The best thing about the field of UX/UI Design is that there is no predestined path to get there. UX/UI Designers come from just about all backgrounds considering the multidisciplinary nature of developing digital products. The Design Squiggle pictured above is commonly used in the field to illustrate the design process. In this case, I use it to describe my journey into UX/UI Design and where I am now. Starting from University to Post-Grad life and to my first steps into UX/UI Design.
UX Design refers to User Experience Design (mostly relating to digital products) which includes roles in strategy, content creation, wire-framing, prototyping, and execution. UI Design refers to User Interface, which is everything the user sees and interacts with. The UI Designer is responsible for branding, graphics development, design research, user guides, UI prototyping, and communicating with developers. Both roles are highly interdisciplinary and many designers do a little bit of everything.
After graduating from college with a degree in International Studies and Environmental Sustainability from the School of International Service (AU) in D.C., I was a bit unclear what exactly I wanted to do and where I wanted my career to go. Like most recent college grads, I faced constant rejection after applying to numerous jobs I thought my five paid and unpaid internships coupled with 5+ years of customer service experience had prepared me for. I was wrong and quickly realized I needed to acquire some hard technical skills in this modern world if I wanted to get out of dead-end administrative roles that left me depleted and unfulfilled (dramatic— I know).
While I had accumulated a repertoire of soft skills that have undoubtedly contributed to my success (each experience is a stepping stone forward), I was eager to grow my skill sets and merge all my experiences, passions, and hobbies into one role. I had always turned to art and design as a hobby and became self-taught in various design tools such as a InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator. I spent hours on these programs turning my physical art pieces into digital versions and learning all the tricks of the trade.
After working various jobs, saving money, and researching what to do next I decided to move to Barcelona and enroll in an immersive 3 month UX/UI Design bootcamp. I studied Spanish in the North of Spain in college and had a strong pull to Spain. I chose Barcelona for the large art and design culture and the way the city inspired me to create. So I packed my bags and left San Francisco with a diverse amount of experiences and commenced my journey in the field of UX/UI. Sure, I frequently compared myself to my peers with stable 9-5 jobs and a 401k, however at I quickly realized I did not need to have this type of security. Once I realized my future was in my hands, I stopped comparing my journey and made my way to Barcelona for my immersive 185+ hour of hands-on UX/UI education— all taught in Español with the lovely UXER School.
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with institutional learning. I studied at a private liberal arts university in Washington, D.C. where most of my time was spent writing research papers and reading academic journals. While I learned some highly valuable skills and knowledge and was taught by some of the greatest scholars in International Relations, I neglected my creative bug which always lingered in the background.
The UX/UI Bootcamp was a very different learning environment for me in which I thrived. Hands on projects in a highly collaborative setting pushed me out of my comfort zone, encouraged me to let go of my ego, and openly express my ideas without the fear of judgement. I learned Spanish while living abroad in Latin America when I was 16 and also took advanced courses in college, so taking the bootcamp in Spanish wasn’t as challenging as it may seem. On one hand, speaking and learning in Spanish actually gave me a grander sense of confidence in expressing my thoughts and ideas. I also realized my heightened sense of creativity was directly a-tuned to my confidence levels. After the first day of the course, I knew I was in the right place with all the right people. I finally found my calling and passion– as cliche as that may seem.
The 9-week (185 hours) course was separated into five Modules. The Modules were taught by various UX/UI professionals and software developers from a variety of companies in Barcelona like Interactius, Soluble, and
To get a better idea of what I was learning on a week to week basis I’ve provided below an outline of our various modules. Each day was also accompanied with individual and group project time where we were abler to create our own digital product from start to physical prototype.
Module 1: Research and Rapid Prototyping
- Innovation Processes
- Creative Problem Solving
- UX Research
- Qualitative and Quantitative Research
- Defining User Personas
- Empathy and Customer Journey Maps
- Identifying problems and needs
- Prototype Validation of Ideas
Module 2: Strategic Design
- Business Model Canvas
- Value Proposals
- Lean Startup
- Agile Methodology: Scrum
- User Stories, estimation and prioritization of tasks
Module 3: Interaction Design
- Information Architecture
- Navigation flows
- Android and iOS Style Guides
- Design Patterns
Module 4: Interface Design
- Style Guides
- Design Systems
- Design tools
- Prototyping tools
- Technical Specifications
Module 5: Implementation and User Testing
- Communication between designers and developers
- Development Deliverables
- User Testing
- Learning to use SKETCH
- Group Project Prototyping
- Hiring Week
Each module was taught by UX/UI professional using their best practices and tools. The second part of theday was spent applying these best practices and knowledge to our own real projects. My partner and I created a household application for roommates to organize cleaning and communication and presented a pitch-deck in front of 70+ potential employers, professionals, and members of the Utopicus co-working space.
That same night I I found an opportunity with a digital experience agency in Barcelona which required me to return back to California to get my visa. As I await the Spanish bureaucracy, I have embarked on my freelance journey as a UX/UI Designer and writer to help complement my journey and experiences in Spain.
Why Barcelona and not the tech capital (any my hometown) of the world, San Francisco? For me the decision was easy and most creatives can agree that your environment plays a huge part in your productivity and creativity, which is why I chose to skip out on the high-paying UX/UI salaries in SF to continue working and living in a city that constantly inspired me to create and get out of my comfort zone.