Startup Week in Chattanooga: Papercut Visits Center CentreEvents
Last week was Startup Week in Chattanooga, and one of the events was a talk hosted by Center Centre, a new local school aiming to create the next generation of industry-ready UX designers. Last week, I got the chance to visit the new school and soak up some knowledge about UX design.
You might be asking, what is a UX (user experience) designer? Well, in the web industry, a UX designer facilitates the process of creating websites, apps, and other digital experiences. A UX designer could be a graphic designer, a writer, or even someone who researches and organizes how information should be displayed on a page — they are a jack-of-all-trades in a way.
So, why do we need a school for UX designers? It’s pretty apparent that this thing called the Internet is popular. Plus, the number of people connected through devices is at an all time high and it’s still growing with no signs of stopping. How people interact with products and brands digitally is becoming a huge deciding factor in whether a consumer purchases a product. This is a pretty big deal, and the success of certain companies — Square, Apple — is finally catching on. Other big companies are now realizing how important the consumer’s online experience with their product or brand is.
Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
Here’s a crazy little statistic pulled from the Center Centre website:
Right now, there are openings for more than 24,000 UX designers in the US alone and, in the next 10 years, the projected job growth of UX designers is 22%!
Wow. That is a lot of jobs! Who said there weren’t jobs to be had in this economy? These jobs are not only abundant, but they also typically come with great pay and some cool perks and benefits. The above reasons are WHY a UX school is being formed in Chattanooga.
Center Centre is located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga on the third floor of a brick building. When you get off the elevator, you step into a sectioned-off floor with stark white walls, modular furniture, and grey carpeting. On the tour, Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman, one of the school’s founders, expressed that they want the interior of the new school to be muted so that all of the ideas, sticky notes, and other visual experiments of future students can fill the walls and bring color to the space. Students will be sectioned into teams, and there are rooms where these teams can meet and brainstorm about projects.
Before the talk began, Leslie spoke about how the school is looking to fill their first class, which will start in January 2015. To apply, you really only need to be 18 and have a high school diploma or GED, some tenacity, and a true passion to be a part of building digital products. You could be straight out of high school or even looking for a new career path. Center Centre is more interested in finding applicants that have the passion to learn than applicants with experience.
Ok, so the talk that Center Centre put on is called “It’s a Great Time To Be a UX Designer.” The speaker was Jared M. Spool, who is the school’s other founder. Jared is kind of a legend in the web industry. He leads a site called User Interface Engineering where he has tons of resources, articles, research, and data all about the web. He was into this stuff way before any of us probably really knew what a computer was or understood how important it was going to be. I was excited to hear his talk and also get the chance to tour the new Center Centre campus.
Let me just say, Jared is a great presenter. He started off the talk discussing a small town in China called Kunming, which apparently has over 100 replica Apple stores. He cleverly tied this into why UX design is so important. Apple is pretty well known for the design and experience of its products. Everything from the packaging to the stores to the website is meticulously designed and thought out specifically to meet the company’s goal of increasing profitability by providing its customers with an exceptional and memorable experience. So, this small town in Kunming, China has a bunch of replica Apple stores because they know the business model works and will sell merchandise.
This small story then branched out to touch on all the reasons why UX design is so important. We won’t get into all of the details here, but the one word I kept hearing and really took away from this talk was “intent.” People often think design is just moving shapes or objects around in a random way until it “looks good.” Well, a lot of design is done that way, but good design is not. Good design is intentional. How do we make design intentional? It doesn’t start with Photoshop open; it starts from the very beginning of any product or brand — it starts with research and planning.
I know here at Papercut, much of the success in our projects comes in the beginning of our process when we spend quite a bit of time talking to our clients about what they need, why they need it, and whether they really need it or if they just want it. From these discussions and research, we can then intelligently plan and begin to architect a product or site that is much more likely to be successful than if we just went straight into designing something. I would say that 75% of the time our clients come in and see another website and want theirs to look just like that. This is completely normal and ok! But our job is to walk our clients through why that site works and functions the way it does and why their site will be more successful if we create something that is tailored to their users’ needs.
So, to be able to create projects with intent, an individual has to have experience and knowledge in many areas and make the decisions that will make a project successful. Just a few of these areas are: marketing, storytelling, visual design, copywriting, analytics, use cases, social networking, etc. What kind of person knows all of this? Some call it a unicorn, but to be more professional, it is a UX designer. Now, this person probably won’t do all of those things on their own, but they’ll work with a team that brings this kind of knowledge to the table and can then split off to work on a more specialized area of need.
Right now is a great time to be a UX designer because companies understand how important it is for users to have friendly, delightful, and memorable digital experiences with their brands or products.
You can listen to Jared’s whole talk here.
Can I Get an Amen?
I found this talk to be very interesting and as a UX designer myself, I wanted to stomp my feet, clap my hands and tell Jared to keep on preaching. UX design is not just being a designer; it is like having a puzzle spilled out in front of you, and it’s your job to figure out how the pieces all come together. We use different skills to get to the final product.
What do you think about UX design? Had you heard of it before? Let’s talk about it!