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How To Make A Career Change From Graphic Designer To UX Designer

Published on 20 January 18
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Are you tired of doing endless revisions from that client whose friend didn’t like that background color or font face in your design? Maybe it’s time for a career switch!

In this article we shall go through your next career progression option that’s one of the hottest gigs out there today.

User Experience (a.k.a. UX, UI, or UED), the field is a combo of visual design, usability, and web development, with the goal of creating beautiful product experiences for users.

Switching from UX primarily begins by thinking how your designs will be consumed by users. It begins by having empathy for everything that you design. Take this instance for example, You are working on a project that requires you to design an app which will be used by people in the remote areas.

Wait before you start thinking as a UX Design, let’s first figure out why UX?

  • What is UX Design?
  • What are the common capabilities?
  • What additional capabilities you should require?
  • Benefits of your current experience
  • Job demand and pay for UX Designers
  • How to master the skill?
  • Additional career transition advice from mentors!

What is User Experience (UX) and User Experience Design (UX Design)?

Many people mistakenly think that UX means a user’s experience, but it is actually about doing the process of User Experience Design.

A user’s individual experience is their conscious, subjective opinion of your app or site. User feedback is important — sometimes — but UX designers need to do a lot more than that.

Doing UX:

UX Design (also sometimes called UXD) involves a process very similar to doing science: we do research to understand the users, we develop ideas to solve the users’ needs — and the needs of the business — and we build and measure those solutions in the real world to see if they work.

According to Interaction Design Foundation, UX designers tend to be concerned with, as you can see from the image below, 3 primary factors: the look of a product, the feel of that product and the usability of that product.

  • The look of a product is all about creating a product that has visual appeal and which, in particular, harmonizes with a user’s values and captures the spirit of what they expect in that product. In other words, it has to not only look nice, but look right too. In doing so, it establishes a bond of trust and credibility between the product and the user.
  • Next is the feel, which is really about developing products that are a joy to use. That is, whether you’re interacting with them or reacting to them, products should provide a pleasurable experience and not just a functional one.
  • Lastly, usability is the cornerstone of user experience. If a product isn’t usable, the experience of using it can never be good. UX designers want to create products which can, ideally, be tailored to meet a user’s specific needs, but which provides functionality that is predictable.

What are the Common Capabilities both Graphic Designers and UX Designers have?
Like I said earlier, the field is a combo of visual design, usability, and web development, with the goal of creating beautiful product experiences for users. According to interaction design foundation, there are 3 common areas
  • Emotional Design: As a graphic designer you can invoke emotions through typography, color and images. Similarly, UX design is also concerned about emotions, shaping the emotions of the user at every stage of the user interaction with the product. In addition to focusing on the right typography and colors, UX designers are also concerned with motion design, the tone of the content, and information architecture, among others.
  • Creative Thinking: Being a graphic designer, your creative quotient is higher than an average professional out there. The visual you create by adhering to conventions (and thus communicate effectively) while retaining a sense of originality (to stand out among the competition) requires some serious creative and critical thinking. Similarly, UX designers create products that solve users’ problems creatively and being innovative.
  • Prototyping: Sketches, mockups and wireframes are something graphic designers often create to capture feedback from clients. Similarly, UX designers also create mockups and prototypes to test usability and experience.
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Some of the difference between a Graphic Designer and UX Designers include

  • Pixel-focused vs User-focused: Pixel perfection is what Graphic Designers tend to achieve and that is what is expected out of them. On the contrary, UX designers focus primarily on users and interactions to ensure that the product meets users’ needs. To achieve this, UX designers spend a lot of time conducting research, observing users, creating user personas and stories, doing usability testing on the products, and many more. Graphic designers looking to switch career tracks will need to do a substantial amount of work finding out how to conduct user research.
  • Specialized vs Multi-disciplinary: You know that graphic design is a very specialized discipline. In addition to creativity, one has to have certain level of craftsmanship, set of specialized skills and knowledge over typography, color theory etc., to produce great visuals. UX design, on the other side, is multi-disciplinary and knowledge of many fields like human psychology, interaction design, information architecture and user research techniques to name a few. Don Norman, the man who coined the term User Experience, explains that user experience covers all aspects of the person's experience with the system including industrial design graphics, the interface, the physical interaction and the manual.
Graphic Design Experience that you can carry to UX Design
In addition to the abilities that are common to both roles, the knowledge that you can carry forward to UX design includes
  • Aesthetics: Making things attractive is one of the biggest asset graphic designers can carry with them while moving into UX design. Usability and Aesthetics go hand in hand. Good aesthetics can improve the overall user experience of product by making users more relaxed, creating a positive first impression, and generally just showing that you care.
  • Trends and Conventions: Design terminology, conventions and trends are something you can carry forward to your new role. You are better off than the professional with non-design background, as you can communicate in the same language with fellow designers, marketing and development team. In UX, communication is the key ingredient for the success of the product.
Job Demand and Pay for UX Designers
UX designers are in high-demand!

From mobile gadgets to smart appliances, plugins, dongles, and paraphernalia, tech has become an essential part of our lives. With these, comes the need for UX and UI design. Interfaces may be found on almost every gadget and appliance; to display the time and music selection on smart watches; or to display the ingredients that can be found in a smart refrigerator. With the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoTs), the design of interfaces have become a specialised design discipline in recent years.
Tech startups that prided itself on ‘disrupting’ and ‘shaking up’ the industry, often attribute their success on UX design. Many hope to ‘give consumers back their rights’ by entering markets dominated by the ‘unfair practices of large organisations’. This user-centric model is the basis for UX design where services and products are shaped from how users interacts with them.
As UX design is closely related to business strategies, companies prefer to keep the (UX design) job within the organisation rather than outsourcing them.

Traditional large organisations too are catching up with this digital transformation by hiring in-house UX/UI designers and engineers. As UX design is closely related to business strategies, companies prefer to keep the job within the organisation rather than outsourcing them. These organisations may also hire UX designers from consultancies to reduce headcount in the company.
UX Designers earn more than Graphic Designers
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Let’s be honest here, multiple reports suggests that a UX designer typically earns more than a graphic designer. According to PayScale, the average salary for a graphic designer in the US is $42,000, while an average UX designer receives $74,000!
Mastering the Skill
New job roles come with new demands in skillsets and capabilities. Learn UX with an open mind to have a greater understanding of what is to be expected in the new job role.

Here are some courses that you can attend to master some of the concepts of UX Design
  1. Learn Human Centered Design
  2. Learn Prototyping
In addition to learning you can attend Bootcamps, Events and Workshops to connect and network with other UX professionals.
Build a portfolio to showcase your UX work to hiring managers. Having 3 quality UX design documentation is sufficient to show a good general understanding of UX. A mix of web and mobile would be ideal. Write and elaborate on the steps taken to build the app/website. For graphic designers without prior experience in UI, create an app concept or a redesign of an existing site.

At the minimum, build a website with WordPress or Wix, and use it as a landing page to navigate to projects that are hosted on other social portfolio sites such as Behance, Dribbble, or Medium.
The ultimate goal is to get a job in UX.

Changing a career direction isn’t easy and often requires training and learning on your own free time. Make sure you plan early, before quitting your current job as the job application process can be equally mentally draining.

Keep an eye on the openings around and there are very few tools in the job market that tracks and provides all the opportunities at one place.
You can Create your Career Path on MyTechlogy and get your personalized career insights and job feed.
Before applying, read the job description carefully and consider the type of relevant work experience you have and the projects that you have done. Some companies may require people with prior experience in UX design, but I’ll usually give it a go too. Let the employers make that decision whether you are suitable for the job or not.
Additional Career Transition Advice from Mentors
There is no one size fits all solution. Your situation could be different (educational background, experience etc.), this is where advice from experts and mentors in the field understand your profile better and guide you in the right path.

Like what Suzy Welch says "Your mentor doesn't need to have seniority over you." A mentor just has to do something better than you do.

Here are some of the experts who can help you achieve your career goals. They conduct a personal one–to–one session with you over Skype to discuss your profile, areas for improvement and guide you in the right direction.

  • Deborah Dennis (Specialist: User Experience Design)
  • Juan Elizondo (Specialist: Experience Design)
  • SenthilKumar Babu (Specialist: UI Design Strategy UX, Usability, Accessibility)
  • Vasu Kolla (Specialist: User experience, digital strategy, information architecture, design research)
  • Shilpa Kaul (Specialist: Technical Writing and User Experience)

If you are coming from a different field, then you can explore mentors, who could help you in your career progression.

To graphic designers, I hope that you find my article useful and you’ll have a good start in your search for a UX design job in 2018. You can post your comments below to discuss on the points that I have highlighted in this article. Good luck!

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