In January 2007 I arrived in Sydney. With not much more than a bag of clothes and an old computer which I’d bought off my design lecturer four years prior.
I’d recently returned from a year travelling through Africa – an unusual choice so early in my career, but one I still believe was formative in the way I approach design and life.
Now, it was time to move to the big-smoke.
Armed with a newish design degree, ready to have a crack at a career in design.
And so began the ‘working years‘.
I built up almost 15 years in design related roles.
Fast forward to today (mid 2021) and it is coming up fifteen years I have been in Sydney. In all honesty, I thought I would have left before the ten year mark hit – city life slowly crushes the soul of a country boy.
I have had a number of roles in this time. Initially clean-cut graphic design roles, then, as my career progressed I shifted into more client facing and strategic consultancy roles. In the middle of this period I’d even grown a freelance business to a small design agency of five people.
I had done my time.
I was ready for a change.
Oh, and I now had a small family. An eighteen month year old son and another due in three months. This had great influence in my decision making.
In 2021 I decided to escape the rat race.
Setting up in a small coastal town on the East Coast.
In July 2021 I left my position as the Lead Implementation Project Manager at a leading eCommerce agency – Matter Design & Digital. I didn’t have a dream role lined up, in fact, no role lined up.
I wasn’t totally rudderless though, I knew I needed a change. There was a better fit out there for me. I knew I had valuable skills to contribute at the right workplace and I knew there was more for me to learn and develop.
I came up with a checklist, I wanted a role where I could:
- Focus on few tasks and do them well
- Provide a lifestyle for myself and my family
I have been ‘off the tools’ **Write a blog about my time ‘off the tools’ – what I learnt. and link to this** for a while and I missed that. I felt like a needed a new start. A refresh. Which possibly required some training.
It was time to start again from scratch... kind of.
Like any designer worth their salt, I started with thorough research and exploration to kickstart the process.
Problem to be solved: Which was the best course to take?
My background involved a considerable amount of branding work, print design and some digital design. But as mentioned above, in many ways I felt out of touch. I felt like my time working in client facing and strategic roles meant I had missed a lot of change in the industry. Particularly in regards to technology.
UX Design was a term I was quite familiar with, I even used it as common practice over the years, and yet I had no formal training. I had pieced together my understanding from some brief reading, discussions with others and perceptions I had.
I had a clean slate, a fresh perspective and a new horizon.
I have also learnt a lot about myself and the way I work.
I excel in holistic planning and solution design of projects. When I’ve been required to do lots of small projects at one time with very little context or time to focus, I struggled.
I feel like I approach design more like the architect than the cabinet maker.
In addition to that, I had developed such a broad mix of skills and experiences, rather than ‘niching’ (which many of the experts keep telling me to do). I wanted to find a role that accepted and appreciated this broad skillset I had developed.
What kind of a designer am I?
In my research I was reminded of Don Norman – the godfather of all things UX and I listened to him dialogue with himself:
I had read some of Norman’s work years ago, but this was repackaged material, online YouTube clips. Hearing him speak of UX design as an all-encompassing design term resonated with me. This spoke to my natural approach of seeing design, process and experience in all things.
I was locked in.
I wanted to apply myself to UX Design.
What kind of a designer are you without self-doubt?
Of course, within minutes the doubts arose:
- I can’t go back to study, I have a family to support
- Maybe I’m too old to retrain
- This feels like starting again, surely I don’t need to start again
- I probably won’t like it in three months anyway
But I’m usually up for a challenge, and so here we go. I’m going to become a UX designer.