Success stories

Stephen Reid

Process Design Specialist at DCU

  • UX Mentorship
  • UX Research
  • Wireframing, Designing
  • Usability Testing
  • Presenting
View Mentorship details

“Transitioning into UX design allowed me to blend my structured approach from graphic design with new research and development skills, ultimately enhancing the user experience in a more holistic way.”

Hi everyone, I’m Stephen. After graduating with a degree in Industrial Design, and with a background in graphic design, I knew I wanted to explore the user experience side of technology. That’s what led me to enroll in the UX Tree Mentorship Program (Round 2).

Can you share a bit about your background in Graphic Design?

I developed some basic graphic design skills while studying industrial design in college. Taking on small print and digital jobs as a freelancer helped me improve these skills further as well as bulking up my portfolio.

Eventually, I was hired by a construction company as their in-house graphic designer, which gave me a chance to work across almost every area of the business developing skills in branding, print design, photography, videography, website design etc. with a wonderful (and patient) group of people.

At what point did you start considering a career in UX, and what were the key factors that made UX design stand out as the next step for you?

During college I was vaguely aware of UX as a career even though I wasn’t familiar with the term itself. I really liked the idea that every interaction a user has with a product or service, no matter how small and intangible, represents an opportunity to improve their experience of it.  

It was only after working full-time for a number of years that I began to appreciate how my training in product design complemented the graphic design skills I had developed on the job.

Once you decided to pursue UX design, how did you approach learning and developing the necessary skills?

In work, I kept looking for opportunities outside of my usual role as a graphic designer to build new skills: delivering presentations; creating copy for our website/social media; improving / automating business processes. In my own time I began developing personal web-based projects to gain some basic web development skills.

Can you describe a challenge you faced while transitioning into UX design and how you overcame it?

The main issue I faced was a lack of real-world experience with UX projects and it was an obvious gap in my portfolio when applying for UX roles. I took the opportunity during one of the Covid lockdowns to produce a couple of self-directed UX projects and finally learn how to use Figma. 

How did mentorship or guidance from others play a role in your journey into UX design?

It’s easy to get disillusioned if your only experience of UX is through other Designer’s portfolios and social media. When I joined UX Tree Mentorship, I was surprised at the variety of experience each mentor and mentee had and it helped me understand that there is a broad scope for UX designers with different niches.

Were there any specific pieces of advice or support from mentors that you found particularly valuable?

Kill your darlings. I know this is generally handed down as a piece of advice to aspiring writers and artists, but designers are also prone to spending a lot of time working on the solution they personally prefer, instead of listening to what users really need or want.

Looking back, what advice would you give to someone with a background in Graphic Design considering a move to UX design?

Don’t spend your time crafting appealing visuals until you understand the underlying structure and flow of the user’s experience.

Get comfortable showing colleagues your rough, sketchy mockups at an early stage and getting something in front of a tester as soon as possible. It’s difficult at first, but eventually, you start to appreciate that not every design deliverable needs to be pixel-perfect.

How do you see the skills and mindset from your graphic design background continuing to influence your work in UX design?

Working as a graphic designer definitely helped me develop a structured way of working and gave me a lot of practice iterating through various designs until they were ready to release.

Transitioning into UX meant I had to learn a lot of new research and development skills, but having pre-existing knowledge of color, layout, typography, etc. was a real bonus.