I am a 26 years old graphic designer. My way into design industry was a kind of detour. I only did a half-year course for a certificate IV in graphic design after I finished my Bachelor degree in business and Master degree in translating and interpreting (long story if you ask me why).

I have been working for more than one year in the beverage industry at Sydney, mainly doing marketing materials and POS like flyers, posters and outdoor ads. However, printing is actually not my cup of tea, and I have always been interested in digital world, especially web and interface design, but I have got no education or working experience of that except some basic HTML/CSS knowledge.

So question are as follows:

  1. am I too late to go into this field? As it seems to be a very knowledge and experience demanding career. I feel a little bit of disadvantaged as compared with other ones who have strong IT or Design education background.

  2. sefl-education or going to college again? which way is quicker (cuz I cannot afford to take any detour any more)? I am really keen on learning new staff, and my graphic design skills are also self-taught.

  3. If I do need to get another degree to get into this field, should I choose a more technical degree like IT engineering, or a more front-end oriented course like Digital media design?

I have read a lot of answers for the similar questions, but still want to get a customized advice. Thanks very much for helping!

  • 1
    Of course it isn't too late, you can sit here asking yourself or you can go out, buy a book, find some time and kick some digital ass!
    – user30376
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 2:20
  • Junnan and Luke, welcome to UX.se!
    – rk.
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 2:26
  • Just the fact that you asked this question here tells me you're motivated enough to shift your career. Good Luck on your journey to become a UXD Specialist! Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 7:20
  • I had been working in the computer industry for 15 years before I realized I had been "doing" UX without knowing it was a "thing" :) When I read Cooper's "Inmates", I decided to formally pursue UX full time. It's never too late!
    – daydalis
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 17:20

3 Answers 3

  1. it's all about what attitude you have towards learning. Six years ago I began an education called Information Architecture at Malmö University. I was 39 years then, and thought I was the oldest one in class. As it turned out, my classmate was a year older. In 2010 I got my bachelor degree at the age of 42. Age is not a factor.

  2. Proper education or self learning? Start by self learning, reading books and answer questions here. Asking is good too, but trying to answer is even better since you're trying to solve someone else's problem (which is what we do daily). If you find it interesting, a proper education can shorten the time to do what you want. A combination of both is the best.

  3. Educate yourself in the field that interest you the most, since User Experience is a cross disciplinary field. Motivation is key to learn anything.

How can I become a User Experience Designer

  • 2
    As someone else that also got into UX later in life, I couldn't agree more with this answer.
    – JohnGB
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 5:48
  • Thanks Benny. I think I will start off by reading books and online tutorials first before planning to go to college. Btw, could you please tell me you were doing full time or part time study of information Architecture?
    – Junnan
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 5:51
  • 1
    @Junnan It was full time, having a house, three kids and was supported by my beloved wife. Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 6:52
  • 2
    And remember that education is just one factor. Knowledge and skill are even more important. There a lot of people who did not receive prober education but still, they were geniuses. Like Alexander Borodin, Zbigniew Preisner, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin... And it's always possible to plunge into the subject and dig for knowledge :) UX.SE is great place to do it, btw. Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 7:05
  • Junnan, you are not at all late. The industry is just getting traction and there are plenty of opportunities. Most of the 'senior' people in UX were not formally trained in the field. They come from some sort of design related background (graphics, industrial, visual, etc.) Looking at some of the leaders in the field, Bill Buxton was a musician ;) You can start out with an internship if you have trouble getting a full time position. Join local groups (IXDA, etc.) and start networking in the UX domain. Get active on forums and groups and you will find an opening.

  • I can point you to a good starting class https://www.coursera.org/course/hci Scott is a good teacher and is quite well versed in HCI. You will get a good foundation from his course. It just started a week ago so you're still on time for it. Apart from the course you can start reading some of the standard books The must-read User Interface Book? and a couple other questions already answered that.

  • If you have a Masters degree, I don't feel you need a degree right off the bat. Try finding a job once you have an idea of the field and see if you still need a degree. Since the degree you get also has many flavors, interaction design, human factor design, human computer interaction, digital media, so on and so forth.

  • Thanks very much for pointing a direction for me, and it is also a great encouragement for me to move forward. I will checkout the resource you provide.
    – Junnan
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 5:32

UX goes beyond just human-computer interaction. Graphic design, in some sense, is User Experience design - your graphics, posters, advertisements, etc. all create an experience. You could design store layouts. You could analyze traffic patterns and design roadways. These all fall under the UX umbrella so long as your focus is on the way people interact with and the emotional response of a given product or service.

If you have a passion for it, go for it; however, I think identifying what you are looking for would be the best first step. If you are looking to become a web designer, you already have the "in" so to speak, because you can design layouts, related graphical assets, etc. If you are looking to research the way users interact with online properties - then you are definitely looking more toward UX - which actually doesn't require a lot of knowledge in web development, except a knowledge of capabilities.

To answer your questions directly:

  1. It's never too late to start entering a field of study or profession. As long as you're passionate about the field, and are willing to take the necessary steps (most of which you will define yourself). But, you don't need to limit yourself to human-computer interaction - you could design (or assist in the design) of car interiors if you wanted to.
  2. This is one of those personal choice questions. I did not go to college for what I do now (which is primarily web development, but I'm fascinated by UX, mostly human-computer interaction). If you use college as a way to network, get internships, and not just a degree, then you may find it beneficial. If you know people in the industry who classify themselves and UX people - talk to them, see if you can shadow them for a week or two, and so on.
  3. Again, whether you decide to get another piece of paper is not as important as actually learning the methodologies and practices of UX (user testing, adaptation, observation, etc.). As for the IT part, if you are interested in doing UX for more technology related fields, then it probably wouldn't hurt.
  • Thanks for your inspirational advice. Now I more confident to hold on my goal. Actually, this is my first time interacting with people on forums, and I realized the power of it. Just like @rk. said, now I know the importance of involvement in the communities. Cheers!
    – Junnan
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 5:38

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