A new chapter

 

It is slowly starting to hit me that my undergraduate career is coming to an end. No more cramming for midterms and late night study sessions, no more seeing my friends on a daily basis, no more sleeping in and being able to make my own schedule, and worst of all NO MORE SUMMERS :( Of course if I decide to go to get my Masters in HCI then I guess this will not be the end of all those things but still... it is the end of a very significant and an amazing part of my life. I am so grateful to have something lined up for when I graduate. A majority of my friends also have plans for after they graduate, however, a lot of them are staying in San Diego or moving elsewhere to start their post-grad lives. I have been so focused on securing a job for when I graduate college that I did not take the time to take advantage of San Diego this past quarter. As a San Diego native I feel like I took I took the city for granted: the perfect weather, the laid-back culture, and the multitude of events that took place every weekend. You really don't realize what you have until it's gone. That is why I want to utilize my last month here to absorb as much San Diego as I can. Besides anxiously awaiting my departure from San Diego, I reflect upon my time here and what I have accomplished during my undergraduate career. I think I am truly lucky to have find something that I love and able to pursue a career in something that I truly enjoy. To this point, I have done all my design positions with no pay. It does not feel like work to me. I enjoy solving problems through design. I think the field of UX is so amazing in the way that I can help others by making apps more intuitive and efficient whilst creating a piece of art that can be enjoyed by others. I do not know what I would have been doing with my post-grad life if I didn't take on the Human Computer Interaction degree but I hope that my story and my experiences helps at least one other aspiring designer.

I have learned so much in this past year about the UX design field and about myself. UX design has become a part of me. I am proud to be an aspiring User Experience Designer and I am excited for my future endeavors. This past year has greatly prepared me for the next step in my life journey and for my first step into the real world as a post graduate. One chapter of my life is coming to an end but another amazing chapter of my life is just beginning. 

if first you don't succeed, try 98423 more times

This is true for so many things--especially in design. But I am using this line to the post-grad struggle of applying to jobs and interviewing with multiple companies. It has been a very long, drawn out journey for my job search and I find it difficult to keep my head up at times. There was a point I was talking to a few companies interested in taking me as a summer intern. I made it past the first interview for all the companies and completed a design challenge with a few of them as well. I was beyond ecstatic that so many people were interested in me as potentially becoming their UX Design Intern. At one point I had a high-profile company verbally offer me a UX Design Internship... but in San Diego. I decided not to take it. I was excited to receive the offer but then part of me was disappointed that the job was in San Diego and not in San Francisco as I hoped. My friends think I am crazy to turn down such an offer--people would kill for to work for that company. Even though it was my dream job at one of my top choices, I could not go through it. I have my heart set on San Francisco. 

Soon after that, I heard back from the other companies I was talking to and unfortunately, I did not receive any offers from them. At that point I was devastated and wish I had originally accepted the opportunity to work for the high-profile company in San Diego because I thought that the I would not have anymore responses from companies. I am not going to lie, I shed a tear or two because I thought my months of stress and hard work was going to conclude in me being a jobless graduate. 

Two weeks later I had a few more companies reach out to me whom I had applied to in the prior months. All hope was not lost!!! I slowly re-gained my confidence as a designer and started to see the beginnings of my future career again. A few weeks into interviewing with places, I had received an internship offer at a start-up company in the SoMa area of San Francisco. I AM GOING TO SAN FRANCISCO!!! I cannot believe that I am going to start my dream career in my dream city. All of this will be happening in a few short months... It seems so surreal to me but everything I have done for the past year has led me to this moment here. Though I declined one of my top choices and have gotten a few rejections throughout my job search, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Maybe it was a great thing that I did not accept that job offer in San Diego or else I would not have had the opportunity to intern in San Francisco. It is okay not to get my top choice now because I am still pretty new to the design field and I have a lot to learn and need more opportunities to grow. Everything happens for a reason, despite the outcome being good or bad. Every opportunity is a chance to grow. And I cannot wait for my opportunity to grow as a UX Designer in San Francisco :)

So tell me about yourself...

Graduation is soon approaching and my future plans are still to be decided. I have been applying to jobs in the Bay Area since the beginning of December and have just started hearing back from companies now (3 months later). I applied to large companies such as Groupon, Yelp, Google, and Facebook on a whim. I wanted to give myself a chance but I did not get my hopes too high because I have seen other design students' work that have previously interned with those types of companies; they have a lot more experience and go to more design specific schools. But who knows, maybe I am just selling myself short. I decided to apply as a UX Design Intern rather than a full-time designer because I believe that I still have a lot to learn. I have been in this industry for less than a year at this point but within this year I have accumulated a great amount of experience. Last spring I took Cogs 102C: Cognitive Design Studio with Professor James Hollan and instantly fell in love with everything UX Design related. Since then, I have been so motivated to launch my career as a UX Designer. 

Here is brief synopsis of my past year:

  • April 2014 - June 2014
    • Research Assistant @ Rady Behavioral Lab
    • HCI Class project: Coffeehouse
  • June 2014 - August 2014 
    • HCI Class project: Crown
    • Online classes
    • Graphic Design Internship @ The Sporting Club (My first internship wooo!)
  • October 2014 - December 2014
    • Research Assistant @ Rady Behavioral Lab
    • HCI Group Project: Timeline (Independent study under PHD student)
  • January 2015 - March 2015
    • User Experience Design Intern @ Foundation for Learning Equality (I finally find a UX Design position yay!!!)
    • HCI Class project: Panoply Cafe Website Redesign
    • COMM 111D class: Critical Design Theory
  • March 2015 - Present
    • Web Design Intern @ ParkerWhite Brand Interactive
    • Applying to as many internships as I can to start my career!!!

This has been a crazy, stressful, exciting, exhausting but very rewarding year for me. People say they usually like to talk about themselves or it comes easy to them. That was never the case for me because I am a bit on the shy side until you get to know me. But I  I had to drop that trait fast since going through interviews with multiple companies. Within the first two minutes of every interview I have gotten 'So tell me about yourself..." I reply with the ever-so-standard, "My name is Melinda and I am a senior at UCSD studying Cognitive Science with a specializaiton in Human-Computer Interaction" and then I basically summarize my entire design career in the span of 5 minutes. The first few interviews were challenging but now I have come to love talking about my design career and how I came into the field. That is when I started to realize I have found the career I have always wanted. I can honestly say that I have found my passion and am so lucky to have found a career that I love at an early age. Now as I am embarking on my job search, I already know what I want to do but now it is time to really think about what kind of company I want to work for and what kind of application I want to work on. That is the easiest part right..?

I want to be a UX Designer... Cool.. What is that exactly?

I get this response a lot when I tell my family and friends that I want to be a User Experience Designer (UX Designer for short). I get many requests from friends to create a graphic or design for them for personal and professional use. I am happy to help and am always looking for new additions to my portfolio but a lot of them think I am a Graphic Designer, which is not my particular expertise. I am not offended by that inference but it is a bit frustrating when people do not understand what I do. In my opinion, graphic design is about making ideas look visually appealing. Graphic Design is heavily used for marketing and promotional materials. There is more creativity allowed in graphic design whereas User Experience Design is evolved around users. User Experience involves function, usability, and visual aspects of a user's interaction with a mobile or web platform. The significant difference between the two roles is that User Experience emphasizes functionality of a design. That difference is what intrigued me the most about the User Experience field. I like to think I am a practical thinker with a creative mind. UX Design accompanies both those aspects and heavily emphasizes the two in its design process. I try my best to explain User Experience to my family and friends but I think this infographic sums up UX Design pretty well. Here are some key points: 


Why is UX Design important?

  • 68% of users leave a website because of poorly designed UX
  • 44% of online shoppers will tell others about their poor experience
  • 62% of users will base their future purchases on past experiences

Calculating ROI on UX:

  • Increased sales
  • Increased productivity
  • Increased customer loyalty and satisfaction
  • Decrease training and support costs
  • Decreased maintenance costs 

UX Design Process Steps:

  1. Research: Know and understand your user
  2. Analysis: Identify design opportunities and find solutions through design
  3. Design: Conceptualization and creating
  4. Prototype: Implementation of the idea 
  5. User-Testing: Evaluating the designs with current and/or new users to obtain feedback
    *go through steps 2-5 to reiterate design until ready for production

These are the most basic features of UX to help people better understand the UX design field. Though a lot of people may not understand UX quite yet, I am also open to answering questions about UX and about my involvement in the field. I am proud to say I have found my niche and am passionate about what I do. 

 

How to Build a Website that Converts

One of my first big assignments as a Web Design Intern was to create an infographic of 'How to Build a Website that Converts.' I was given the necessary content to be encompassed in the infographic but the most challenging part is deciding how to format the given information and to present it in a visually appealing and intuitive manner. I am not going to lie, I was a little nervous when I was given this task because I have never designed an infographic before, but I knew I was capable of creating one. I looked at previous inforgraphics created by the designers here at ParkerWhite and I also browsed through Pinterest to get some inspiration. For the most part I had to adhere to the company's style guide so it made my job a little easier but it also stunted my creative freedom a bit. Throughout the design process of creating the infographic I realized that multiple iterations is necessary for all designers, regardless of what kind of designer you are--iteration is key to the design process. My infographic probably went through 5-6 rounds of iterations before it was published online. I am always a bit reluctant to give out my first design iteration because I have tendencies of a perfectionist. First iterations are the most crucial because they set the foundation for the design. Iterations are built upon the first design. Through my internships and through my school projects, I have come to realize that I cannot take constructive criticism personally. Rounds of iterations are crucial for design and I will always be receiving feedback. Constructive criticism is given for the sake of creating a better design. The more feedback a designer receives, the better the designer he or she will become. 

So after 5-6 iterations of my design... I present to you my first infographic!

Good Artists copy, great Artists steal

I was given the task to create an infographic for a blog post called 'How to Build a Website that Converts." I have never created an infographic so this was a bit out of my comfort zone but I knew I had the skills to design this. I looked at previous infographics the designers had created for ParkerWhite and I also browsed through Pinterest to gather more design inspiration. Pinterest is a staple for me as a designer--along with Behance and Dribble which are other platforms where designers publish their work. I used to think that designers came up with their designs from scratch but I was wrong about that. One quote that I came across as I started my career in design were Picasso's famous words "Good Artists copy, great Artists steal." I don't particularly agree with the stealing aspect but I do agree with the copying part. Though I don't like using the word 'copy' because it has a negative connotation to it. I like to think of it is 'finding inspiration from others'. There was a great blog post written about this quote from 2003. Here are some highlights:

  • Copy don't create: Build upon the same foundation as other sites such as layout and information architecture. This will lead to an intuitive user journey and a familiarity for the user 
  • Steal from yourself: Build upon old designs you have created. Reinvent some of your work and keep iterating. You will eventually create your own personal design style.  
  • Find discrete sources: Trends always come and go. Sift through forgotten ideas, past designs, and old trends to create something that will make your designs unique.

To conclude, copying and stealing is used very loosely for this particular quote. My suggestion to others and for myself is to find inspiration from others but make the design unique to your particular style. It is essential for young designers to seek inspiration and to learn from mentors to be able to build a solid design foundation. But it is also important to use that time to create and shape your own design style. 

Illustrator is my new best friend

I am getting more comfortable with the agency life  and getting my confident in my skills. I finished my first wireframe for a webpage today. It has to go through the first round of routing now. A little nervous about the feedback but that is to be expected after creating my first webpage wireframe. I am so use to making wireframes for apps rather than webpages. I was pretty slow at creating this wireframe but I think after today I will be a lot quicker and a lot better at making them. I have found my new favorite design application to use for wireframing and prototyping... Illustrator! Photoshop is very tedious to use--to move an object one must select that specific layer. Illustrator allows you to move objects around easily. But each program is used for specific needs. I came across an article that summarized the unique differences between the two: “Illustrator vs. Photoshop – Difference Between Adobe Designing Software.”
             
            Key Differences:

Though photoshop is mainly used to edit photos, many Designers use photoshop to create their designs. Personally, I like to use Illustrator. I have not quite mastered the layers within Photoshop so it is a bit frustrating for me to design using that particular program.  But every designer is different and has their own design program of choice.

Busy busy busy

My schedule has been very hectic this past week. I just started my Web Design Internship at ParkerWhite, been applying to a few dozen tech companies in the Bay Area, started my last quarter of classes at UCSD, and working night shifts at the service desk at the gym. Coffee has become my new best friend and the most necessary part of my day. 

It is always a bit intimidating and nerve-wracking to start a new job. You're meeting everyone for the first time and you are unfamiliar with the work process of the company. I am fortunate enough that the branding agency is a fairly small team made up of friendly and people who are very experienced in their positions. I think it is very beneficial to have a small team rather than to have an excess amount of people. Each individual is held accountable for their own specific role yet they all support each other. Learning about their work and routing process it makes sense to have a small team to be able to produce work in an efficient and effective manner. I did some edits on one of their client's white-paper (a downloadable PDF) and learned that every little detail, space, placement, etc. mattered a lot in design. I think I reiterated on this project about three or four times until I got the final product. Every time I made a new iteration it had to go through the routing process which included: my edits --> Senior Designer edits --> User Experience Designer edits --> Digital Strategist edits. From my edits I learned a few things to be aware of from now on as a Designer.

  • Pay attention to leading
  • Make sure the the text for paragraphs goes in and out (instead of being aligned)
  • If colors display well when printed, chances are that it will not appear well on the computer screen
  • Make sure to proofread!!! Especially before sending the design out

Very little detailed stuff but it does a long way. This will just add to my perfectionist tendencies. I think part of the reason why it takes me awhile to output designs is because I like to be precise and get down to the very little details. It is easier to spot mistakes than to spot good design--designers do not want to give clients a reason to turn away from his or her business. 

Hi My Name is melinda...

The blogosphere is an unfamiliar territory for me but I wanted to document my journey as I take on my Web Design internship at ParkerWhite Brand Interactive and as I pursue my dream of moving to the Bay Area to work as a User Experience Designer. I will be sharing my experience as an intern, as a student, and as a soon-to-be graduate who is anxiously ready to enter the real world. To start, my name is Melinda Chu and I am a senior at University of California, San Diego studying Cognitive Science with a specialization in Human-Computer Interaction. I am a San Diego native who has a liking toward all things creative: art, typography, music, fashion, and photography just to name a few. Growing up and attending college in San Diego, I have grown accustomed to the 70 degree winters, the sea-salt infused air, and the laid back attitude. I think I have adapted to the casual attitude a little too much and find myself wanting more--wanting to be pushed and constantly challenged in my daily life. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love San Diego but as an aspiring User Experience Designer it is a bit challenging to find work and to find people who appreciate and understand the craft. It is understandable though, San Diego is not known for having many User Experience Designers. San Diego is great for engineers, researchers, and people in the medical field--but not the most popular destination for tech people. According to this infographic, the top three cities to work as  User Experience Designer are New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle. This perfectly aligned with my future career goals and post-grad plans. I wanted to move to the city to get a new experience and a fresh start while being able to pursue the career of my dreams. But being a California native, I find it very difficult to part ways with the west coast beaches and the amazing Mexican food. That is why I hope to work in San Francisco after I graduate. San Francisco and the Bay Area are known for their tech companies and have a vast amount of User Experience Designer positions available. I also love everything about the city. I have actually had my heart set on San Francisco for awhile; I have a map of San Francisco above my head to remind me everyday about my goal to move there upon graduating. Follow me on my journey of aspiring to start my dream career in a city that I love.