What do the hell designers do?

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What do the hell designers do? A Short Story About My Journey So Far

I am very excited to share a few of my experiences as a UI/UX Designer and my path until 🥳 I hope that my story inspires people to work with the design. Samuel contacted me from How I Got My Job to write about myself. That inspired me to start writing about UI, UX Design (and other things that I think are cool).

To begin with, it took a while for me to figure out what designer do. I thought that designer created beautiful things pleasant to the human eyes (I was young back then, alright?). The answer is that designer try to solve problems to make our lives easier (we don’t succeed always 😔), which is a subject for another post.

Well, my journey until here has been quite interesting, though. It all started back home in Brazil and right after high school. I didn’t know what I want to do; I was young and having fun with my mates. The reality is that I was a bit lost, evaluating what I should do and which career path I should follow. I guess that is normal; I know so many people who were in the same situation.

How did I land on the Designer field?

Everything started when I got this job through a friend who was founding a start-up. My job was very simple: burn some courses on DVDs for a big soft drink company (the black carbonated liquid). During the interview, I remember thinking: I know how to burn DVDs. That would be fun! The content that I was burning on these DVDs was a voice-over, in Portuguese, about operating some big machines in those big soft drink factories — was boring, but I remember learning a bunch from those videos.

That company was tiny back then. It was pretty much the business owners and myself; I remember enjoying my co-workers and the work that I was doing. After a month or so, they started to give me more work (responsibilities), and eventually, I ended up being hired by them. I remember populating some JSON (Java-script Object Notation) files, editing some images on Photoshop, learning a bit of After Effects, and even how to use a Macintosh (I always used PCs)! My work consisted of performing simple tasks, like removing photo backgrounds, creating cameras on After Effects, nothing that complex. After a while, and still lost about my future, I began to have fun using those tools, and I thought: this is maybe what I want to do, I have fun with that! Back then, I didn’t know which professions would use Photoshop or After Effects to perform their work. Maybe photographers and videographers, right?

My First Designer Inspirations 

I guess that a year later or so, they hired a Designer (equivalent to a product designer nowadays). That was my first contact with someone that really knew how to use Adobe programs. That designer helped me a lot, and I always asked questions about how to do this. A couple more months go by, and I set my foot on the idea that Design is what I want to do — I want to be able to design all of these cool layouts!

After a year into university, I got another job offer. Although I was thrilled about where I was currently working, the challenge of this new opportunity was quite tempting: move to another continent. On top of that, the salary was much higher, and the conditions were much better, so it was a no-brainer — I also knew that the doors would be open for me if things went wrong and if I decide to come back. I flew out to sort out visa things, and after a month or so, I was on a plane heading to face a completely different reality.

Time to Say Goodbye to Family and Friends 

The new job was in Angola, West Africa. My role was to understand our clients’ pain points in their work and develop solutions in a web app format. Our clients were mainly the government and private companies providing services to the government — had to wear a suit instead of my shorts to work like I used to, but whatever, not real problems. The work there was relatively straightforward. They were still using excel spreadsheets to measure progress and manage their workload. Our objective was to understand their work process, provide consulting on how they could improve their workflow, and translate them into a web app. I used Balsamiq Mockups to design a visual representation of how our product could resolve their problem before sending the scope to our developers in Brazil — I still like Balsamiq Mockups. It’s easy to use, and it is also possible to create interactive pdfs in a few minutes.

Like all work, we had our challenges. I was usually between clients and developers, negotiating deadlines and what we could do with our resources. I was limited to the framework and libraries that we were using — I remember that we changed to Materialize CSS, and it was such an improvement back then. With time, we started to develop some ideas internally for projects in Angola, as the market has so many opportunities for business and new ideas. Unfortunately, none of them moved forward as the oil crisis crashed the economy there, and we had to suspend some of these projects. It was good to refresh my skills in Photoshop and Illustrator to create logos and website layouts.

After a couple of years working for this company in Angola, they had to let go of 70% of their employees, and unfortunately, I was one of them. Then I realized that this would be an excellent opportunity to go back to my studies, learn more about design, and improve my skills. The thing is that my partner was also working in Angola. Her contract was due in a year, and I couldn’t just leave the country. After a year or so, exploring many of Africa, we moved to Perth, Western Australia. It was perfect for me to finish my studies (finally!). Curtin University accepted me, and I started my Bachelor of Design with a major in Digital Design and User Experience — here we go again to another continent.

And here we go again…

I started my first semester in 2019 and was love at first sight. All the lectures are great, and it was exactly what I was looking for. Now I can dive deeper into new methods, learn principles and techniques. I have been working on Design Jams, starting a club for Design Students to develop their portfolios and make connections, etc. — So much going on!

I also partnered with a developer, and we are working on some projects for clients locally. We even participated in a hackathon together https://dev.to/ac0rd-software/hashnode-elearning-platform-aws-amplify-2021-challenge-2a7f. So far, I have been performing some freelance work with clients locally, and I am seeking some internship or part-time employment in UI/UX to apply all that I’ve learned in the past two years (on top of my work experience).

Some Tips About Getting Noticed by Employers 

I’ve noticed that having a great portfolio online is excellent, but it is not everything nowadays. It is essential to write about your personal projects to present your process and share knowledge with employers and the community. Recruiters and employers want to know how did you get to that fantastic design from your portfolio. If you are seeking employment in UX, writing about your process and principles is a must.

My Recommended Books for Those New in Design or Curious About Design

Keep tuned for more content on UI/UX and other design fun things!

What do the hell designers do?

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