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Teaching UX Design to Graphic Design studentshas become an important focus within the design education community. The popular buzz word “UX Design”, short for User Experience Design is being integrated more and more into design curriculum. Whether you’re a high-school educator, trade school or university instructor, you need to understand that things are different for design students today.

As an educator that’s been teaching at a university level for 7 years, the study of UX Design is not a ground breaking revolution. In years prior UX Design was often rooted in the subject of HCI or Human Computer Interaction. Despite having been around for decades and it’s theories in practice for centuries, the creative, medical, science and tech industries have embraced the buzz word as “the savior” to building better experiences for customers.

But teaching UX Design to Graphic Design Students is not as simple as 1-2-3. Having to explain that good design in the world of UX is first rooted in research, takes graphic design students out of their comfort zones. After all telling creative minded people to do “research first” is like asking them to do “math” and skip out on art class. In order to communicate this truth of how research influences good design, required a shift in my teaching style and a little bit of humility on my part. I found the best way to introduce UX Design, required understanding how to connect with the way Graphic Design students learn best.

The reality is 90% of the information transmitted into the human brain is visual. Overloading a visually minded student with usability design concepts, would not be as effective; so I decided to embrace the path that would provide a more “visual learning” experience in order to grasp usability design.

Enter UI Design…

Since UI Design is all about designing the look and feel of an interactive experience, it makes learning about UX Design less burdensome to a student that learns and retains effectively through visual learning.

So I teach my students TWO SIMPLE truths when it comes to UX Design.

UX Design =

understanding the user intent and implementing proven principles, that will create a safe and satisfactory experience.

UI Design =

designing the look of the user experience by incorporating design principles, learned by studying the foundations of graphic design.

So Should UX Design Matter to Graphic Design Students?

It matters because every job post and employment opportunity that’s out there today on job boards, involve some sort of UX Design skill as a job requirement. This is not an opinion. This is a fact. Go on the internet and search for job posts from Mercedes Benz, Porsche, Apple, Verizon and Samsung  and you’ll find the higher paying design jobs relate in some way towards “improving customer or product experiences”. Our lives are bombarded with products and services, all fighting for our attention. As a result companies are utilizing “design thinking” in order to improve things for the customer experience.

So I’m teaching students…

To observe what’s going on around them and allow their observations to empower their design decisions. Students have an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of usability principles, by designing an interactive prototype of a mobile app within Adobe XD. By utilizing Adobe Experience Design students are able to learn how usability concepts, user testing, and research play a foundational role in designing and building successful interactive experiences. Rather than racking their brains to come up with concepts for app designs, students are encouraged to source ideas from the MIT Media Lab; the website lists a collection of innovative technologies currently in development, that solve either a personal, political or social need.

I decided to use the MIT Media Lab as a learning resource, because it provides students an opportunity to learn about real world advancements being made to improve the human condition and quality of life.

Keeping in mind that Graphic Design students intuitively learn differently it was important I found a balance between teaching UX Design theories and being practical in how much could be retained in a 4 Week period. By building simple projects that provide high value learning opportunities, it keeps students from stressing out too much on mastering new information and keeps them in the space of exploration. My primary focus is planting seeds of interest, helping students step out of their creative comfort zones, and demonstrating how usability principles are at work everyday.

This has been shared with the permission of Full Sail graduate Valeria Villanueva. The video is a demonstration of her final project she presented, as she tests an mobile app prototype, using Adobe Experience Design. The curriculum and assignments taught in this course are the sole property of Full Sail University.

My End Goal: Inspire Students To Let Go Of Creative Bias

Look…I get it. I was once one of those graphic design students that felt it necessary to claim a particular design medium that I wanted to work in. The challenge with this limiting belief is that it blinds students to the reality, that we are all working together as a creative community to solve business problems for our clients and employers.

Regardless of the design medium we choose, UX Design encompasses any and all interactions between a potential/or active customers and a company.  This is one of the most important points I share with my design students because there’s a tendency to get caught up in believing that the use of the term UX Design, is solely connected to designing interactive experiences. Don Norman is co-founder and principal of Nielsen Norman Group and also the author of the book The Design of Everyday Things. I reference his book in my course because his belief systems are parallel to mine. UX Design can be applied to anything: car instrument clusters, retail customer experiences, restaurants, mobile apps and a customer’s sales experience. After all I’m a living, walking, breathing example of someone that possess various design and technical skill sets.

I Can Draw…

I’ve Built Print Design Projects…

I’ve Designed and Coded Websites…

I’ve Built Brand Identity Systems…

I’ve Built Creative Strategy…

I’ve Designed Customer Journey Maps…

And I’ve used all of this to help businesses COMMUNICATE BETTER and ACHIEVE THEIR BUSINESS GOALS.

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