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  • Writer's picturePepita Maiden

Why would you leave Architecture?

…and what the h*ll is UX Design?

I have been enjoying your daily entertaining Facebook updates; however I am so confused…why would you leave Architecture? And what the h*ll is UX Design?”

These are the two questions that I have been asked for the past four weeks by my friends and family. Once pressed, I start trying to explain, what is UX Design; however, I can see their eyes glaze over as they start thinking about what they are going to have for dinner. My answers are long-winded and boring and include lots of industry jargon and assumed knowledge. Heck I am boring myself and starting to dread the question. Therefore, my first and possibly my last blog is about explaining once and for all what is UX Design. I will start with a little of my background.

Last year I had a self-professed midlife crisis…I could not get excited anymore by the industry in which I had built my personal brand and career. As an Interior designer in the Architecture industry I was interviewing a new client for an exciting project; however, I felt like a mower out of petrol. I tried to rev up and get excited about an awesome project that would have had me chomping at the bit a few years before. The quote below is the perfect metaphor for my state of mind at the time. I found the quote, which relates to troubleshooting a mower on a home guide website. I am the mower!

‘A mower with an engine that revs erratically, also known as hunting and surging, indicates that you need to address a problem.’

I had a problem, and I felt lost. All I knew with any certainty is that I love design, I have a commercial mind, and I am curious about what makes people tick. After ten years of working independently I wanted to get back into a creative design environment with like-minded sorts.

I started hunting in the usual places…the universities of my past. I came up empty handed as none of the degrees on offer were right for me. They were time intense, drawn out, expensive and failed to float my boat. It was a sideways conversation with one of my close friends about “design thinking” that finally captured my imagination and launched me down some Google rabbit holes. What was Design thinking? Where could I learn in Sydney? I very quickly found Academy Xi and their 10-week full-time UX Design course.

So what is UX Design or User Experience Design?

Trying to explain it ‘simply’ is hard. In the section of the Architecture industry I specialised in, usually the customer and the stakeholders were the same. Extracting a design brief and budget from a client requires listening skills, curiosity, empathy and an understanding of what the client wants to achieve from their space even if they do not realise themselves. The end result is to give the client a revised or new space that works better for them and makes them feel…frankly…really, really good. An excellent and considered design brief is essential to design success, and it needs to change and evolve throughout the project. When a project has lost its way revisiting, reviewing and at times changing the brief and budget is an excellent and possibly the only way to get a project back on track.

In product and service design the customer and stakeholder are not the same and this disconnect can and most likely is the reason some products or services fail to succeed. Put simply UX Design follows a clear process to define whether a product or service ‘will’ succeed or how it ‘can’ succeed by identifying the customer/human needs for the product. Added to that mix, a great UXer understands the importance of the commercial realities of business. They will look for ways to meet the needs of the customer as well as commercial opportunities for the stakeholder/business in the design process.

UX design is a process facilitated by a UXer that brings the customer and the stakeholder together to reduce the risk of failure and increase the chance of success for both parties.

To use a metaphor:

The Stakeholder is the local power point.   A UXer is the universal travel adaptor.   The Customer is the overseas plug.

A Uxer follows a tried and true design process that connects both the stakeholder and the customer so that power can flow from one to the other and the product can then work as intended e.g. a light.

I am on a huge learning curve. The UX process I am still learning at Academy Xi under the guidance of Rob Williams an engaging and talented educator with 16 years experience in the UX industry. I am geeking out on a new industry language with lots of groovy jargon. I am learning to empty my mind and put aside all assumptions. I am learning how to ask questions and ‘really’ listen and identify with what people are saying. I am learning to look for opportunities for the stakeholder…who is ultimately my client.

This is my first blog post. Thanks for reading and I hope I have helped in explaining to those who have asked the question. What is UX Design? To all my gorgeous friends on Facebook who have made it to Day 20 of 50…this is what the h*ll I am doing. Love you all and please clap if you have got something from this blog…even if its just more questions about UX Design.

There is nothing like a well-designed product for a customer in need, and there is nothing like a successful product for a business in need.

Feel free to quote my blog.

CITATIONS Taylor, Amie. “My Lawnmower Revs Up & Down.” Home Guides | SF Gate, 28 December 2018.

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