New to the field-- Advice?

2 Jun 2011 - 3:01pm
5 years ago
7 replies
1964 reads

Hey guys,

My name's Noah Ruede, and I'm a 22-year-old aspiring Interaction Designer.

I spent three years studying Communication at Rutgers University before learning about IxD. I was immediately fascinated by the field, so much so that I have decided to transfer instead to CUNY City Tech's "Emerging Media Technology" major, with the Media Design concentration on the Interaction Design track.

The foundation of my understanding of the field is still developing. Thus far I've read Jon Kolko's "Thoughts on Interaction Design" (http://www.thoughtson..., as well as William Lidwell's "Universal Principles of Design."

Seeing as I'm on my own financially, I've opted to live in NYC for a year before attending CUNY for the Fall 2012 semester; this way I will be able to take advantage of in-state tuition. In the mean time, I need a job. Sure, I could wait tables or work in retail, but I'd much rather work in an environment relevant to my new-found passion, ideally one that will leave me with networking opportunities and a budding portfolio. The problem here is that through my research, I've found most job openings in that vein to be open only to those with a degree and/or experience under their belt, as well as programming skills. Unfortunately, I lack these things thus far.

What I do have is insatiable curiosity, a great willingness to learn, a creative mind (I'm also a music composer/performer) and excellent interpersonal communication skills. I'd also like to think I'm a talented writer with a modest but respectable portfolio.

I'm doing everything I can think of to maximize my opportunities and gather experience. I've registered for countless mailing lists and am keeping my eyes peeled for relevant events and meet-ups. My question for you, my dear professionals, is this: Am I missing something? Is there something I may not have considered?

Any advice is good advice. Thanks in advance.

Noah Ruede
noah.ruede at gmail dot com


3 Jun 2011 - 7:05am

Some other books I'd look at next:

  • Design of everyday things (Norman)
  • About face ( Cooper)
  • Observing the user experience (kuniavsky)

You can find booklists wherever.

Get some technical skills - HTML, js, and/or flash. This will help you get a job now and be useful later. Have you considered an unpaid internship? Might have better chance to work in the field for nothing. Do parttime and balance with other paying gig. Just an option.


3 Jun 2011 - 8:15pm

Don't be afraid to fire bad clients.

Always take pride in your work and don't compromise on making beautiful things. Your soul will regret it in the long run.

4 Jun 2011 - 2:05am

I fired two clients this year. Dreadful people. I should have known better than to take them on, but revenue is important. Shows you the value of holding out--even if you have to suffer for a little while until you a good client comes along.

14 Jun 2011 - 10:17am
olivia g

I'm in a similar position as the poster, Noah.  One major exception being I already have a degree, but in sociology and geography.  I have some questions specific to my experience.  I have been thinking about grad school since I graduated in 2009 (yay recession and virtually useless social science degree), but I haven't settled on anything to study yet.  Right now I have a totally unrelated job (unrelated to my studies and unrelated to IxD or technology).

I just found Interaction Design in May.  I'd never heard of it but was instantly intrigued and drawn to it.  It seems to appeal to me as a profession on so many important levels.  I too am looking at applying for IxD programs for Fall 2012, since I've just missed every deadline for this year and to give myself more time to see if it's right for me. 

I'm taking some HTML and Javascript courses this summer to learn new skills and hopefully make myself more marketable to schools.  Still, I'm worried that with no Computer Science background, sans the 2 years in high school doing programming, and no design experience, I'm not going to be accepted to any of the schools I apply to.  It also seems from reading the profiles of current students at AC4D, CIID, and Malmo's IxD Masters that most students of these masters already have years of relevant experience.  That makes me wonder why they are even getting the degree.  How can I show that I'm capable of doing IxD?  I'm trying to find a relevant job right now to get experience and learn more about it from the professional side, but that is easier said than done. 

Do any of you current professionals or people associated with the schools have any specific things you look for in someone with no computer science or design background?  I have research experience, a natural knack for analysis, and a love of art and beautiful design.  Still, I feel like I'm starting from square one.  Any help or advice would be appreciated!

15 Jun 2011 - 3:05pm
Alan James Salmoni


One of the major components of UX is UX research which could be a way in. I myself am a psychologist by training (Ph.D. in human-computer interaction) and began with usability testing and user research back in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Design was a part of my work for when I presented findings of usability analysis, remedies to problems required design.

So one way would be to focus on your experience of research and analysis. Try, if you can, to get experience of things like card sorts, interviews about products / services or usability observations. There's a surprising number of people in the field who have little or no experience of genuinely good research.

Having said all that, it is tremendously hard to land the first job. Companies these days expect fully-fledged shoe-ins and do not want to have to train anyone. This is a shame because it's part of the problem of the shortage of designers. The main thing is business experience. If you can demonstrate that you've been part of a successful team in business, you automatically become more attractive to employers.

All the best,


PS, I actually have a lot of programming expertise (including quite complex statistical algorithms) but I keep it off my resume. I found that focusing as a pure UX designer was more successful for me and when clients realise that I can talk tech, they're extra happy (unless a dev is being intractable and I can argue back). ;-)

17 Jun 2011 - 3:21pm
olivia g

Thanks for the tips, Alan.  I'm currently working as something I never every expected to be, but recessions have funny ways of playing with our dreams.  I'm technically a financial regulator, but by name a financial examiner.  So to at least transition to something I enjoy more, I've been trying to play up my business analysis and researching skills.  I really loved doing research in school, but sadly have little solidly documented experience.  Mostly some qualitative essays.  But I was rather hoping someone would say what you did about the research strength being a possible way in.  I don't mind having to get a masters degree to get that first job.  I think I was just disconcerted by what I was seeing on these program websites where everyone even entering the degree program already seems to have 5 years of UX experience or has already been working as an interaction designer.  I do like that in the technology world, it is still somewhat more like other industries used to be, where if you found yourself in the right place and time, you could become something new just because a need opened up and you could learn it.  But like everything, I'm sure that is changing as more direct training programs pop up.

I think from what I've seen, you are very correct that companies don't want to train people, which is a great shame since poor training costs them efficiency.  One of my greatest frustrations is that I'm interested in so many things that it seems nearly impossible to know where to start to get the training (probably a graduate degree) that will then cause a company to hire me so I can do something I enjoy.  I see myself as highly trainable, but no one wants to invest in teaching someone.  I suppose that's why so many are getting higher degrees now.  It's a perverse version of vocational training.  Well, not quite, but it feels that way sometimes.

19 Jun 2011 - 8:25am
Josh Seiden

I would recommend two things:

Get an internship. NYC is filled with tiny startups right now, and many of them are composed entirely of people just starting out. People in their 20's, a year or two out of school. Go hang around startup events, meet ups, incubators and co-working spaces. Go to talks at General Assembly. Go to the NY Tech Meetup. Meet people and if they are doing something interesting to you, offer to work as an intern. Youll learn a lot, and hopefully work your way into either a job, or a portfolio item or both.

Design stuff. Make your web site. Tell your story--if you've got a portfolio, show it off. If not, tell your own authentic story--that you are just starting out, that you are looking for an internship, that you collect hot sauce bottles, whatever. Be authentic and interesting. As Michael recommended, learn just enough technology to make this happen. Start from a template if you have to. Find a collaborator (see above) to round out your skills. Good luck! -Josh

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