Career change into UX

As I write this, I’m at the beginning of my career transition into UX design. Not a completely unfamiliar concept to me, ‘user experience’ design is something I’ve always done as a designer; having studied architecture, I’ve always thought about people and how they interact with the designed world. UX design takes this thinking to the next level, taking what can be somewhat of an afterthought in other fields of design (including architecture) and turning it to a precise science where design hypothesis are user tested, refined, and retested accordingly. For me, this seems like a better way to design and one of a data driven world.

And this is an important point to make, though User Experience design was borne from more traditional disciplines of design (see The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman), it has matured to become a design field within its own right and is now challenging the very discipline from which it came. It is a form of design that is of this time and as a result is redefining bygone ways of thinking.

What’s more is that its impact is far more reaching than just the world of design. Aspects of UX design thinking are redefining the business world along side the rise of the modern tech startup- businesses that make money with nothing more than a good idea and a well designed app (look up the ‘uber of x‘). Popular books such as The Lean StartUp and Sprint capture core ideals of UX thinking and apply them to creating a business and running a project. Similarly, the idea of ‘placemaking’ is redefining urban design with the use of focus groups and mapping user experiences to understand how spaces will be used before they are even designed.

All together, this is culminating in a new world, one where ‘doing’ (designing, creating, or starting a business) isn’t a top down decision making process but one that reflects and responds to the end-user. This is very unlike past ways of doing things that were much more reliant on a centralised decision making process. Last century, it was conceivable for one person to envision the design of an entire city – from the layout of streets down through to the design of buildings and even the furniture used inside them (the whole concept of the ‘master architect’ is based around this top-down approach; an approach we now know can have devastating results that are dramatically removed from the human-scale and the realities of the user-experience). This is no longer a valid hypothesis in the second decade of this century.

More than ever before we are becoming aware of the complexities and underpinning market economics of creating services, places, and products for people. UX design is a framework for thinking about and understanding these complexities – I’m excited to learn it.