• Sarah Groff-PalermoSarah Groff-Palermo, over 10 years ago

    Great question.

    My degree is in literary and critical theory, and originally I was going to grow up to be a writer and work in publishing. Now I am the head of user experience for a small company, which means I do a lot of the graphic design too.

    I have fallen into this job by job and step by step. When I was the managing editor of a small press, I needed to be able to work with our Quark files, then I started laying out books with the help of our designer, just for speed. When I left publishing to be an advertising pm, I learned what UX was and thought "I can do that" and had a boss who was awesome enough to let me try and coworkers who were willing to help.

    I went to a bigger agency and learned more. I wound up at a design studio full of trained designers and learned even more. Each step I was expected to make higher fidelity wireframes, till by the end I was creating designs within a pre-established system. This was helpful because it meant I had to replicate good design and extend it, but I had a framework. That combined with very high expectations meant I spent about 18 months freaking out and working hard and finally now I know enough about design to do a good job.

    That said I do feel always a little behind my colleagues in design understanding. I would never be right for a job that didn't draw on my strengths in UX. I spend a lot of my free time shoring up my design knowledge with books and personal projects and sometimes continuing ed classes. I can see the value in the education and confidence & knowledge it engenders.

    I'm not necessarily sorry about my winding path because I have had a chance to do a lot of fun things and learn a ton (and that gives me some confidence of a different sort — I know I can always "figure it out"), but if someone knows they want to be a designer and they have the opportunity to go to design school, they should.

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