Random Thought – How does a UX designer become one?

I thought this round I’d post about an interesting conversation I had the other day with a fellow UX designer. I had invited him as well as a UI designer and his family over for dinner at our house- I had planned on grilling lots of good stuff outside with everyone being able to relax on the patio looking out at our expansive view, but being it was 105 outside at 5:00, well, my wife and I went with plan B by everyone just staying inside and doing barbecue indoors (crock pot and iron skillet..). And that worked out pretty well. But I digress.

The conversation was about how we all got involved in UX/UI design. My buddy Mark had studied Cognitive Science at UCSD. Zach and his family hadn’t arrived yet so I didn’t get to hear about his education. I commented that I was in fact a film student at UCSD (for a brief period) as I was working towards a film major (but with the dream of landing in Disney Imagineering as I loved to animate, draw, and engineer things), and that at the time I went there, they didn’t offer any classes in CogSci, or HCI, or Human Factors. As a matter of fact, no university was offering classes in anything computer/human related. No, I’m not that old.

Back in my day (which really wasn’t that long ago), we did have classes in computer science which consisted of BASIC, PASCAL, ForTran, and some other fun languages. So then the question came up of how I landed in UX Design, which is a good question. Being that my goal was to be a Disney Imagineer, I was reflecting yesterday how wonky my career path (and job history in general) has been, or at least seems to have been since the first job I had. But if I really look at where I am now, and know where I’m going to be eventually, then it all kind of makes sense.

So what’s my education in user experience design? Experience. Lots and lots of experience. My first job at 15 was as a video editor for a local TV real-estate show, and also working the front counter of the video rental business that was tied to it. That summer I worked as a graphic designer for a large sill-screen and T-shirt shop.  Then I went on to work for a mobile electronics shop (as in CB’s and car stereos) where I mostly did installs at 16, which then led to a retail job at a Radio Shack (when the employees knew electronics). That led to a job at Sea World, where I worked in retail (at Captain Kids ToyChest demoing magic tricks). I then ended up working at a pizza place- delivering pizzas, washing dishes, prepping food; and then another one at the same time. I then found myself working for 60 minute photo, which then led to a job working at a Famly Fun Center, where I fixed arcade machines, and occasionally had to dress up as a big Panda that loved miniature golf. Eventually I went back to Sea World to work in production in the entertainment department (I filmed the birth of a baby beluga which aired worldwide), and later with my comic robot for the beginning of Sea World Summer Nights), which then led to a job with a local TV station, and then a production company, and that led to a job working for the city schools as a multimedia production specialist. I also ended up teaching interactive multimedia at night school.

That led to a job with an interactive multimedia company as a programmer and project manager, which then led to me having my first company – a digital media studio, and that led to working in the web. And that led into industrial design (which I studied in college along with architecture). Which then led to working with designing ui’s and experiences for mobile devices as well as designing mobile devices. And then next thing I know I’m doing software design and interaction design at HP. Which lead to having a job as a real UX designer (okay, though I had been doing UX design already more than 10 years prior..). And now I’m designing UI’s for iOS and Android.

And that’s the experience I draw on every single day in order to create great experiences.





3 thoughts on “Random Thought – How does a UX designer become one?

  1. Congrats, Could not happen to a better guy! You deserve it. Now can you teach me how to use my smart phone?


  2. Ok… So I learned about UI/UX about a year ago. I am a designer. I love architecture, cars, industrial designs. I have a site http://t3true.com you can see my work there. BUT my thing is, I WANT to become a REAL UX UI designer and work for a firm! So I thought I would get a computer science degree…on top of my UNfinished Graphic Design and Web Degrees. I have so much School experience and freelance experience. I WOULD LOVE to find out how to get my foot in there in the real UX/UI world! I live in the middle of California. I have family in the bay, the bay area is not new to me. Just seems like such a vast world of opportunities that go right over me because I have not completed an actual degree.
    Have you ever wanted to be someones mentor? Or help someone reach their potential? I am available.
    Well, off to the job boards and try to send my not so impressive resume to people that might not ever check out my work!
    Just a rant from a guy who is checking out UX UI people to rework my portfolio …

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