When I first started working in user experience, I was enamored with it and in such a spin about how much my career had transformed. Gone were the days of battling with print collateral as a graphic designer. Hello, digital world! I wanted to shout it from the mountaintops—I had finally found my niche. If only I could clearly explain what it was that I did… I had noticed a worrying pattern; very few people I spoke with actually understood what a user experience designer does.
One early encounters was when working on my laptop for a few hours at a local cafe. After sending some emails I got up to buy a coffee. The barista watched me, curious, and asked, “What do you do for work?” I responded, “I’m a UX Designer, I design the look and feel of websites.” He gave an intrigued glance and said that he loved UX design, and that he had a friend (let’s call him David) who was looking for help designing a website. I took the proffered business card and duly contacted his friend. The conversation went well, until David suddenly realised I wasn’t a web developer or someone who wrote code. He lost interest in talking and we hung up awkwardly.
David was either looking for someone with totally different skills, or he was looking for an elusive and impossible ‘unicorn’; someone that can manage projects, conduct research, develop content and a design aesthetic, as well as render the final result in code.
Coincidentally, my team at work is named the ‘UI/UX Unicorns.’ Not because we believe we are unrealistically skilled at everything, but because we are badass mythical creatures in the workplace, shrouded in glitter and armed with pencils and sketch pads. We’ve taken the term and made it an empowering one.
In this spirit, and to humour you all, when I’m now asked what I do for a living I typically respond something like this:
Fear not! The holiday season is upon us, and we will all have plenty of opportunities to explain what we do for a living. Hopefully, we’ll continue to educate and inspire others about the wonderful world of User Experience without any confusing conversations.
I’d love to hear how you go. In the meantime, stay magical!