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Academy Xi Webinars

Design maturity: How to get there

By Academy Xi

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Join our panel of digital experts as we discuss tips on how you can lead your business towards becoming design-led.

Panellists:

  • Anthony Currenti – UX Lead, Catch.com.au
  • Gowri Penkar – Service Design Lead, Carsales
  • Vida Asrina – Head of Experience Design, Endeavour X (Endeavour Group Limited)

In this webinar you will learn:

  • Tips for leading design-led change
  • What common barriers stand in the way
  • What helps management to ‘buy-in’ to design-led projects, processes and change
  • Why, from a designers perspective, design maturity is often about unlearning what they know

Keen to join us? Register your interest now. 

Want to keep up to date with the latest webinars from Academy Xi? Follow us here on LinkedIn.

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Julie Dal Santo

By Academy Xi

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After working for years in Human Resources, Julie was looking for something new to study to reclaim her ‘professional mojo’. Little did Julie know at the time, but training in User Experience Design was going to lead to her leaving her profession and starting up her own successful enterprise. 

What was happening for you before studying at Xi? What made you decide to sign up?

At the time, I had been working for about six years in my HR role, had two babies while working there and had loved it. Then there was a leadership change at work and an evolution across Human Resources in terms of employee experience, which I found really interesting. The human element really resonated with me: the connection and feeling, instead of it being just a transactional cyclical process. 

I had started to feel that lull in my career moment. I’m a big advocate for continuous learning and improvement and for not necessarily sticking to a linear approach. When we hear and learn from different perspectives we can broaden our own thinking, and spark creativity. So with that in mind, one of my incredible mentors and I workshopped a couple of areas I might be interested in learning more about. She was the first person to actually mention User Experience (UX) Design and Academy Xi, and had heard that it was well regarded and took a more innovative approach in terms of being practical and industry-led compared to a lot of other training options on the market. Xi put more focus on the skills and knowledge required on the job and was more relevant to the wider industry.

I looked around and did some of my own research. Looking at what Xi was offering, I really loved the principles of UX Design. What resonated the most was the project in terms of setting a problem statement and then looking at the practical sense of solving the problem – but with a focus on the human element of that journey. 

So I signed up to UX UI Design Elevate. I had just fallen pregnant with my third child at the time and work got really busy. The flexibility that Xi gave in terms of course start dates and the training itself made it easier to find a way to make it happen. 

What was your course experience like?

I was 25 weeks pregnant and working 4 days a week when I started the course. It was crazy but really energising. It was a challenge and if it was easy, everyone would do these things. But it aligned with my values, it was great. 

There were about 12-15 of us in our cohort and what kept me going was our two instructors, Berlin and Pedro. They were working in the field and had very practical, tangible advice. Their love and passion and interest in teaching really shone through. The course content was amazing, but to also be taught by people who are really passionate about what they do, it’s their bread and butter, it really just pushes you along. 

I’m not from a tech background and they opened my eyes. The support that they gave and the way they went about their teaching was extremely engaging and made it really enjoyable. They were both incredible. Very generous with their time. When people really know their subject matter intimately, they’re able to truly break it down and simplify it. It was a wonderful experience.

Can you recall any highlights within the training or content?

The user testing session we ran. I was really skeptical initially. It’s a good reminder – asking people and letting people talk uninterrupted instead of making assumptions. 

We had completed our prototype and then had to sit down and do user testing. Everyone brought a friend and we gave them our spiel and the instructions.  They then went through the prototype process, pressing the buttons, navigating what we had designed. 

I thought my product was great and it made complete sense.  I’d spoken to like minded people, they were all on board. Then there was this wave of phenomenal feedback from the user testing session! I’ve incorporated and held on to that even after the business has launched – I still go back and look over some of that feedback. 

As humans, we tend to assume that people either know something or have a similar experience to ourselves, and that we’ve thought of everything. We look for confirmation bias and we like being right, but the power of observation is so important – just ask the question and don’t interrupt.

Did you work on a real-life project within your training?

We could come up with our own personal problem statement that could be the basis for our project and prototype. For me, at the time, I was mulling over three different problems and I wanted to make sure that it was real life and practical. I chose a performance review process and my problem statement was:

 How might we empower employees to own and drive their lifetime career performance, feedback and development so that they are not constrained by organisational processes, timing and data management?”. 

Performance review is a process that many people have gone through across different organisations. So many people put so much effort into preparing for these conversations and getting some kind of rating as a result. All of that information goes somewhere – and it might not be recalled or ever used again. 

How do we empower them? I wanted to build a solution that would address that.

And that was the catalyst for your business, My Career Capital?

Yes. The problem statement I came up with for the project within my course has grown. I presented it at the end of the ten week training to a panel and there was a lady from a recruitment agency who commented on it, said it was a wonderful idea and product and then just before I had my baby I caught up with a few people and told them what I had been working on in the course and they were really supportive. They said that they loved the concept.

By this point, after the course, my focus was having my baby. About six months later I started having conversations about the idea again. At that point I wasn’t certain if I would be returning to my HR role either. 

We are more than our jobs – the moment you start identifying as being your job, that can be problematic in a number of ways. I think once you learn new things and have different experiences, it broadens your view of what is possible and expands the value you can add. I wanted to explore a little bit more. I began reconnecting and nurturing some of my network relationships and they really encouraged me to pursue this as well. So it started from the project at Academy Xi and it has now turned into a startup business. 

Can you give us an overview of what My Career Capital is about?

My Career Capital is a one-stop, all-inclusive platform to help you design, manage and grow your career, your way. 

The essence of what we do is giving individuals (all types of workers) and employers practical, tangible tools to build their know-how around managing themselves and their career capital. This is transformational and critical for one to navigate the future of work. 

How do we do it? It’s where users create, use and own an innovative personalised digital portfolio of their career capital to enhance employment outcomes and career potential. It can help them achieve their career potential and boost their success and fulfilment throughout their career. 

The biggest change in mindset within the current world of work we live in, is a push for individuals to take ownership of themselves and their career.

New research is showing the patterns of how people are career shifting – not necessarily staying within the same industries or organisations longer term but actually moving on every three to seven years. That’s huge for those just coming out of university at the moment, at the early stage of their career, having to continue to evolve. 

The ability for those early in their careers to navigate those transitions is all about learning how to manage themselves and their portfolio, so they can manage their transition more seamlessly, whether it’s a promotion they’re going for or a change in direction.

Research is also showing that if you want to be at the top of your game and be an industry leader, you need to be doing five hours of learning a week. It’s 2-3 hours just to stay relevant. Being active in our learning and knowing ourselves intimately can help us to navigate opportunities and challenges effectively.

Did you plan to start a business before training in UX?

Not at all. I came to study UX purely to get my mojo back, to immerse myself in something really interesting that would complement the skills I already had, but also to move me further along professionally. 

My mentor at the time was external to where I was working – which is really important to have someone outside of your work environment, to encourage diversity in thinking. I had no idea training in UX would result in me starting my own business. If someone had suggested that to me back then I wouldn’t have believed it and probably would’ve thought it was insane to even consider it. 

When you have the perspective and you can be the observer of yourself, you can make decisions that are more aligned with your values and therefore you have a higher sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. And that’s what has happened for me in studying UX Design and starting My Career Capital.

The brilliant thing with UX, is that it’s not job title or industry specific. This is where we need to break down those barriers. It didn’t matter that I was an HR professional without a tech background. The process is still the same, it’s how you go about applying it, that’s the beauty and the richness in the learning and what I found to be so interesting. 

Would you recommend studying UX Design?

The theme that is coming through is that a stronger human approach is needed, putting the human connection back into the processes many industries run. Human Resources for one, or any organisation working with people such as the legal industry or community projects, any role or industry that interacts with responsibility and accountability, I can’t advocate enough how important studying UX is. 

This process places you as an observer. You’re not making decisions all the time from your perspective. The process is very organic and pushes people to approach tasks and problems with more creativity. 

Feeling inspired yet? We are. Explore further the 5 reasons to invest in upskilling

If you think you might benefit from learning something new to help you in your role or side hustle, check out our range of Business, Design and Tech courses

Visit My Career Capital’s website and follow them on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Berlin Liew

By Academy Xi

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Being introduced to UX design was a defining moment for Berlin; one that changed her career path and set her on a journey of self discovery. Berlin spoke with us about her experience studying UX Design and her ongoing passion for mentoring.

What was happening in your life before Xi?

I worked in digital advertising as a media buyer for 6-7 years. A manager from a previous life had met up with the user experience design team at AGL and she got in touch with me as she thought that I would really like the industry. She said ‘I think it lends itself as a discipline to your skills and if you haven’t already looked into it, I really think that you should’. And for me that sparked a whole journey of self discovery and finding out what UX was – at that point I didn’t know anything about it. It was just an acronym to me. So that’s how it started.

I studied UX Elevate in 2018.

UX is just an acronym for many people. In your own words, how would you describe UX?

I haven’t quite nailed it yet, which I think speaks for itself. There’s not one definition of what UX is and it depends on who I am speaking to as to how much I break it down, but a go to description of what it is: ‘helping digital experiences feel less clunky, more user-friendly and intuitive based on the customers’ needs, but also balancing what the business’ needs are and what tech can build’

I think that’s the best explanation I can give – otherwise it can lend itself to terms that the public may not understand. I don’t think my definition is perfect, but I think it can explain to others what I do.

Can you tell us about your experience of studying at Xi?

I completed my training in-house in Melbourne part-time, with classes twice a week after work. It was sometimes pretty tough balancing study and working full time. I was working at an agency back then, servicing NAB as our client, that alone was quite time-consuming. I was very busy so it was challenging and I did my work on weekends. 

The more I studied UX, the more I fell in love with it and I soon had the goal to switch careers into the UX field. I pushed myself to work harder to achieve that outcome for myself. Regardless of how busy work got, I found the time to make the balance between study and my job work out. It was an intense few months for me because I couldn’t let the ball drop at work and I really didn’t want to waste the Xi opportunity either.

Did the training enable you to achieve your goal?

Yes, but not at my existing workplace. In advertising as a media planner and buyer, it’s very numerical and quantitative. That environment is a great training ground for spotting trends, data analytics and stakeholder management, all of which I took on board when I moved into UX. What the course taught me was how to dig in deep to understand user needs, pain points, and then communicating that to a wider business. More of a customer focus. So the qualitative side of research and how you can translate it to any product or service you might be building. That mindset, I found, wasn’t always aligned in the advertising space. I felt if I wanted to switch careers into UX I would need to work elsewhere to make that happen.

The course helped solidify terminology, the process, and it exposed me to a lot of thinking that I perhaps wouldn’t have gathered on my own. That’s my learning style – I like being guided and I love the classroom experience when you don’t know anything about the topic. I loved studying UX, big time.

What did you do after your training?

About 5-6 months after finishing my course, I left the agency and then moved over to work in-house with NAB as an Experience Designer. They were one of the only companies at the time in 2018 that were hiring juniors, or people with less than two years’ experience in UX, so I jumped at the chance. Those opportunities were hard to come by then, they were very scarce in 2018. It just so happened I was familiar with them from my previous work.

Did you feel the training at Xi enabled that to happen?

I used what I learned in the training to get through the interview process. NAB asked for a design challenge to be completed. Had I not done the training, I’m honestly not sure I could have responded to that design brief. I basically had to reflect on what I had learnt and put it into a real-life context in this interview process. 

I didn’t have specific UX experience, but I could show that I was passionate and my existing skills transferred well with my training. I interviewed that morning and got a call that afternoon to learn I had landed the job. I think it was one of the best days of my life. It was such a tough transition, but I did it. Really the start of a whole new journey.

Where are you working now?

I was at NAB for about 8 months, then I left for a Telecommunications company called Belong. An opportunity opened up there and it was too good to pass on. Despite me moving companies, I left on good terms with my team at NAB. I stayed at Belong for a year and a half, and then moved onto Xero, which is where I’m at now as a Product Designer.

Was there a particular training highlight for you at Xi?

I was one of the earlier intakes of students for UX training. Back then, I think I was most excited by what I was learning. It was a whole space that was new to me. It opened my mind to a totally new way of looking at problems. The course content was delivered in a way that was consumable, it wasn’t too overwhelming and I truly loved it. I lapped it up! 

How did you find changing careers?

I think changing careers can be a very vulnerable time. It’s hard to explain or describe to someone. It can be a scary feeling to look at what you do and realise it’s not what you want and to make that call to change it. For those who define a lot of their identity with their work particularly that can be quite confronting. Taking a course is an investment, with no guarantee of what that will provide.

Xi provided great support during that transition, as did the mentors that I had while I was studying. I still keep in touch with them today, in fact I spoke to mine just a few days ago. This experience encouraged me to become a mentor myself.

Can you tell us about your mentoring experience?

About 6 months after I completed my training and was working in-house with NAB, I received a request to mentor for the same UX Design Elevate course at Xi. It was one of three mentoring experiences I had with Academy Xi. I think mentoring is really powerful. I’m still in touch with the first course I mentored, we got together for dinner recently. 

How has mentoring benefited you?

Mentoring challenges me to be extremely self-aware of what my own philosophy and opinions are. It encourages me to ask myself how I want to grow the next generation of designers, and consider what I did not have when I was breaking into the industry and what could be beneficial to others. I have been a part of the Xi Designer-in-Residence program since it started. I’m currently taking a break to give other budding designers an opportunity to mentor – I highly recommend it.

Looking at your career now, what aspect do you most enjoy?

I studied linguistics at uni and loved it – the study of language and how it works in society. I was told that if I wanted a career in this back in 2012 that it would have to be in academia and I didn’t want to work in academia. It’s very niche. Or I could do a masters in speech pathology; I didn’t want that either. 

The milestone for me during the study at Xi were the weeks where we looked into research to understand the benefits of talking to customers – actual interactions to discover their needs, wants and pain points and then translating that into something that you can use. That was similar to what I did in linguistics. Going out into the field, collating your findings, and writing your recommendations. It was an amazing moment for me because I could see that those same skills, that I had learned and loved, could be applied in a commercial sense. It was really exciting. 

I had filed that in my mind as something from my past that couldn’t be applied to a business setting. And now I can and I love that. A big moment of self-actualization that something I love could be a big part of what I do for a living. 

What would you say to anyone considering a career change into UX?

I would first ask myself:

  • What are the reasons for pursuing the change? 
  • What draws you into UX?

You need to listen to your own needs, not just jump because it’s a thriving industry or area to work in. Then you need to figure out how you want to get there. If you’re already working in-house, what are the chances you can explore UX within your organisation? Look for opportunities for a secondment or to shadow someone in the UX team. 

For those who don’t have the chance to explore in-house options, training with Academy Xi  is a great way to get the support and knowledge you need to be great in the job.

That place that I worked at at the time (in the agency) didn’t have an experienced design team. Because self-learning isn’t my strong suit, I knew that I’d benefit strongly from structured learning. Hence the course suited me very well. A pro of doing a course is that it is structured: there is a flow and you’re not always trying to work out what you need to learn next.

What is even better than the content at Academy Xi is their community. Xi strongly believes in support, so they’ve created the Designers-in-Residence program for that purpose, to connect full-time students to mentors. There’s also the alumni community, where you can connect with Xi alumni in the industry. That’s a huge factor with doing a course – getting access to those networks.

“I think what Xi offers as an education institution is amazing. I think they’re very attuned to the current needs and pain points of students and it is forever evolving based on that. To make a career change takes a big commitment, it’s not just about choosing the right training – you have to make sacrifices and it’s hard work. If you’re ready to do just that, I highly recommend Academy Xi.”- Berlin Liew

Academy Xi Blog

What does a UX designer do, exactly?

By Academy Xi

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Before we dive into what UX Designers do in their day to day job, let’s start by taking a step back to understand what UX is. 

UX stands for User Experience. It encompasses the complete journey, including all of the related interactions that an individual has when they engage with a company and its products or services.

To understand the role of the UX designer, we will cover:

A brief history of UX

The term User Experience was coined by cognitive psychologist and designer Don Norman, the director of the Design Lab at the University of California and author of the bestselling The Design of Everyday Things. Norman joined Apple in the early 1990s as their ‘User Experience Architect’ – the first person to have a UX job title. 

“I invented the term because I thought ‘human interface’ and ‘usability’ were too narrow: I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with a system, including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual.” – Don Norman

Norman’s approach to design and the success of the innovations coming out of Apple’s (then) three-pronged approach to product design (user experience, engineering, and marketing), saw the UX process widely adopted in product design. 

The rest is history.

What is UX design and the role of the designer?

UX Design is the process of creating a user friendly experience that is intuitive and empathetic to the users needs. Ultimately, the UX designer works toward improving the customer’s experience of a product or service by making it as satisfying and enjoyable as possible at every step they are engaging with it.

The UX design profession today has a focus on human-centred digital experiences and is often associated with designing for websites and apps. It’s important to note that designers work in emerging tech areas too, for example:

  • Conversational UX (designing for Siri or Alexa)
  • AI driven UX (bot design)
  • Smart homes
  • Wearable technologies

Regardless of the medium, the UX design process is geared toward improving the user experience and therefore their satisfaction through high quality, human centred design.

What is UI and what has it got to do with UX?

You may have heard the term UI used in connection with UX. UI stands for User Interface design and focuses on the aesthetics of the product or service – the visual elements that a customer engages with.

Think: colour palettes, animation, images, fonts and buttons.

A UI designer hones in on the visual aspects that allow the user to interact with the product.

In addition to User Interface, there’s also User Interaction, which is essentially how the user acts when using the system and how the system responds. Combined, interactions and interfaces provide an intuitive UX experience. 

UX designers need to be capable in both areas – art (UI) and architecture (interactions) – of digital product design in order to take a project from user research through to wireframing and prototyping solutions, and handover to developers.

Download Academy Xi’s UX UI Design: Transform course guide and discover how you can graduate job-ready in 12-weeks.

What is human centred design?

Human centred design is a mindset and toolkit developed by the design and innovation company IDEO that puts humans and their needs at the centre of the design process. They used the term ‘design thinking’ to describe the elements of the human centred design process they felt most learnable and teachable – empathy, optimism, creative confidence, experimentation and embracing ambiguity and failure.

UX UI design is simply research-driven human-centred design, applied to the digital space.

What kind of skills do UX designers need?

As you might be able to imagine by now, it’s a pretty wide scope of skill and responsibility for the UX Designer. Their remit covers all aspects of the product or service development, design, usability and function.

In order to give the UX design process a definite structure, various frameworks have been developed. The Double Diamond is one of the most common UX frameworks and provides clear, comprehensive and visual description of the design process. 

The two diamonds alternate between exploring an issue (a ‘problem space’ or ‘design challenge’) widely and deeply – known as divergent thinking, and then taking focussed action, known as convergent thinking.

Within this framework a wide range of skills are required and fall into two categories known as applied and soft skills. 

Applied skills

When someone has an applied skill, this refers to having knowledge of a specific area of competency, like being able to use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, for example. The following applied skills are just some of those worth any UX Designer mastering:

  • Research

Understanding the target audience needs, wants and pain points is vital for a UX designer to effectively do their job. By using a mix of research methods, designers can plan, conduct and analyse their findings to discover how their market views the world. This analysis forms the foundation of the experience design, improves the understanding of the audience and makes the final outcome stronger.

Research is fundamental to the entire process and the analysis and outcomes from it underpin the overall design approach.

Research methods and techniques can include:

    • Interviews
    • Surveys
    • Observation
    • Review of existing literature, data and analytics
    • User testing
  • Synthesis

After completing your research, you need to bring it all together, generate insights and make sense of the problem space: what is the problem we are trying to solve? What is our real design challenge? UX Designers use a variety of techniques for synthesis, including:

    • Affinity mapping
    • Empathy mapping
    • Personas
    • Customer Journeys
  • Wireframing

A wireframe is a mock-up diagram that represents what a user interface (UI) or website could look like. They outline the core functionality of the proposed product and allow the UX designer to define and plan the information hierarchy of the project. The wireframe also enables the designer to give the wider team a visual understanding of the proposed structure of the item that is being developed.

  • Prototyping

An experimental process, the prototype is a model or replica of the final product. Prototypes can be created at various stages of the design process to test on users. It is one of the most useful and powerful tools for UX designers. The feedback from the user testing allows the designer to adjust the product to better meet the needs of the user.

  • Visual communication

Being competent with visual design concepts is key and at the core of UX design. Having an understanding of general design theory, along with concepts of layout, colour, typography, icons and image use benefits the overall design process. It will come as no surprise to learn that many UX designers have a graphic design background.

Soft skills  

Teamwork, time management, empathy and delegation are just some of the skills termed as ‘soft’ that you will need as a UX designer. Ultimately they are character traits and interpersonal skills that determine how a person will engage, work and interact with others. 

You can have a portfolio of work that truly hits the ball out of the park, but it’s your soft skills that will set you apart from the pack. A quick look at the ‘three C’s’:

  • Curiosity 

As well as killing the cat, curiosity is a creative force that drives innovation and new ideas. It urges the designer to ask great questions and engage with stakeholders and the design process in a meaningful way.

  • Collaboration

Design is never a one-person show. From the get-go you’ve got however many stakeholders, developers, product owners, marketing teams, users, CEOs, investors, the list goes on. By being able to collaborate effectively, you can get the information you need to do the job better and faster.

  • Communication

Now more than ever consistent communication is paramount with the design process. Being able to explain your thinking so those receiving your messages don’t have to do more work to understand it can make all the difference to the wider team you are working with. 

What are the top tools used in UX and UI design?

There are many UX and UI design software applications. As a UX designer, what you end up using might come down to personal preference, what you are familiar with, price point, or what type of project you are working on. Here are our top picks:

Figma: great for those totally new to design software, Figma is browser-based and can take designs up to dynamic prototype or mock-up level, with usability testing and handover to developers capabilities. 

Sketch: a very popular mac based UX and UI design tool. Sketch allows for universal changes through a symbols library, layer styles, or text styles, and is known for its resizing and alignment features. 

InVision Studio: creates functional prototypes with dynamic elements and animations, with easy-to-use UI design, communication and collaboration tools. It also features a digital whiteboard that allows team members to brainstorm ideas.

Adobe XD: often the go-to UX tool for designers who are used to Adobe Creative Cloud products and interfaces. It allows for real-time collaboration, plus interactions and other dynamic elements for integration into prototypes or mockups.

Axure: smooth interface, documentation, and workflow tracking elements make Axure a popular prototyping tool, with designs that can be taken up to higher fidelity, both in detail and visuals.

How do I become a UX designer?

Any aspiring UX Designer should be working on building a portfolio. You can do pro-bono or freelance work to get work experience, or study a practical course. 

Academy Xi offers industry tested training in UX UI Design and includes projects with real life clients to help build your professional portfolio before graduation.

If you’re interested in discovering more about the world of UX design, why not:

  • try a Foundations course in UX as a hands-on introduction
  • become a qualified UX UI Designer in 12 weeks, along with Career Support for graduates with 86% landing a role within 180 days of completing their training
  • check out our graduate stories to learn about the experiences they’ve had studying UX UI Design with Academy Xi and where they are now

Contact our course advisor team to discuss your career objectives and establish if UX UI Design is the right path for you.