Conversation with Beth McKeever

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down with user experience designer Beth McKeever and chat about design. As a recent graduate, navigating the gap between student and creative professional has been a little tricky and at times discouraging. That aside, talking with people who are doing what they love about how they got there is helpful in many ways. Four things stuck with me after my conversation with Beth:

1. Personal stories, no matter how round-about, can be encouraging.

Beth studied studio art. She is now working as a UX designer. Her first job was not in UX, but she was given different hats to wear and ended up in user experience. You can do what you want, even if your education did not address it specifically.

2. It may not be about what you know but who you know.

Network, network, network. Stay current with people. Make connections and keep them alive. Attend events. Save money and go to conferences. Get out there and meet people. For the introvert, this is a tough yet necessary part of engaging with any sort of design, and the connections made could lead to the next project or job opportunity.

3. There is a difference between agencies and in-house design.

I never really thought about the differences between in-house design and agencies in terms of the kinds of projects and their effect on the designer. One aspect Beth commented on was the fact that often with in-house projects you have the opportunity to fine-tune. Projects are ongoing, allowing for further improvement and development, whereas agencies tend to move through more temporary projects due to client size and budget.

4. Problem-solving is more important than pretty pictures.

When talking about information architecture and user experience, pretty designs don’t often come into the picture. It’s about how the product is used. Site maps, wireframes, prototypes, user tests…this is what needs to be shown. In a portfolio, it doesn’t matter so much if the end result is pretty; what matters is that the problem was solved. Case studies are a great way to display that work. What was the problem? How did you solve it? Show that. Be sure you can explain why the design is not pretty but the architecture is killer and it goes in the portfolio.

Oh, one more thing. People like it when you’re nice. That goes a long way.