6 Ways to Develop Your UX Design Career
Tried-and-true advice from Google designers, researchers, and managers
The UX industry is constantly evolving; there’s always more to learn, new tech to conquer, and fresh ideas to research and test. While establishing yourself can feel overwhelming, it’s important to remember that there’s no one path to career success—but there are best practices that can help you find balance and confidence. We’ve rounded up thoughtful tips from Google UX pros who are pushing the field forward (and figuring things out as they go). Read on for their unique insights.
Start with the fundamentals
UX designers are in demand, but keeping up in—or transitioning to—the fast-paced industry can feel overwhelming. Familiarize yourself with foundational concepts, theories, and systems like Material Design first; then brush up on the whys and hows behind the basics. These will not only help you establish solid standards in your current work, but also contextualize the consistent flow of tools, trends, and technologies that will impact what you do in the future.
“Understanding how line, color, texture, shape, form, value, and space work together is useful if you want to develop an eye for good design, and necessary in helping you become a better designer.”
From FAQ: Tips and Tools for Getting Started in User Experience Design (aka UX) by Fiona Yeung, Interaction Designer
Seek out mentorship
One super smart way to develop a career in UX is to learn from those who have navigated the path before you. Having someone—or multiple someones—you trust share their takes on everything from building a portfolio, to what kind of team to join, to shedding your “designer ego,” can be invaluable when you’re forging your own way.
“Find a mentor who is right above you in terms of experience, someone whose steps you can follow. And you should also find a mentor who is a much higher level than you. You’ll be surprised how open people are to giving advice and mentoring. Don’t be afraid of asking, you won’t lose anything.”
From Tips for Starting or Growing Your Career as a UX Designer by Cinthya Mohr, UX Manager
Think like an entrepreneur
Brushing up on your business acumen and product savviness can reap big benefits when you’re trying to “sell” your UX ideas. Pitch designs with coherent arguments that align with company objectives. Be strategic when defining metrics; you want to be able to show the positive impact your design can have, with results that can be tracked and measured.
“To set yourself up for a successful UX career, you need to shift your mindset from that of a product designer to a product owner by embracing the business side of design.”
From How to Have a Successful UX Career at Google (Or Anywhere Else) by Jhilmil Jain, (former) UX Director
Cultivate people experience
When honing your technical skills, don’t forget to focus on and refine your personal lens. The unique way you see and interact with the world—including any “non-traditional” background you bring to your UX career—can be a major boon when developing your identity and voice.
“People experience includes anything involving deep interactions with others and understanding their needs. Do you work with patients in a clinic? Volunteer as a peer counselor? Write in-depth profiles for a campus publication? Make documentaries? No matter what field you’re in, get deeply comfortable investigating humans.”
From Finding a Voice as a Non-Traditional UX Researcher by Preeti Talwai, UX Researcher
Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. Gaining additional perspectives can be critical when seeking to clarify everything from questions around documentation, to user journeys, to designing for impact.
“During my early years, I thought a good designer was defined by an amazing ability to come up with unique, creative design solutions in every situation. In some meetings, I was too afraid to admit that I didn’t understand the context of the discussions, let alone speak up. But here’s the reality: no one knows everything. You don’t have to always get things right. A designer’s job is actually to gather the information and find a solution based on what you’ve learned.”
From 6 Ways to Cultivate Your UX Design Career by Kansinee Adsanatham, UX Designer
Make things to change things
Change is inevitable—especially in a fluid industry like UX—but establishing levels of consistency is possible. Acknowledge your privilege, be compassionate (to others, and to yourself), and consciously do the best that you can to affect a positive result on any, and every, scale.
“Our world is similar to the design industry in that regardless if we do anything or not, it’s forever in a state of change. Whether or not we wake up tomorrow, the world will continue to change. Given the right environment, every single one of us has the ability to shape this change in some form. This is what I believe our collective duty is.”
From Astronauts, Bees, and Sofas: Lessons for Those Starting a Career in Design by Dem Gerolemou, Visual Designer