I once heard someone say, “Do something that makes you uncomfortable”. I think that being uncomfortable is one of the keys to growing. Life has a way of letting you settle into your normal, your schedule, your happenings. And then wham! something changes and you’re forced to react, adjust and settle in again. Change is the one constant in life. And the more we resist it the more difficult it is to accept.
I made a career change or rather an adjustment lately. After freelancing full time I decided to take a permanent full-time position working for a company and while also maintaining a part-time freelancing career. Part of the reasoning was personal and part of it was that I think I was ripe for change in my professional life. After designing and illustrating for a few years and enjoying the work that I was doing I wanted to try my hand at something close but somewhat new. I took a position as a UX designer and front-end developer and am working for an organization designing it’s online content management system.
I’ve realized that designing a product and building and improving on that one idea is quite different from designing for games or web projects. It requires a different mentality and approach. Where I would have project stints for one game or website or design project, now I am working through a release cycle in an agile environment on essentially one product. In some ways it can be exciting to know that as your product grows you grow with it and you make changes for your clients and improve on your initial assumptions. On the other hand you don’t have that release where you send your work out into the world and set it free. True, game and website development isn’t necessarily finished when you release it and you can improve upon it but there is still that big launch when it’s completed. In an agile product development cycle, your work is evolving and growing. You have less time to finalize your decisions and have to make compromises for the sake of business objectives or time restraints. It is quite challenging for someone who is comfortable developing a project and refining it before it’s released. In terms of production it is a huge change for me and can be quite challenging on it’s own without the design challenges that also comes with it.
I’m uncomfortable and nervous and anxious but also excited, hopeful and determined. I’m working in a way that I haven’t worked before. In designing game interfaces and websites, you have to think about UX but the types of users you’re designing for are different. Designing a software product or service poses different challenges in UX, UI and graphic design. Your audience is different in many ways. The context in which they use your product is different. Their motives are different. The tone takes a more serious turn. Your product must allow them to perform the tasks they need to without too much hassle and also give them some other functionality that they hadn’t realized they could use. Your design aesthetic changes a bit as well. Your designs are sometimes based more on business objectives, time constraints and development challenges. It’s an uncomfortable position for a designer to be in and though I welcome the challenge it can be frustrating. I do believe that being able to design within these limitations or restrictions is beneficial to growing as a designer. On a personal note it also allows me to enjoy and appreciate my freelance projects more because I have a certain level of artistic freedom and creativity. You can definitely be a bit more playful and have a sense of humour when you design for games or websites (depending on the website). I have counted myself lucky to have had and to continue to have amazing freelance clients who trust me and believe in my work. My full-time gig has given me insight into what it takes to be part of a development group and face the challenges many designers face: defending and arguing for the sake of design. I’ve never had to fight for design like this but I think I have been in a unique position until now and this experience will only make me a better designer.