Recalibrating to Keep a Successful Career on the Right Path

UX professional Lulu Wang hones another talent for continued career development

Successful people rarely rest on past performance, and Lulu Wang well knows the benefits of accruing new knowledge as she continues on her career path.

Lulu’s journey toward a UX career started with a master’s degree program in Human-Computer Interaction Design (HCI/d) at Indiana University Bloomington. As part of the requirement to earn the degree, Lulu sought and landed a UX internship at TED Conferences. Interestingly enough, it was a TED talk entitled “The Thrilling Potential of SixthSense Technology,” by Pranav Mistry that introduced her to the HCI field.

From there, she landed a job as a UX designer at MDPI, a publisher of open-access journals. There, she worked on Book Builder, a web app that helps readers of an online open-access article website to select and compile multiple articles into book format.

She is currently a UX designer at Altitude Networks, a cloud security and data-loss-prevention firm.

As she surveyed her current skill set, Lulu wanted to add in graphic design. “I felt I needed to gain a formal education in visual design in order to succeed in my daily work as a UX designer,” she explains.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Lulu dove into our Professional Program in Graphic Design and has happily completed the cutting-edge curriculum.

Why Visual Design Skills Matter in UX

Lulu has a lot to say about this subject, so let’s hear straight from her:

“I actually am preparing an article on this topic: Why UX designers should learn graphic design. Of course, I am not referring to a broader definition of a UX designer that may include a user researcher or a UX engineer. But if we define a UX designer as the person who creates user interfaces with a user-centric mindset, this person needs to understand graphic design. Most small- to medium-sized companies still require a UX designer to care for the visual and interaction design; some even require front-end coding experience.

“Coming out of a Human-Computer Interaction master’s program, I excelled at user research and concept design but prototypes coming out of my hands were not visually appealing. I may know something doesn’t look right, but I don’t know why or how to fix it. Now I can explain if a visual design solution is good based on principles such as balance, rhythm, harmony, contrast, et cetera.”

Lulu’s Favorite Course

It didn’t take long for Lulu to get into the flow of the graphic design program. In fact, she so appreciated the first course in the program, Visual Design Principles, that she confidently names it as her favorite of the seven-course program.

“First of all,” she shares, “this course laid the foundation of visual design for me. With the principles and examples we learned, I am now able to explain why a design is good or not good.”

Just as iteration is one of the bedrock principles of UX design, Lulu found that the course encouraged her to make creation an ongoing process. “The weekly course exercises made designing a habit for me,” she reveals. “Going through the program pushed me to make time for creation regularly. My career benefited from such habits.”

In fact, Lulu was so taken by her experience in the program that she’s shared her thoughts in a detailed Medium article.

Learning From Experts

Lulu credits instructor Josh Halstead with giving her particular inspiration.

“He always answers student questions with references to published articles, or quotes works from practicing designers, and shows his own work to explain why he made choice A versus choice B,” she describes. “His teaching reflects what he has been thinking and working on—it is visceral and real.”

Don’t miss Josh Halstead sharing his views on visual design and the creative process!

A Cohort of Creativity

Director Ivan Trujillo has a clear vision for the program as a whole. He encourages students to take the courses in a specific order because each builds on the previous so that students can accumulate their knowledge, experiences and expertise to succeed after they complete the program.

But an ancillary benefit is learning from so many different types of students in each of your classes. Lulu points this out as a particular benefit: “Everyone has a different goal when enrolling in this program. Some are recent college graduates looking for new directions, some are thinking about mid-career transition. I met this talented Thai illustrator and fashion designer who used to work as a flight attendant. I also took classes with a current Ph.D. student who is passionate about scientific illustration.”

Check out other graphic design graduates to see the range of professionals coming into our program.

The Benefits of Continuing Education

Lulu Wang is now six years into her professional career as a UX designer, and she still prioritizes learning.

“It shows you are always learning or pivoting yourself,” she shares. “I have certificates that are not quite relevant to UX design; for example, one in AI deep learning. I got it because I was interested in learning that topic. Recently, the founder at an AI startup contacted me because he saw my certificate and was happy to find a designer who is into AI.

“So I recommend taking courses or getting certificates in areas you are interested in,” she urges other students. “Don’t worry about whether it fits perfectly with your current career path or not. Many careers in the future will require multidisciplinary talents, so feel free to let your curiosity lead you.”

Develop your own talents in design with the Professional Program in Graphic Design. You never know where the experience can take you.