From Product Design to UX

Maia Ottenstein / Friday, October 21, 2016

My journey is not a common one, but maybe it should be.

Despite being trained as a product designer I am now working in the field of User Experience (UX) Design. While I am not the first designer to find my skillset applicable in another discipline, the concept of UX seems to deter many people like me from entering the profession. From my experience, this may be due to how frequently it is discussed in the media, its vague definition, or its seeming proximity to software development (leading many to believe they need to know CSS to enter the field).


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Other designers I’ve spoken with know they probably have the tools to work in UX, but they hold back because they are unsure what those jobs are like or how their skills might apply.

It can be intimidating to step into this mysterious and seemingly confusing profession, but taking the leap to try your hand at UX design is a great opportunity to broaden your skillset and have an impact.

I chose to study product design because I was attracted to the unique balance of analytical and creative thinking it required, the comprehensive skillset I would learn, and the wide range of possibilities for my career path. I always saw the skills I learned as being applicable to a variety of fields and formats, but when it came time to look for a job, I shied away from UX positions.

They were listed everywhere, and I frequently got the sense that I just didn’t really understand what they wanted. I had kind of designed part of an application for a project, but I never really had anything looked over by a professor and I wasn’t sure if I was doing anything right or what an experienced professional would think of my work. With every UX opportunity I considered, I prepared myself for total embarrassment.

It took speaking with the Director of UX at Infragistics to make me believe I could actually do this job. Learning that his team values and utilizes the design process I learned in school, and receiving confirmation that my skills are very closely related to those used in UX design, made me feel much more confident about stepping into the field.


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That’s me, setting off into the UX design field! Just kidding, but I like to think I have a similarly cowboy-esque stature.

When I started this position I was still nervous about transitioning from the design of tangibles to digital products. Now I see that UX design is very closely related to my training. Projects follow the same design process and require the same considerations as my previous work: context, user needs, aesthetic language, composition, affordances, interactions, usability, production, etc. The only differences being that the products are now flat and digital, and some of the above terms refer to slightly different concepts. For example, the term “affordance” used to refer to handles, knobs, and little indents that imply how to hold something; in the field of UX, it refers to buttons, form fields, and hover states that imply how certain actions can be taken.

I was surprised how easily the work came to me. My training actually complements this discipline very nicely. I am always thinking about the user, trying to see my work from their perspective and imagining what interactions could add value to their experience. I also like to think about how relieved users will be when they switch to using carefully considered and well-designed applications that improve their day-to-day experiences.


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My experience has helped me to better see the connectedness between design disciplines. While training differs from specialty to specialty, many skillsets overlap or share similarities like those I mentioned between product and user experience design. Figuring out how you can apply your skills to another area of design will provide the opportunity to learn new skills on the job and open the doors to a huge array of possibilities. UX is a major factor in the success of every product you see on the market. Since many designers already have the basic tools needed to be successful in this field, why not take a swing at it?


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3. Diagram adapted from: