Galyn Bunnell is a recent graduate of SCCA’s design program. Seattle is seeing significant growth in the User Experience Design job market. Here at SCCA, we are in an ever-evolving process of making coursework relevant to the demands of the changing design field. We asked Bunnell some questions about her interest and preparation in entering the world of UX Design.
What is your new job and what do you do?
I worked for a short while at Microsoft and now I am UX designer for the Echo team at Amazon. I am also doing freelance web design and development in all my spare time!
Describe one of your favorite projects from your time at SCCA and how it developed your skills as a designer and what it may have clarified for you.
My favorite project at the Creative Academy was a UX project that I did with a group called Humm. It was part of the STEM app development. I didn’t end up doing as much visual design on that project but I really loved diving deeper in the thinking around the user’s experience. We had the opportunity to work with three young women and conduct a focus group where we went through branding and journey mapping exercises. It was the first time I started to see how the user can really define the features and the goal of a product. While there were still a lot of things we didn’t get to explore, it was great to really get to know who we were designing for and how best to design for that user.
What led you to UX work?
I have always had a passion for design and creativity… My dream as a child was to become an astronaut artist. That didn’t really pan out so I tried a few other things for a while. I always dreamed of doing something creative and graphic design had been in my sights for a while. I had the opportunity to go back to school at age 27 and I decided to take it. Once I started school I really started to learn that design isn’t about just being an artist but it’s about solving problems in a creative way. This really resonates with the way I approach my life in general and I was really drawn to UX as a way to creatively solve problems with a user in mind. Our program is really incredible because of our instruction. Having highly qualified instructors that really care about you and that clearly want you to succeed and be happy is a unique thing. One of the things I most appreciated about the Creative Academy is the access to our instructors. For questions, critique, life and career guidance; they are always there and always interested.
How did you approach the process of finding a job and what were some of the important learning moments in that process?
I wanted to be working as soon as school was finished so I intended to start my job search early. I spent spring break outlining which projects I would include in my portfolio. Over break I built my website and put one entire project in from start to finish. This made it easy for me to create a project template in my website that could be reproduced as I had additional work ready to show. Over the first six weeks of spring quarter I slowly, but surely started bringing all of the pieces together. Once I had a critical mass (for me it was six pieces – but as few as four or as many as ten seems sufficient) I started contacting contract agencies.
I had been hesitant to even consider contracting but once I started looking at positions I realized that contracting would be the ideal way for me to find what I’m ultimately looking for. There is a lot of design work out there right now and I didn’t want to commit to the wrong team. By working with an agency I was able to hand off the searching and negotiating and focus on my portfolio, my work, and my ability to talk about my work.
I also spent about a month contacting and meeting with various alums and, as my portfolio came together, I started showing it to them and asking for feedback such as: what worked for you? what didn’t? what does your team look for when they are looking at a portfolio? Additionally, I had the chance to manage the development of the Portshowlio website which was hugely helpful when it came to enhancing and solidifying my front-end development skills and networking (we did extensive user research with recruiters and employers to find out what they are looking for).
What advice do you have for people in moving forward towards a career in design?
PROCESS! It’s all about process. Of course your end result is important, but if you have a solid design process, you document that process well, and you are able to speak about your approach to design and your process you will find what you’re looking for. Whether you are UX focused or more of a straight visual designer, your process and approach says a lot about who you are and your potential as a designer. Are you collaborative? Are you organized? Do you take feedback well? Do you use feedback to better your design?
I took pictures of all of my process along the way for each project and kept the files organized with each final project and the iterations that went with that project. By the time I needed to start organizing my portfolio I had forgotten or was a bit foggy on my approach – you are juggling so many moving pieces by midway through second year. By documenting my process I was able to use that process imagery in my portfolio and I was able to write and speak articulately about my approach for each and every project – even those that I hadn’t touched in months.
Key take-aways: document your process, practice talking about your projects and your process, and utilize our incredible alum and faculty network.
For more from Galyn Bunnell, check out her portfolio at galynbunnell.com