How I Became a Designer through Trial and Error

  • Off Track Travel
  • wizard A little comic about me

    Figuring out what you want to be is quite taxing.

    My path towards becoming an interaction designer was not very straight forward. It was more like a zig-zag cross country ride with many stops, each destination giving me a chance to try new things. For a long time, I felt the paths that I took in my career was embarrassing, because they somehow implied I was directionless, or weak-willed. On the contrary I now view the many different hats I wore as a badge of honour: They represent someone who is adventurous, and courageous enough to try new things.

    My Career Paths

    career paths The paths I took in my career were definitely non-linear.

    My customer service jobs throughout my early teens taught me that even in inconspicuous places like a pizza shop, clothing store, tea shop… people notice when you do something nice for them. People notice the guy who pays extra attention to detail when wrapping a gift, or the guy who gives extra dipping sauce.

    In ballet I learned discipline. Probably in a way that no 9-5 jobs could ever teach me. I have never been surrounded by people with that level of drive to be better than when I was on stage.

    Publishing was the industry that showed me the direction technology was headed towards, and how design guides to create a product that can be used by hundreds of thousands of people.

    As a librarian I learned to be comfortable with data. I learned how important communication is, and I made all my first mistakes in office politics and miscommunications there.

    UX showed me the frameworks and methodologies that lead products and services to success. However, I was always more interested in molding my design to be fair and accessible, rather than making it about growth only.

    Who I Am Today

    The ballet dancer in me, the publisher in me, the librarian in me - all represent a driven person, a creative person and someone who is not afraid to take on new challenges. My falls, failures and redirections cautiously led me to design1 as a professional career.

    Thanks to trial and error, I now have a proven track record that shows that when I want something, I go out and get it. Just like the design process I deploy in my work, I applied the same method to my career. I ideated and pivoted until my invalidations became validations. I am grateful for what it took for me to become a designer too, because I became someone who does not simply stop at understanding users, but someone who cares about bringing fair access to the experience of using the product. It is incredibly difficult to be a designer in pursuit of fairness2. But I am in love with this challenge. I love learning something new every day, and I feel a sense of belonging when I am contributing to creating a more ethical future that we all need.

    1. Me landing on interaction, a subfield of UX, was purposeful. UX design describes the process of design from the start-to-end experience of a user. That is a string of touchpoints to design, and sometimes UX can feel indefinite and abstruse, ultimately leading to ambiguity at the end of the project over the ownership of changes that led to success vs. failures. By focusing my attention to interaction, I can be hands-on about my inputs and have explicit control over my design choices per touchpoint. Each interaction builds upon the overall experience, and designing interactions allows me to connect the dots. It was exciting: I finally found a way to marry my creativity and my livelihood!

    2. As a researcher of fair access for the last two years (it was my masters thesis that has continued to become my personal research topic), I can attest that "fairness" as a topic in design and technology often ends up with more questions than answers. However the reason why I believe this work is necessary is because my research is addressing the gap between the growing reach of our technological innovations and our current laws and policies. We are constantly playing catch up to the ethical/security issues that arise from new use of these products.