Newbie Blues

13 Sep 2011 - 7:30pm
4 years ago
3 replies
909 reads


I kind of equate my life to a series on This old house... I'm doing a bit of a makeover now.

I have a graduate degree in Library Science and Information Systems, and have started to take courses in an Interactive design and media program, at the school I work at as a systems librarian.

I've been taking classes in design and media for about a year. I would really like to transition out of library science and into the field of user experience.

I'm honestly a bit tired of being a student, but I realize I need a portfolio of projects. Is continuing to be a student the best way to move forward?  I am really self-motivated, so can read and learn on my own, and have a strong sense of what I want to learn about. I read books like "Where the action is" and "Sketching user experience" by Buxton in my spare time.

Is it possible for me to make the transition?  I feel like I have a good foundation, I just need to build upon it.

Thanks for any advice,
alotofmath (Michael)


15 Sep 2011 - 12:30am
Jack L. Moffett

Hi Michael,

I'm not going to give a complete answer to your questions here, but I wanted to let you know that I've started a series on DesignAday that will provide the kind of information you are looking for.



17 Sep 2011 - 8:02am

I have three suggestions. 1) if you have the time, I would look for real world projects you can do as part of an internship or as probono work for non-profits. Student projects are great but real world projects are more interesting to me personally when I look at a portfolio. 2) try to find a mentor through the IxDA mentor program or some other professional association to help you navigate through job interviews and postings 3) work on crafting your narrative. You need to be able to sell why you are making the move and what skills you have from your Library Science background that transfer. I'm saying this because I believe there is some overlap and I would expect you to have a good answer to that if I interviewed you. Also if there are projects you've worked on in library science that showcase how you think like a UX person then put those in your portfolio. I don't mean they have to be design, but they should showcase your problem solving skills or how you handle information design or something that transfers over to UX. I hope that's helpful. Good luck! Dawn

23 Sep 2011 - 10:19am

Hi, Michael--

I like how Andy Rutledge stresses the need for "consequential projects" in your portfolio, even when you're just starting out. Don't fill it with random noodling... it needs to show work that matters to someone:

It's important to keep in mind what potential employers look for as you design your portfolio.

When I interview candidates for design positions on our user experience team, I'm primarily looking at portfolio.

Beyond the visuals -- do your designs look functional/delightful -- portfolio tells me many things--

  • Do you care about details?
  • Are your design decisions intentional? Are they based on best practices or user research, rather than personal preference?
  • Do you understand the problem space before you design? How?
  • Do you have some methodology for moving from design problem to design solution?
  • Do your designs evolve with critique? Are you open to radical changes when necessary?
  • Do your designs embrace the implementation technology? e.g. Do you understand the advantages/limitations of mobile, or are you just making web pages smaller?
  • Are you a maker? Do you ever try to build something you've designed?

(After that, it's personal compatibility that matters... do you fit in? Will you build great relationships with stakeholders, developers, fellow designers, users, the maintenance staff?)

Best of luck!

Syndicate content Get the feed