Fred Beecher is The Nerdery’s Director of User Experience and Design. He has been training UX designers since 2007 and in 2013 he started our UX Apprenticeship program. He is co-chairing the 2016 Interaction Design Education Summit, which will take place February 28-29 in Helsinki, Finland.
I never wanted to be a User Experience (UX) designer when I grew up. When I was growing up, there weren’t any UX designers. The trailblazing pioneers of the field were just beginning their work. In the nearly 20 years that I have been a UX designer, it has been a very difficult field to break into until very recently. I got into it mostly by accident. What kind of a future does a field have when demand for it is high but talent supply is critically low? Very little future at all. I am committed to the field of UX, so by extension I am committed to UX design education. That is why I’ve participated in the Interaction Design Education Summit every year it’s been held and why I’m co-chairing this year’s Summit in Helsinki, Finland.
In 2016, aspiring UX designers have far more options for getting into the field than they ever have before. Historically, only a few institutions have offered interaction design degrees while others offered degrees in human factors, technical writing and other almost-but-not-quite fields. Now, far more academic design and UX programs exist both as degrees as well as certificates. If that won’t work for you, you can go to a “hack school” and learn the fundamentals in 12-20 weeks. You can even do that remotely, online, with a personal mentor. Or you could find yourself an apprenticeship (which is the best option, obviously ;)) or an internship. Or you could sign up for a mentorship program. You could even go to Chattanooga for two years to work on real client projects under the guidance of some of the best minds in UX at Center Centre. There are so many options.
This diversity of options is something that is a really good sign for our field and something that the Summit committee consciously sought to promote from the very beginning. We tried very hard to make sure we had people representing a spectrum of perspectives speaking and conducting working sessions at the Summit. You’ll find presenters from at least four different educational contexts: academia, design and art schools, vocational schools, and industry.
But educational context wasn’t the only area in which we consciously cultivated diversity at the Summit. Fundamentally, we are designers. Designers understand that more perspectives, working together, build not only better products but better cultures. So we have female speakers from American hack schools, male proposal reviewers from South American design schools, women from the UK and Europe facilitating working sessions. Our opening keynote is Xiangyang Xin, the dean of the School of Design at Jiangnan University in China, who is revolutionizing design education in his country. If you join me at the Interaction Design Education Summit in Helsinki this year, I guarantee you will come away from it with a much broader perspective and the inspiration to add your own unique flavor to the constantly evolving landscape of design education.
The Nerdery itself is committed to educating designers at all levels of practice. Our apprenticeship program provides people with the raw characteristics required to be great UX designers with the fundamental knowledge and skills to jumpstart their careers. Our continuous learning environment facilitates skill building and acquisition among our entire design team. We recognize that for our business to be successful we must do what we can to ensure the success of all our fields of practice.
Curious about apprenticeships and careers in the field of UX? Post a question in the comments section below or reach out to us.