A story about UX beginnings
I never ran out of ideas in college as I’ve always had a penchant for productivity. The mind is limitless, and leading a media organization for a year was an avenue to encourage others to realize their full potential. Opportunities to grow were sought, and I tried my best to grab those entwined with my dream of becoming a reporter. It was natural for me to strive to elevate skills that gravitate around my aspiration: film, television, and photography. As a young gun, I had everything mapped out; I was convinced I’d reach the goal I set. With persistence, I applied for almost 40+ media-related jobs. But tenacity can only go so far, and some things are simply out of reach.
I then turned to Graphic Design, a hobby I thrived at the most, among others (coin-collecting, music curating, washing dishes, etc.). I produced a variety of pretty decent designs: poster layouts, logos, editorials, and some commission works. In 2014, my professor at the time took notice and recruited me for the 40th Metro Manila Film Festival. Fast forward to post-graduation — mostly, 4 months of slacking off with K-pop videos, The Flash, and Arrow — I decided to sift through my designs and compile my portfolio. Luckily, I got hired as a Jr. Graphic and Web Designer for my company’s marketing team. My days were productively occupied with creating retargeting banners, blog and social media image supports, event kits, some logos, and a little bit of front-end development. Occasionally, I would help my design lead and product manager with some prototyping tasks for the software we’re building, and for a year or so, its actual utilization was too complex to grasp.
In 2017, I unconsciously made my first wireframe — a short, mushy letter for someone — encapsulated in a hand-drawn mobile app, confined within the pages of my notebook, and prototyped using Marvel. The experience of creating hotspots of the buttons, to swipe interactions, to menu navigations, and more, was unfamiliar, but exciting to build.
I thought my eyes were still pinned on my original plan, but as I was checking out my music streaming options, I stumbled upon Jason Yuan’s Apple Music Redesign Medium article. I found it intelligently compelling, and naturally, I was immediately hungry for knowledge about it. Seeing the logic of everything in the case study, I started taking interest in UX. It felt as if it was finally something I could passionately pursue and excel in.
As I was feeding my brain by reading books and articles on the topic, my interest in UX grew larger — and it continues to do so to this day. Although as a result, it made me feel lame for thinking that my past designs were great which is I think, a good sign of progress. Most of us designers have had that phase when we think our designs are high-grade and portfolio-worthy when it’s seriously dysfunctional. But that’s how we become better. We don’t come across adversities and just pass by them, we pick up something from it. Failure should be every designer’s badge of honor, letting people see how much you’ve improved over time.
Failure should be every designer’s badge of honor, letting people see how much you’ve improved over time.
My days at work became more unforeseeable since I started as a Product designer but it’s always a challenge that’s worth fulfilling when you try to solve a problem and know the intent of what you’re building. Apart from all the reading and stuff, I also go to design meetups to immerse myself with people who I share the same interest and vision. It’s also where I got motivated to put this thing out. To begin with, I’m not an expert at this yet but being part of the UXPH community made it possible for me to talk . Kidding aside, it heightened my empathy and compassion as I get to see different perspectives that you didn’t even expected.
There are plenty of things that aren’t taught in school and despite this, we manage to accomplish out of nothing for most times. A company with a culture of continuous learning helps as well most especially when you’re dumbfounded with everything that’s going on.
There are few lessons that people point out to me from the very beginning up until now:
- Know the why. You have to understand the intent of what you’re building. This is one common problem to us beginners, we want to start in on the project right away without knowing what we’re trying to solve. Asking questions is highly encouraged during discussions but in order to get the right enquiry, one must know active listening.
- It’s never about the tool or the equipment. If there’s one thing I picked up from being a multimedia jack-of-all-trades, it’s always you who push yourself towards something. Without willingness to learn, even if you have the most expensive computer or software, you won’t be able to put something out there.
- Getting started > Getting right. As Ken Robinson said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” It’s better to start something even if it isn’t the best yet compared to doing nothing at all. Besides, you can’t tell if your idea is great if you’re just keeping it to yourself. Additionally, things take time in order to develop. Think the Apple iPhone and how it became one of the best among its kind.
- You are not your user. Design must always be backed by data. Relatively, data never fails as long as it went through the process and questions were asked to the right people.
What I generally realized during my first few months as a Product designer is that the simplest, infinitesimal idea that you have could be a solution to the most complex problem. What brought me to UX was my interest in building and continuously improving things that don’t work well. No one knows, we could be building something that could actually impact the world.
There’s so much to learn out there and as someone who’s consciously incompetent, understanding everything became my starting point so if you’re not there yet, we’ll all get there — together.