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Career Guide

How to Become a UX Designer

BrainStation's UX Designer career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in UX design. The guide provides an in-depth overview of the design skills you should learn, the best available UX design training options, career paths in UX design, how to become a UX Designer, and more.

How to Become a UX Designer

How Do I Become a UX Designer?

To become a UX Designer, you must learn the fundamentals of design, user and market research, strategy, and product development, among others. And while many Designers start out in design or development, there is no single path to becoming a UX Designer; virtually everyone working as a UX Designer began in a related field, then acquired the additional skills they needed.

In short, anyone with a passion for UX can find a way to leverage the skills they have and pick up the ones they don’t.

Is UX Design a Growing Field?

Yes, the UX design field is one of the fastest growing in technology. According to Glassdoor, there are more than 20,000 open positions in UX design currently available in the US alone.

A survey by Adobe also found that 87 percent of hiring managers say that acquiring UX Designers is a top priority. And according to Intechnic, a further 73 percent of companies plan to conduct UX testing in the next 12 months.

Can You Become a UX Designer With No Experience?

Yes, you can become a UX Designer without any previous work experience. Our Digital Skills Survey found that 65 percent of UX Designers began their careers in the design field, later specializing into UX design to gain a competitive edge in the job market. So while experience or education in a design-related field is a great first step toward becoming a UX Designer, it isn’t an absolute necessity. In fact, it’s also quite common to have a background in psychology or the social sciences, which can be leveraged in the user research phase of UX.

Some UX Designers come from completely different industries, like tech consulting. What’s important in these cases is to take the time to understand the tactics used to conduct user research and implement it through experience design.

There are also many transferable skills that can prepare someone for the role. Empathy, for example, is critical to understanding how the users of your product or service think and act in a given situation. Collaboration, too, is key in many roles, but especially for UX Designers. The job requires interaction with various teams, actively listening, accepting feedback, brainstorming, and more. All require a successful team dynamic. If you have these strengths, you’re ready to take the next step and begin your skills training.

What Do I Need to Learn to Become a UX Designer?

To become a UX Designer, you’ll want to focus on learning user experience fundamentals, user research strategy, user interface design basics, responsive design, and more. Let’s take a closer look at each of these:

User Experience Design Fundamentals

Make sure your training provides experience with design sprint methods, learning to identify problem spaces, and developing solutions. You should leave with an understanding of how to create wireframes and prototypes using design tools like Sketch and InVision.

User Research Strategy

You should learn how to plan and conduct user research in order to understand users’ behavior, needs, and motivation, and how to translate those findings into relevant project requirements and product designs.

Design Research and Strategy

User research is essential to UX design. Ensure your training shows you how to conduct user research, and understand users’ behavior, needs, and motivations. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to communicate complex interactions visually through experience maps and personas.

User Interface Design

Build upon your knowledge of usability to master the nuances of typography, color, illustration, and images. Learn how to use industry tools like Sketch to design professional interfaces, as well as methods for designing and maintaining user interface pattern libraries.

Responsive Design

Apply industry-standard design principles to create both low- and high-fidelity applications and websites. Make sure you learn how to utilize grids and breakpoints in the design process to ensure your projects are responsive across various screen sizes, guaranteeing a seamless experience.

It’s important to remember that for a UX Designer, learning never ends. And that’s a good thing: it places you on more equal footing with even the most knowledgeable experts, since you’re all trying to stay on top of evolving trends, emerging techniques, and new tools together. In fact, according to the 2019 BrainStation Digital Skills Survey, 77 percent of UX Designers have participated in workshops, seminars, or industry conferences as a way to keep up with where the field is heading.

So developing these skills is an ongoing process, and one that applies to seasoned and aspiring UX Designers alike. Both can benefit from a combination of certificate courses, industry events, conferences, blogs, books, and more. The fun is in realizing there is always something new to learn; odds are, others are learning right alongside you.

Develop a Portfolio

Once you’ve developed your skill set; the only thing left is to start building out your portfolio so you can apply to jobs. There’s more strategy involved here than you might think—more variety, and even more pieces, aren’t necessarily better. In fact, you’re better off doing background research on the company you’re applying to, honing your portfolio’s objectives, and selecting roughly five pieces that speak directly to the company’s achievements and the role you’ll be playing in them.

At the same time, your portfolio should be a genuine reflection of who you are. Be personal and authentic. This comes through in your bio and portrait, but also in how you present the work you do. Every piece in your portfolio should tell a story—about the life cycle of the project, but also about your unique skills, your process, and the creativity you bring to the table.

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