.com

cwodtke at eleganthack.com

3 Oct 2007 - 8:07pm
Dante Murphy
2006

Brian-

Speaking for myself, I'll reply to questions 1 and 2.

1. The two new hires at my company are a recent grad (not an IxD degree, either) and a co-op who's just entering her second year at Drexel. There are opportunities out there...sometimes you can even approach a company that's looking for a senior IxD and convince them of the economy of hiring 2 entry-level people for the same net cost. I convinced myself of that wisdom, and have been very happy with the results. Besides, there are precious few 6-9 year veterans out there activley looking in any given market who are worth the effort.

Now, as to whether you can afford to take that deep a pay cut...that's something only you can answer. Even our co-op position is a paid position, and almost everyone I know supplements with some kind of side work income. So maybe you can consider that..a lower-paying day job to build your resume and skills in IxD, with some night work in graphic design. Or you could just become an Ice Road Trucker.

2. My observation has been that there are two ways to evaluate work...evaluate the product or evaluate the process. Some people are good at doing both. I personally tend to favor the process, because the product is more frequently bound by constraints. So annotate the heck out of your Access app, and go in prepared to explain everything you did...the successes, the compromises, the things you've learned to never do again. This is the attitude that appeals most to hiring managers, especially those hiring people they plan to develop over a long period of time.

Hope that helps,
Dante

________________________________

From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com on behalf of Brian

That's where I am. These are my questions:

1. ...However, I realize that I am in no way ready to take on an IXD job. At least not at a level comparable to my current salary. Every IXD ad has requirements of 6-9 years experience/degree in IXD, etc. How do I get a low-level, possibly part-time start? If I weren't supporting myself, I'd apply for an internship but I can't spare that time.

2. How can I document my interfaces in my portfolio? It seems like it would require screen shots with heavy notation and a long summary of the background of the system. Also, it's done in Access so while the interface is decent looking, I was severely limited in the form creation and so, all of the "quality" is in the behavior.

3 Oct 2007 - 8:14pm
Dan Saffer
2003

On Oct 3, 2007, at 5:49 PM, Christina Wodtke wrote:

> This is general career advice, and I think it applies to your
> situation.
> It's always easier to change title *within* a compan, especially if
> you've built up some credibility. My advice would be to take a graphic
> design job in an interactive company, prove your chops, help out as
> often as possible, and earn your way to the interactive work. It means
> planning 2-5 years out, but if you are looking at school you've
> already
> got that mindset.

I actually disagree with this advice. Nearly every time I changed
focus in my career (which was fairly often in the 1990s), I had to
change companies to do it. Companies have a tendency to pigeonhole
you ("You can't do X, you're Y!"), whereas another company will hire
you as an X person much more easily. At least, that has always been
my experience.

And frankly, we're once again in a period where companies are so
hungry for design talent, they will take a chance on someone new. I
think in big cities especially, it is fairly easy to get IxD jobs
right now, even Jr.-level ones.

The advice I gave last year is still valid, maybe even moreso now:

<http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/essays/archives/000656.php>

You still need temperament, training, and experience.

Dan

Dan Saffer
Experience Design Director, Adaptive Path
http://www.adaptivepath.com
http://www.odannyboy.com

3 Oct 2007 - 8:24pm
.pauric
2006

To side with Christina on this one, and maybe it Depends(tm) on the
company, I went from hw to usability to design. Most of the other
grads that started with me went on to Marketing or Program management
- the managerial route.

There are plenty of companies out there that dont pigeon hole their
employees, there's no reason I see for those same companies to
single out the IxD role as pre-qualified hire-in only.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the improved ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=21042

4 Oct 2007 - 7:38am
Dave Malouf
2005

The other area where I will disagree w/ Dan (as I agree w/ Christine
and Pauric on the first point) is that anyone can get a job right
now. I disagree w/ this. While companies are hungry right now, part
of the reason we feel so drought stricken (I know I'm looking) is
b/c we will not give in on quality of candidates. This is what
happened in the 90s and most of us learned our lesson that "warm
body" as a qualification doesn't cut it any longer if we want to be
taken seriously and really build credibility within a wider
organization.

if you are doing "warm body" hiring, I suggest you might be doing a
disservice to yourself and to your organization.

Again, "it depends" and mileage will vary.

As to a better piece of advice, I suggest you just do it. Take your
portfolio and make it a showcase for your abilities and talents. Make
it your project that you use to teach yourself everything you need to
know. The information is all out there for free of charge thanks to
great sites like slideshare.net where almost every major guru puts
all their slides for the world to see, even for some pretty expensive
classes.

Also, the investment of $2500 or so for a UXWeek, Cooper Practicum,
User Experience Week, UI Conf cannot be better spent. All of these
while seemingly expensive do one thing really well. They take away
the overwhelming feeling that we all get whenever we start something
from scratch.

For example, an opportunity to take a 3-day course with Tog is
something that any Jr. designer should definitely consider,
especially if they are transitioning from one UX discipline into IxD.
Dan's course would be an equally good idea as well as the Cooper
Practicum. Kim Goodwin is doing a 1-day IxD workshop at UI12 next
month. That Luke's workshop (I don't know if they are competing
or not) alone make that 5 day event worth the money, IMHO.

-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the improved ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=21042

4 Oct 2007 - 8:59am
pyces
2007

I have an MS in Human Factors in Information Design, and the courses that
helped me most were those in cognitive psychology and user interface design.
I use the knowledge gained in these classes on a daily basis (and the books
are invaluable).

Good luck!
Courtney Jordan

2007/10/3, Brian <brainbrimstone at gmail.com>:
>
> Hi list, I just joined a couple of days ago, and I'm really glad I did. I
> love the in-depth conversations about all aspects of IXD. I have some
> observations and theories I'll be bringing up soon. Anyway, I'll try and
> make these questions as quick and concise as possible.
>
> I'm a 28 year old graphic designer with his associates from a community
> college in...graphic design. My current job (which I've held for about 5
> years now) has been designing print catalog and flyer creation systems in
> Access/VBA/InDesign. (I've done some automation of page layout work here
> I'm
> really proud of.) About a year ago, I was trying to create an interface
> for
> one of my programs and I realized my "calling" is Interaction Design. Not
> having any real experience or formal study in IXD, I went back to school,
> hoping to get into NYU's independent study so I could take courses in
> their
> ITP grad program. As a backup, I applied to the program that looked like
> it
> would get me my bachelors the quickest: an independent study, liberal arts
> program at the New School in NYC. That's where I ended up and I'm in my
> first semester at the New School, taking 3 classes there.
>
> That's where I am. These are my questions:
>
> 1. (I realize this is somewhat similar to the freelance question asked a
> couple of days ago, but while those answers were helpful they weren't
> quite
> for me.) I am getting ready to move on at my job. However, I realize that
> I
> am in no way ready to take on an IXD job. At least not at a level
> comparable
> to my current salary. Every IXD ad has requirements of 6-9 years
> experience/degree in IXD, etc. How do I get a low-level, possibly
> part-time
> start? If I weren't supporting myself, I'd apply for an internship but I
> can't spare that time.
>
> 2. How can I document my interfaces in my portfolio? It seems like it
> would
> require screen shots with heavy notation and a long summary of the
> background of the system. Also, it's done in Access so while the interface
> is decent looking, I was severely limited in the form creation and so, all
> of the "quality" is in the behavior.
>
> 3. I'm unsure if my school will have the proper courses. I'm somewhat on
> my
> own for picking classes; when I spoke with my adviser, he just pointed me
> toward the psychology classes. I will (in theory) be able to take courses
> at
> Parsons School of Design (part of New School), but I can't yet. I'd love
> to
> hear some advice on what classes gave you the theoretical background you
> reference on a day-to-day basis. I'm more worried about not knowing the
> concepts than scrambling to learn a new technology.
>
> Thanks for all your suggestions!
> Brian Carter
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

4 Oct 2007 - 9:28am
jrrogan
2005

It's possible to become "more then a warm body", fast, if you have some
experience with interface design, such as graphics design.

I'd suggest reading all the major books, (on the IxDA web site), which
should make your head spin, but will "sink in" when you start working.

The other major success factor which seems not to be highlighted so much, is
knowing how to work with/read/disseminate requirements and extract patterns
from them. The first part of this "understanding" could be done by anyone
involved in IT, the second part is a more specific to IXD, which is why you
plagiarize, copy and generally do what the best of breed UI is doing, until
you have a compelling reason not to.

Note I'd get an IXDA job first and go to school part time. Also in the US,
it seems to get a head you've got to move on, which means a new company.

4 Oct 2007 - 9:36am
pyces
2007

The other thing that my prototyping teacher, Chauncey, taught us is to do a
lot of side projects, even volunteer work, so that you can build up your
project portfolio. Get involved with the Usability Professionals
Association, Human Factors Ergonomic Society, and other like societies so
that you can make contacts, attend conferences, etc.

Courtney

2007/10/4, Rich Rogan <jrrogan at gmail.com>:
>
> It's possible to become "more then a warm body", fast, if you have some
> experience with interface design, such as graphics design.
>
> I'd suggest reading all the major books, (on the IxDA web site), which
> should make your head spin, but will "sink in" when you start working.
>
> The other major success factor which seems not to be highlighted so much,
> is
> knowing how to work with/read/disseminate requirements and extract
> patterns
> from them. The first part of this "understanding" could be done by anyone
> involved in IT, the second part is a more specific to IXD, which is why
> you
> plagiarize, copy and generally do what the best of breed UI is doing,
> until
> you have a compelling reason not to.
>
> Note I'd get an IXDA job first and go to school part time. Also in the US,
> it seems to get a head you've got to move on, which means a new company.
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

4 Oct 2007 - 9:37am
Dan Saffer
2003

On Oct 4, 2007, at 5:38 AM, David Malouf wrote:

> The other area where I will disagree w/ Dan (as I agree w/ Christine
> and Pauric on the first point) is that anyone can get a job right
> now. I disagree w/ this. While companies are hungry right now, part
> of the reason we feel so drought stricken (I know I'm looking) is
> b/c we will not give in on quality of candidates. This is what
> happened in the 90s and most of us learned our lesson that "warm
> body" as a qualification doesn't cut it any longer if we want to be
> taken seriously and really build credibility within a wider
> organization.
>
> if you are doing "warm body" hiring, I suggest you might be doing a
> disservice to yourself and to your organization.

I'm not suggesting that companies hire just anybody either. That's
the road to hell. But if I'm in the market for Jr. IxDs, I'm looking
for passion, interest, and potential. The experience isn't likely to
be there, or be much there. I'm much more likely when the market is
tight, as it is now, to bring on a Jr. Designer and mentor/train them
simply because the more experienced people are locked up. I'm much
more willing to take a risk on someone untested but with potential.
And I bet others are too.

Dan

4 Oct 2007 - 9:51am
Scott McDaniel
2007

On 10/4/07, Dan Saffer <dan at odannyboy.com> wrote:
> I'm not suggesting that companies hire just anybody either. That's
> the road to hell. But if I'm in the market for Jr. IxDs, I'm looking
> for passion, interest, and potential. The experience isn't likely to
> be there, or be much there. I'm much more likely when the market is
> tight, as it is now, to bring on a Jr. Designer and mentor/train them
> simply because the more experienced people are locked up. I'm much
> more willing to take a risk on someone untested but with potential.
> And I bet others are too.
>
> Dan

All of the preceding seem like good advice, as even the contradictions
cover the different angles and approaches. More companies are also
realizing the actual value of IxD, and are looking to see who within
can fit the bill, mainly based on the passions that Dan mentions.
After talks with directors and visionaries within the company,
everyone involved realized that if I moved in this direction, it'd be
win-win - I'd be on-fire to promote these ideas, which would in turn
benefit the ongoing projects in a tangible way for client/user
satisfaction, standards compliance and knowledge sharing with the
developers and designers.
I count myself lucky almost every day I walk into work for this
opportunity, but I've heard from more friends and contacts that this
is becoming more common.

Best of luck - it sounds like you have a good attitude about the situation.

Cheers,
Scott

--
"Don't just survive while waiting for someone's revolution to clear your head -
act as if you were already free - but take the risk, dance before you
calcify." - Hakim Bey

4 Oct 2007 - 10:02am
Jarod Tang
2007

Hi Dan & All:

> I actually disagree with this advice. Nearly every time I changed
> focus in my career (which was fairly often in the 1990s), I had to
> change companies to do it. Companies have a tendency to pigeonhole
> you ("You can't do X, you're Y!"), whereas another company will hire
> you as an X person much more easily. At least, that has always been
> my experience.
Though this is not the right way, but nearly all the managers tend to
do like this, if you are expert of some domain, most of the case,
you'll be kept on the same position for longer time than one can
expect.
But at the same time, different work really help, one one case, if
work as a development engineer and manager, and qa engineer and
manager, then turn to ixd, the difficulties of communication becomes
less than the guys who come from pure design domain. Empathy with
the user as well as developer are equally important.

Cheers
-- Jarod

--
IxD for better life style.

http://jarodtang.blogspot.com

4 Oct 2007 - 10:13am
pyces
2007

I totally agree with Jarod. The more different jobs you've held in the
software world, the more "skin in the game" you are perceived to have. I had
several years in tech writing and QA which helped me to communicate
successfully with just about anyone on the team and provided me with a lot
of experience with good and bad software interfaces, great and not-so-great
developers (though mostly great ones, thankfully!), etc. And yes, some
companies tend to pigeonhole you based on your domain expertise, so you will
probably end up having to move to another company at some point to get into
your desired position.

Courtney

2007/10/4, Jarod Tang <jarod.tang at gmail.com>:
>
> Hi Dan & All:
>
> > I actually disagree with this advice. Nearly every time I changed
> > focus in my career (which was fairly often in the 1990s), I had to
> > change companies to do it. Companies have a tendency to pigeonhole
> > you ("You can't do X, you're Y!"), whereas another company will hire
> > you as an X person much more easily. At least, that has always been
> > my experience.
> Though this is not the right way, but nearly all the managers tend to
> do like this, if you are expert of some domain, most of the case,
> you'll be kept on the same position for longer time than one can
> expect.
> But at the same time, different work really help, one one case, if
> work as a development engineer and manager, and qa engineer and
> manager, then turn to ixd, the difficulties of communication becomes
> less than the guys who come from pure design domain. Empathy with
> the user as well as developer are equally important.
>
> Cheers
> -- Jarod
>
> --
> IxD for better life style.
>
> http://jarodtang.blogspot.com
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
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