Erin Dunn is a recent graduate of the Amaranth Cohort. She got a degree in psychology and worked in the publishing industry before discovering her love for design. Shortly after graduating, Erin landed a gig as a UX Apprentice at Manifest Digital, where she works with the user experience and interaction design team. (UPDATE: Erin is now a UX Associate at Manifest Digital)
How would you describe the DESIGNATION experience?
My DESIGNATION experience was great and I learned way more than I ever thought I would. DESIGNATION is hard work and it can be really challenging but it’s rewarding and the more you put into it, the more rewarding it will be.
How did you hear about DESIGNATION, and why did you decide to come?
I moved to Chicago last summer and I was looking for new career opportunities, but I found that it was difficult to break into the industry without having any connections. I realized that in order to make connections and have a better chance at furthering my career, I needed to gain more skills and really understand my career options. I found out about DESIGNATION from Facebook and I decided to apply because it would give me the overview of the design industry that I needed and it would help me advance my skills so that I could feel more confident in my job search. There didn’t seem to be a reason not to apply.
What was the most interesting or useful thing you learned during the cohort?
The best part of DESIGNATION for me was leaving with a clear understanding of the type of career I want to pursue. I gained the knowledge of what skills I need to have and what I need to do in order to get to where I want to be. Understanding this was something I struggled with before DESIGNATION as I was trying to research career paths and options on my own. By being immersed in DESIGNATION and learning about the various roles within digital design, I was able to bridge my skills, my degree, and my goals and I left DESIGNATION feeling confident to pursue the career that I want.
“The best part of DESIGNATION for me was leaving with a clear understanding of the type of career I want to pursue.”
What are the people at DESIGNATION like (staff, instructors, fellow students)?
Everyone at DESIGNATION is awesome and I think it’s due to a “we’re all in this together” attitude, and that really helps shape the culture there. It’s obvious that the staff wants their students to succeed and get the most out of the program so they’re always available and willing to help. I think that my experience was also greatly shaped by the other students in the cohort. We were all working towards the same goals (creating portfolio pieces, making a personal website, and learning as much as we could) so it was great to have so many people to collaborate with every day. Everyone at DESIGNATION has been a great support system, even after my cohort ended.
What were you doing before you came to DESIGNATION?
I’ve been working in book publishing for the last two years and had roles in customer service and book design, but I was interested in ways to advance and explore other career options related to design. I majored in Psychology and have always been interested in the ways that people interact with their environment, especially through media and technology.
Tell us a little bit about your new job.
I recently started as a UX apprentice at Manifest Digital. I’ll be working on client projects and internal projects with the user experience and interaction design team. So far, I’ve been completing user research for innovation ideas for one of their big clients so it’s already been a learning experience.
How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your new role?
At DESIGNATION, I learned the skills that I needed to get into this company. The staff at DESIGNATION helped me make sure my resume and portfolio told the story of the work I’d been doing for the last three months. It was great to have a network of people that knew me and my goals and wanted to help me. At DESIGNATION, I also gained the confidence that I needed in order to put myself out there and to realize that I am prepared for a new design job although I’m still learning.
What was your favorite part of the DESIGNATION experience?
I have a lot of favorites! I really loved getting the opportunity to explore different areas of design that I might not have otherwise been exposed to. It was fun to have real client projects going on, visual design projects, coding projects, etc. and being able to pick and choose what you want to work on and how involved you want to be. For someone like me, who wasn’t really sure what path I wanted to pursue at the beginning of the cohort, it was really helpful to be able to explore these different projects and see where I fit in and what I enjoyed doing most. It was also great being around people who have such varied skills and backgrounds. I think that we all really leaned on one another and collaborated a lot, which fostered a great environment for creativity.
What advice would you give to someone who was trying to break into the industry?
You shouldn’t not do something just because you think you don’t know how to. It’s easy to get intimidated by how much there is to learn but everyone who is already in the career you want had to start somewhere!