Transferring Your Skills To Become a UX Designer

By Richard Li September 28, 2018
Share

Hundreds of thousands of technology jobs are being created across North America, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping. According to CBRE’s annual Scoring Tech Talent Report, Toronto added 82,100 tech-related jobs from 2012-2017, the most of any North American city, with Silicon Valley close behind at 77,800 new jobs created.

Among these rising technology jobs is the role of User Experience (UX) Designer, with 73% of managers saying they plan to double the number of UX Designers in their organization by 2022. With the hiring of UX Designers as a top priority for many executives, and the rise of the field as a whole, many individuals are looking to transition careers.

Making the jump into a new career can be daunting, so we’ve created a list of skills that can be transferred across industries, from a previous role into a new position as a UX Designer.

Transferring Skills From a Different Field

According to InVision’s Product Design Industry Report, design teams are no longer composed of just traditional Designers, but rather a diverse group of individuals from different experiential backgrounds with the skills to design great products. This means there are plenty of opportunities for professionals to transfer the skills acquired from their previous career and apply them to a future role as a UX Designer.

“The idea of switching careers initially seemed like a huge challenge, however, I discovered that many of the design skills I acquired through architecture school benefited me in this transition,” said Richard Li, an Architect turned UX Designer and a graduate of BrainStation’s Full-time UX Design program.

We’ve laid out a range of skills, both soft and technical, that are transferable to the field of UX design.

Empathy

UX design is all about putting the user at the forefront of your solution. Understanding the consumer, and having the ability to empathize with them to gain an intimate understanding of their problems and challenges, is therefore a key component.

“Instead of empathizing and thinking about how occupants move across different rooms, I had to think about how users will navigate across different areas of a website or a mobile app,” says Li, explaining how he brought empathy from the field of architecture to his career in UX.

Many careers require professionals to practice empathy every day. Consider a Psychologist or a Marketer, which both involve empathizing with a patient or consumer to understand their pain points, goals, behaviours, and patterns. This practice can be transferred to what a UX Designer does; empathizing with a user and understanding their needs.

Visual Design Skills

Whether you’re a Designer, Photographer, Architect, or an Artist – understanding the power of visuals and how they can be used to communicate is crucial. UX design requires creative thinking and strong design sense, skills that many creative professionals already possess. Visual design can greatly assist usability by drawing the user’s attention to the right place on a web page.

So, having an eye for colour, typography, and core visual design elements is a bonus when transitioning into UX design, especially if you don’t have a traditional design background or education.

Technical Skills

Skills like programming, experience with wireframing, prototyping, or industry design tools are excellent additions to a UX skill set.

“Concept sketching and design iteration was another skill that helped in my transition to UX Design. I implement the same concept sketching and design iteration flow when designing for UX,” says Li. “Once I’m satisfied with a concept, I’ll bring my wireframes onto the computer with software such as Sketch to further develop them in higher fidelity. Once the designs reach a certain point, I create a clickable prototype to test and get feedback.”

Familiarity with industry standard design tools like Sketch, InVision, or the Adobe creative cloud can reduce the learning curve when starting out as a UX Designer, and help you master the wireframing and prototyping process.

Research Skills

User research is integral to the design process, so any experience with research, whether it comes from a science, marketing, or data background, is valuable. Many careers involve research in some capacity, and these skills can be put into action in the early stages of the UX design process.

“The design process in architecture begins with research. Identifying the goal of the project, understanding the problem, identifying constraints and limitations, and imagining how the occupant will utilize the space in their daily lives,” explains Li.

“The research phase in UX design is very similar to architecture, with the main difference being the end product; physical building versus a website/app, and how the end user will use the product, occupying versus interacting.”

Moving Forward in UX Design

Recognizing which skills you possess, and which you need to develop further is the first step in making a career transition.

“Start by taking an introspective look at the skills your currently possess, then research different roles within UX that would best utilize them,” says Li. “You just need to learn new skills to supplement the ones you already have and pick the path in UX that makes the most sense for you.”

If you are looking to further develop your skills in user experience design, you may want to consider taking a course to give you a comprehensive understanding of the field, and the technical skills to land a job. BrainStation offers part-time and full-time courses in UX Design that will help you make the jump to UX.