Why Web Design is a Good Career Choice for Students

If you’re trying to become a Visual Designer, you probably already know that your portfolio is the most important tool in your arsenal as you get ready to apply to jobs or look for clients. But when you’re just starting to build up your portfolio, it can be difficult to know exactly what sorts of projects you should be including in your portfolio. And once you do come up with ideas for projects, how do you build them into comprehensive case studies that will impress any potential employers checking out your site?

We chatted with hiring managers across the creative industry to find out what sort of projects they’d like to see in the portfolios of new junior designers applying for jobs. Keep reading for more info about the exact projects that you should work on to build up your design skills and show that you are capable of executing all the types of design work you’d likely be working on as a junior designer. And for all of these projects, we’ve created step-by-step project guides that will help you build up detailed projects in each of these categories and craft an amazing portfolio.

One note – we’re recommending a variety of Visual Design projects to help you get experience building different types of design projects from scratch, but when you’re actually getting ready to apply to jobs, it’s generally a good idea to decide what area of design you’re most passionate about and focus most of your portfolio site on those types of projects. Employers want to know that you have a deep expertise in your chosen field!

Solve real problems with your projects

Before we dive into the specific types of projects you should be working on, it’s important to note that recruiters across the board told us that they want to see projects based on real problems that exist in the world rather than just seeing pretty visuals. They want to know that you can solve problems with your designs. Here are two ways to start solving real problems with your designs, even early in your career.

Find real clients

It might seem daunting to approach real clients early in your career, but even if you’re not being paid for the work, reaching out to local businesses and nonprofits offering your design services is an amazing way to build your skills and impress employers. It’s as simple as walking into local businesses asking if they need help with marketing campaigns or branding, or emailing nonprofits to ask if they need any design support. Employers want to know you can work within real world constraints, so this is a great way to show that you can incorporate constraints!

Come up with ideas for problems you want to solve

Even if you’re not doing “real client” projects, it’s important to ensure that all of your project ideas attempt to solve real problems that exist in a particular industry or field. So when you come up with high level project ideas (e.g. doing a branding project), spend some time thinking about the industries you want to work in. Then look at a few companies in those industries and see how their brand or business could be positively impacted by a redesign. You could even come up with your own business or brand from scratch based on a gap you think exists in your target industry, and design a project for them from scratch. As long as you are trying to solve real problems and test your designs against mentors and peers, you’ll be good to go.

Finally, be sure that instead of diving straight into Illustrator or Photoshop, you spend time following the proper design processes for each project – research the industry and problem, come up with personas, ideate and sketch, and validate your designs with someone else.

Alright, let’s dive into the 7 projects every aspiring designer should work on!

Personal Branding

When you’re getting ready to apply to jobs or reach out to clients, a strong personal brand can help make you more memorable, showcase your style and tone of work, and convince anyone looking at your portfolio site that you’re truly passionate about design outside of your 9-5 job. It also shows that you have an opinion or point of view about design and are willing to boldly attach that opinion to yourself for everyone to see!

Assume for a moment that you are an employer looking through hundreds of design portfolios every day, looking for the perfect candidate to add to your design team. You decide whether or not to pass on most portfolios within about 10 seconds of landing on their homepage. Your personal branding, just like any other strong design project in your portfolio, should follow a design process — the same process that you go through when completing a Branding and Identity project for any client. You need to spend time ideating about what you want your branding to say about you, sketching ideas, refining a few of them, and then choosing typography and a color palette that matches.

Branding and Logo Design

If you’re interested in branding design, then it’s a no-brainer that you’d want to include at least a few branding and identity projects in your portfolio. For this branding project, you should come up with a totally new company in an industry you’d like to work in, or find a company in that industry whose branding you think might be holding it back from greater success. You should go through the entire research → moodboard → ideation → sketching phase before diving into Illustrator. For your final project, include a new logo, typography, colors, and overall look and feel. You can present all of these deliverables in a Style Guide for the brand.

Iconography

Being able to develop iconography with a consistent look and feel is an important skill for most designers to have. Even though there are tons of incredible icon services out there, like Noun Project, you should feel comfortable developing your own icons from scratch if you want to work on the design team for a larger company (or even a smaller studio). For this project, focus on building out a full set of iconography for a digital product or website of your choosing.

Before you dive into research, you should decide where in the client’s product or website these icons will be used and what they’ll be used for. Are they going to be used to accompanying text and information or are they more navigational icons? Write down details about what types of icons you’re going to be designing and where they’ll show up in the product or website. This is a necessary step to take prior to conducting research or sketching.

Marketing Campaign

Being able to create effective marketing collateral for employers and clients is an incredibly valuable skill and something you will definitely be involved in at various stages of your career. For this project, come up with a theoretical product or find an existing product that you like and design a digital and print marketing campaign for the client. In your final deliverables, include 2 Facebook ads, 1 Instagram ad, one print poster (24×36”), 4 display banners (sized at 300×250, 300×600, 728×90, and 970×250), and one 4×6” postcard. Be sure to include copy and strong calls to action. For your final presentation, mock them onto relevant platforms.

Packaging Design

If you want to focus primarily on digital products, this project might not be for you. But if you’re interested in working at a company that sells physical products, being able to design packaging and a label for the products is a great way to stand out from the crowd. For this, you’ll help a client create compelling packaging that speaks to their brand identity while also informing consumers about relevant aspects of their products. Your final presentation should include dielines of your designs as well as the final label design in vector format. You can also include a style guide with things like color, typography, and overall look and feel.

Print Collateral

For this project, you’ll identify a client and develop a set of print collateral for their business, ranging from business cards to posters to postcards. Being able to create effective marketing collateral for employers and clients in a variety of print formats is an incredibly valuable skill and something you will likely be doing at some point in your Visual Design career. For the final deliverables, include on set of business cards (front and back), two print posters (24×36”), two 4×6” postcards, and one additional 4×4’ sign to be used in an outdoor marketing campaign.

Typographic Poster or Album Art

For this final project, you’ll be focusing on showing your ability to generate unique typographic layouts and improving your familiarity with typography in general. You can create a typographic poster for a film or cover for an album, with a strong emphasis on using typography and type lockup to create a mood and visual look. You should only use very minimal photography or graphic elements in your design. This project will focus on helping you become familiar with typography in design and is designed to show you the broad range of emotion that type can elicit. Recruiters love to see well-rounded designers, so even if you’re focus is on web design or product design, showing that you can use typography to create a more emotional response in viewers is incredibly important!

What next?

Working on those 7 projects will give you amazing exposure to the 7 types of projects that recruiters have told us they’d want to see in most junior portfolios. You don’t need to include all of these in your portfolio (in fact, you probably shouldn’t), but working on these projects should help you broaden your design skills and identify the areas of Visual Design you want to focus on in your career. From there, you can start to specialize and deepen your skillsets in one or two of these areas. If you want a more comprehensive step-by-step guide to building out each of these projects, check out our Portfolio Starter Kit, and if you’d like to build up your portfolio with a mentor, check out our Career Bootcamps!

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5 Interview Tips for Creatives

Interviewing for a position is an anxiety-inducing experience in any industry. For those working in the creative sector, it can be hard to translate their experiences, artistic point of view, and career aspirations across the other side of the desk.

The interview process doesn’t have to be an insurmountable challenge! Keeping tips like the ones below in mind helps to avoid a frustratingly poor interview experience.

Do your research

Being prepared is a familiar adage espoused by career coaches, but it rings especially true for creative candidates such as graphic or UX designers. This is your opportunity to show exactly why you’re interviewing for the position. Creative Bloq recommends searching creative press for mentions of the company. Are they doing anything that aligns with your creative interests or that you can tie into your professional core competencies? Showing initiative goes a long way in an interview.

Let your work speak for itself

Tech recruiter Dan Garriott told Monster in an interview centered around advice for job-hunting creatives that it’s important not to be overly fussy with the exterior presentation of your portfolio. Don’t be too elaborate with your portfolio,” Garriott said. “You should let your work speak to how creative you are, not the packaging. There’s no amount of packaging you can do that’s going to trick them into thinking your work is better than it is.”

It’s important to showcase your best work as well, with a focus on quality over quantity. Also, providing a print and digital portfolio gives interviewers an opportunity to peruse a larger collection of your work at their leisure.

Sell skills appropriately

Today’s job market encompasses a broad spectrum of different digital skills and job descriptions, but that shouldn’t mean you should stretch the truth in order to get a foot in the door by promising a skillset you can’t quite execute on.

Conversely, don’t be too humble, because the interview is certainly a place where it’s appropriate to brag about your abilities. Feeling too self-conscious about your accolades might be a wasted opportunity to play to your strengths and position yourself as a strong candidate. Additionally, make sure to relate back to the particular needs of the position/organization you’re interviewing for. It shows that you understand the nuances of the job, and would be prepared to take on the day-to-day.

Avoid novelty resume designs

Creative Bloq also recommends that prospective candidates stay away from novelty resume formats, which run the gamut from inflatable resumes (yes, they literally inflate) to intricate paper folding techniques. While being zany is a surefire way to stand out, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll be remembered for the strength of your design principles, which is what really counts.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use resume formats that are creative, however. An impactful resume for a design, content or UX position is one that is visually appealing, references clients or brands you’ve worked with, and clearly highlights unique skills.

Ask thoughtful, pertinent questions

At the end of every interview, comes the opportunity to turn the tables on your interviewer and ask questions of your own. Make them count! Asking comprehensive, role-specific questions will ensure that you get a clearer understanding of what the job entails, and prove to a prospective employer that you’re serious. Garriott comments that “A lot of people go on interviews thinking that they have to impress these people to try to get the job and no matter what, don’t disrupt the apple cart. But at the same time, you want to figure out what you’re getting into. You want to go in with half a dozen good questions that you can try to get answers from that paint a picture of what the job is really like.”

Creatives are emotionally intelligent, sensitive individuals with a unique and valuable skill set. It’s important to remember that a job interview is as much a test of a potential fit with an organization or agency as it is about a person’s suitability for a position. Even if an interview doesn’t go as well as you’d hope, it’s still ultimately a learning experience.

 

About the AuthorSara Carter is the Co-Founder of Enlightened-Digital, an online technology publication. She writes about emerging themes in technology and business, and their potential to disrupt industries and change lives. 

 

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Data-Driven Design: The Role of Analytics in UX Design

 

 

User experience (UX) is more than just how a person interacts with a product or service. It also encapsulates that person’s attitudes and emotions associated with that experience, as well as their perceptions of the system itself. That said, UX considers every element that shapes the experience — from the way a product provides convenience, to the way it makes a user feel. It works hand-in-hand with UI design, which refers to the visual design of a product or service.

In this regard, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of UX design doesn’t solely rely on best practices or UX theories. These are information gathered from a generic audience and, although useful for providing overarching UX design principles, do not necessarily dictate the best design decisions for every project. Different projects have differing requirements and, most crucially, different target users. Therefore, what may work with one may not have the same results with others. You need data and research, on top of theory, to make informed and insightful design decisions — which is where analytics plays a major role.

What is Analytics?

Who better to provide feedback and suggestions for a particular UX design than from the users themselves and how they interact with it? Analytics in general refers to the analysis and communication of meaningful patterns of data collected from a specific audience. When undertaken correctly, organizations and individuals can use massive amounts of information from and about their customers for better decision-making.

There are two types of data that can be gathered: qualitative and quantitative. UX Booth elaborates on the differences between both types, explaining that qualitative data is gathered through user research, while quantitative data can be gained from analytics tools. The former is done in order to understand people’s behavior or why they do certain things. Meanwhile, the latter is focused on identifying the specific actions users do and how many users do it. User research may take days or weeks to see results, but quantitative methods can show hard facts in real-time.

Researchers often employ both methods in order to gather rich information. This perhaps is the easiest part of the process. The crucial part is how they would make sense of all this data. Analytics experts Ayima note that data is only useful if you know how to interpret it, and the information gathered is only as good as your ability to study and apply it in decision-making. There are many instances where two people look at a the same set of data and end up with different conclusions. This may be due to differing approaches or perspectives on user information, or can perhaps stem from internal biases that affect how people and organizations find meaning and patterns of information. Hence, it is important to undertake a scientific approach to data, while also exercising plenty of empathy for the end-users who interact with a design.

Why does Analytics matter to UX Design?

Designing apps and websites used to be about creative talent rather than an exact science. But as UX Planet’s piece on data-driven design points out, data can help designers create a design that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also functional and responsive. A well-designed app or website can encourage visitors to stay longer and engage with the material. When armed with data, UX designers are able to:

  • Optimize the customer journey
  • Discover reasons behind high exit rates (or where users leave and why)
  • Boost shares and increase conversions
  • Find relevancy in certain design elements
  • Tailor-fit the content to the intended user

As you can see, vital information on user behavior and patterns of engagement (or non-engagement) can drastically help improve design outcomes when used correctly. It is especially useful when done continuously, not only to help point out existing problems in UX design and interface, but also to measure the effectivity of the implemented solution (or set of solutions). In this regard, UX Matters listed a few ways of recording and measuring outcomes of design changes. These include A/B testing (best for testing two or more variations of a page) and multivariate testing (for studying different combinations of elements on a single page). In addition, multi-page testing can help designers look into how changes on different site pages can affect a user journey.

What tools can you refer to?

There are many analytics tools designers can utilize in order to study data. The type of analytics tool used depends on what exactly researchers are looking for. If the budget allows, it is recommended to use several types in order to paint a full picture.

Web Analytics – These are the most accessible of all types of analytics tools, since they are often free. Web Analytics tools are used for gathering information on website traffic and provide valuable insights into what visitors do on a website. However, these tools usually don’t offer explanations for the quantitative data reported, and will need further support or inference.

Heatmap Analytics – These tools take analytics a step further by showing how exactly visitors interact with a website or app. They apply heat maps on pages for researchers to recognize patterns, like where the visitor clicks, or in the case of an app, where the user swipes or taps.

Session Recordings – Use this type of analytics to track entire visitor sessions. Session recording tools will show full reports of how the visitor navigates a website, revealing entry points and exit points, as well as which page the user lingers on the longest.

Real-time Analytics – Tools like Clicky provide real-time details on each visitor, including demographics and which device is used. They often involve more sophisticated methods, and are useful if your website receives a large amount of active visitors per day.

Now that we have established the importance of data to UX design, don’t forget to apply these research-based principles on your own portfolio. RookieUp previously compiled a list of projects for those who are just starting out in a career in UX design. These can help you hone your skills on how to create good designs based on data.

 

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Launching Your Design Career with a RookieUp Bootcamp

We launched our Career Bootcamps a few months ago with the goal of creating a new kind of bootcamp for aspiring designers. Our goal was to create a flexible program that is relevant for anyone trying to launch a creative career, from someone just starting to learn the fundamentals to a designer who has been working in the field for years and is ready to take the next step in their career.

While most existing bootcamps are great (we love any company trying to make design education better!), they are generally prohibitively expensive and assume that everyone enrolling is starting at the same experience level. Our bootcamps are entire flexible based on each student’s specific goals. We pair everyone with a mentor experienced in the types of industries and products the student wants to focus on, and their mentor helps them come up with projects that match their industry interests and career goals.

We spoke with Juliana, a UX/UI designer and one of the first graduates of our Career Bootcamps, to chat about her career goals and hear about her experience with our new bootcamp.

Take it away, Juliana!

 

What’s your career background and how long have you been studying UX/UI Design?

I am a UX/UI designer with a background in teaching. I have enjoyed exploring many different online courses to become a better designer. 

 

Why did you decide to try the RookieUp bootcamp?

I decided to pursue the RookieUp Bootcamp to push my UI skills to the next level. Having chatted with excellent mentors at RookieUp previously, I was confident that it would be a great experience. I also appreciated that I could customize the program based upon the goal to improve my UI skills. 

 

How was the RookieUp bootcamp experience?

I worked on two projects. The first was to redesign the website for Racine Arts Council, a nonprofit RookieUp connected me with.

Next, I redesigned the UI for an app concept called UpForIt.

I worked with Rich Armstrong as a mentor. He was a pleasure to work with and his suggestions were always spot on. I am happy to have added these projects to my portfolio. 

The bootcamp was a great experience!

 

 

We’d love to help you achieve your creative goals, whether you know exactly what kind of career you want to build or want to work with an experienced mentor to figure out what type of design career is best for you. Whatever your goals, our Career Bootcamps can help you achieve them. And if you’d rather build your portfolio and launch your career on your own, our Portfolio Starter Kit is the perfect place to start!

 

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Take the next step in your design career.

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