How I shaped my design character with non-design experiences

I’ve never learned proper graphic design. I studied fine arts at high-school and then learned programming and started working as a programmer. In some part of my career I decided to change my role and study UX design, to become a UX designer. This personal path shaped my point of view as a designer. Some points in this path are more design-related and some are less, but every one of them shaped me in a certain way that makes my whole design “character”. These points are:

Fine Arts

So, as I said, I learned fine arts at high-school. These lessons, at first, improved my overall technique. I learned how to sketch, paint, sculpt and print, and got a taste of how it is to create art. I’ve always loved to draw and through the lessons I got better and my skill set became wider. I also learned how to analyze a piece of art, how to find the message the artist is trying to deliver, using different compositions, perspectives and colors. This has a direct impact on how I design today.

Do you think Mona Lisa prefers Sketch or Photoshop?

Programming

Although I view myself as an artist, I have always had a strong connection with computers. So, I learned programming. I started with Pascal and then C# and C++ and Java and SQL and Assembly and what not. Programming taught me three important lessons for life – the first one is how to learn. After a really short time of learning how to code, you get the feeling of what’s possible using code and what isn’t, and then all you have to do is check online how it’s done. Knowing that everything you need to know is written in some documentation somewhere on the web makes you invincible. This skill also applies to design. I know there isn’t a lot of stuff I can’t design, if I’m using the internet and hard work.

The second thing programming taught me is working in a structured way. OOP (Object Oriented Programming), for instance taught me about inheritance, objects and classes (If you’re not familiar with OOP I really suggest you learn a bit about it). These are things that really organizes the data in your head and turn your logical thinking mode on, and organized logical thinking mode is good for every type of planning and designing.

The final, and a very important thing programming taught me, is how to think like a programmer. Although my obvious users aren’t necessarily programmers, a part of my job is working with designers, and I feel I’m much more prepared to the conversation with them when I can give code references, understand the process, and even give them coding advices (as much as I can without being an annoying preacher).

Music

I love music; It affects me. Music can change my mood from being frustrated to being motivated and joyful. Through time, I learn to identify the specific thing that affects me – the melody, the instruments, the lyrics… Every part of the composition is significant in order to eventually make you feel something, and after all, as a UX designer, making you feel something is what I’m aiming for when I’m designing. Music shows you the way to pass a certain feeling through various motives, which you can use while designing.

Music is so important, I wrote a post about it!

Friendship

This one feels a bit different than the others, but I do think it is important for my design character. The reason is based on the passing week. I had zero motivation to go to work and I had a horrible mood for all day long, in front of my computer. BUT! after interacting with friends, I really started feeling better. The lesson for me was that friendship and the sense of connection is a key for happiness. Therefore, this is something I want to pass to my users, as much as I can – the feeling of connection and friendship.

Also, I believe designers should not work alone. Working together makes your brain work harder. A work partner will doubt things you wouldn’t mind, and will motivate you to solve these doubts.

My friends and I, a couple of years ago

Conclusion

My personal path that led me to being a designer is based essentially on learning Fine Arts and Programming, listening to music and acknowledging friendships. Programming taught me how to learn and organize data, fine arts taught me my visual craft skills, music taught me about motives to pass a feeling, and friendship taught me the value of connection. Everyone else has their own specific path that creates a different “character” for design. And that’s beautiful.

What’s your personal path? Tell me in the comments.


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