One of the greatest qualities in most creative problem solvers is a thirst for learning. Most designers and user experience professionals I know have some level of post-graduate education. But if you were to dig a little deeper, you would likely find that many have degrees in either partially or completely unrelated fields. The truth is the greatest thing you learn while getting a college education is that you alone are responsible for what and how you learn.
Andy Rutledge recently leveled a very stern, yet honest, criticism of the state of UX Design Education in the college system: “Today the appropriate path for UX design education goes around, not through, nearly all universities and colleges.”
While there is undoubtedly a gap is this area of design education, thankfully people like Liz Danzico (MFA in Interaction Design program at SVA) and Christopher Murphy and Nicklas Persson—aka the Web Standardistas—are leading the way by creating cutting edge interaction design curriculum that will hopefully serve as a model for education in our field in the years to come.
But what if you don’t live in New York or Belfast? How can you gain the knowledge and experience needed to be a trustworthy user experience design practitioner?
Find a mentor. Search out the best user experience design team in your area and apply for a job. Intern if necessary, but do what ever it takes to work along side someone with experience in the field. Try to expose yourself to as many of the various facets of UX Design as you can and immerse yourself in the work. Your true passion and aptitudes will reveal themselves, allowing you to focus your skills and cultivate a career as a UX Designer.
In addition, I would encourage you to read. Read everything and anything you can that relates to designing the user experience. Art, science, psychology, all types of design—all of it will help you form a solid foundation, gain an understanding of the language of design, and provide you with practical tools and methodologies which can be applied immediately in your work.
In order to give you something to read through this long cold winter season, I have compiled my list of “essential UX reading” to help get your UX education off to a good start. This list is in no way exhaustive, but rather a selection of various titles that will help continue the growth of any user experience designer.
- Everything from Rosenfeld Media - no joke.
- Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior
- Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks
- Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition
- The Design of Everyday Things
- Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things
- About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design
- Universal Principles of Design
- Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
- The Elements of Typographic Style
- Sketching User Experiences
- Envisioning Information
- Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web (2nd Edition)
- Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students
- 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School
- Graphic Design: The New Basics
- Designing with Web Standards (3rd Edition)
- Beautiful Evidence
- Designing the Obvious: A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design
- The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web
- An Eye for Color
- The Inmates Are Running the Asylum
- A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction
- How Designers Think, Fourth Edition: The Design Process Demystified
- Grid Systems: Principles of Organizing Type
- Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click?
- Handcrafted CSS: More Bulletproof Web Design
- Geometry of Design: Studies in Proportion and Composition
- The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems
Whether you side with Andy Rutledge in boycotting the collegiate system or you just want to become a more well-rounded and educated designer, I implore you: never stop learning because the moment you stop learning is the moment you become obsolete.