Gaining the Production Chops to Thrive as a UX Designer

User experience design invariably involves user interfaces, and when clients call upon professional design teams, they expect the best. Today's bootcamps generate lots of candidates who understand theory and concepts of user experience design, but don't have the cycles of practice that create efficient work and muscle memory.

So how can agencies hire and nurture junior UX design talent while continuing to overdeliver on quality for their clients?

In June, Slide UX welcomed Marisa Chantharayukhonthorn into a 12-week production apprenticeship, a new program intended to help associate-level UX designers develop the eye and crisp UI production chops that they need to function efficiently.

We wanted to provide a path for entry-level design hires who are excited about UX and UI - to allow them to develop and practice the foundational production skills used to design screens, polish presentations and create diagrams. Along the way, the program also acclimates the apprentice to Slide's project workflow, client management approach, values, and systems so that if hired, they're ready to hit the ground running.

So how'd it go? Marisa shared a few themes from her experience.

Entry-level designers don’t know what they don’t know.

Marisa says, “I learned a lot of skills that I realized I didn't know before, like how important being pixel perfect is and doing it before development. So when you hand it off to developers, you know exactly what it's suppose to look like.”

Observing more experienced designers can help reveal simple techniques to be more efficient.

What type of things did she learn from others? “Really knowing something as simple what masking means. Usually I would size things down, but I didn't know you could mask things to fit inside a box.”

Marisa working hard, coffee diligently by her side.

Marisa working hard, coffee diligently by her side.

Co-founder Brant Young agrees, “Designers need both fundamentals and techniques. There are things that are fundamental like - for scaling, you should always scale proportionately. Don't ever skew things. Versus techniques, which would be masking.”

It's hard for a novice to gauge the time it'll take to get things right.

Marisa shares, “I realized I thought something would be quicker to do, but it almost took twice as long because I'd notice things were off by one or two pixels.”

Taking a step back helps a designer see opportunities.

Marisa noticed that uploading her work and then reviewing it helped her catch her own errors. “After I upload it, I would notice something else was wrong and would go re-do that. It was small, incremental things that I missed the first time around.”

Creative Director Chad Currie agrees, “It's not so much about being fast or right the first time, although that would be nice. It's an important skill to see the whole process and not stop QA'ing your work.”

Having successfully completed the apprenticeship, Marisa has now joined Slide UX team full-time as an Associate UX Designer. (Congrats, Marisa! Well earned!)

“We're always excited to find someone like Marisa with good judgement, high taste level, and communication skills that sustain a lasting UX success,” says Currie. “Those things are hard to teach. But we all need that period in our careers to get the 'reps' that turn production into a reflex. That leaves more brain cycles for the important stuff in the future.”

Looking back at the experience, Marisa feels that the experience was valuable. “I've gotten a lot better at doing the things I was previously doing, but with a lot more clarity and conciseness. It's helped me become more confident in my ability to design and grow a better eye for precision, which sets me up for future success.”