Claire Mallory is a graduate of the Quartz Cohort. Prior to joining Designation she was a freelance classical musician.
Where do you work, and what’s your job title?
I work as a User Experience Specialist at Centralis in Evanston, IL.
Tell us briefly about your company.
Centralis specializes in UX research and testing, although we do some design work on select projects. We’re a very small consultancy—eight employees total—but we work for a wide range of clients, both in industry type and company size. For a typical project, we work in teams of two. Teamwork at Centralis is very collaborative and iterative. We’re always discussing, editing, and working out details together.
Tell us briefly about your job.
I usually work on two to three projects at any given time. Each project has distinct phases (prep, research, testing, design, reporting) so every day is different! I might conduct a heuristic analysis of a website, moderate one-on-one sessions or focus groups, write a detailed report, or meet with clients. And because Centralis is so small, all of us participate in keeping things running around the office. I love the variety in my work—I learn something new every day.
What did you do professionally before you started at Designation?
I was a freelance classical musician. I’ve lived in various places, but settled in Chicago about four years ago.
How did you hear about Designation? And why did you decide to attend?
I was completely burned out as a musician and tired of struggling to make ends meet. I also knew that I wanted to do something that made a difference in the world, in a tangible way. After looking into all sorts of other career options, I settled on design. When I found Designation online, I decided to take a leap. Google searches can lead to great things!
How would you describe your Designation experience?
Designation was so empowering. I still can’t believe that I learned so much in such a short amount of time. I was very focused on changing my life, which I think was important. If I hadn’t been so intent on a new path, I wouldn’t have been able to absorb so much. The Quartz cohort was full of amazing and supportive people, and we all benefited from the dedication of instructors and staff. At a point in my life when I was feeling stuck, I learned that I could still learn. I can’t adequately describe how wonderful that realization was.
What was your favorite part of the Designation experience?
I loved how busy we were all the time! It felt like we were always making progress and building on each previous experience. I was completely exhausted at the end of every day, but in a really positive way. And that doesn’t mean that every day felt fun in the moment—many were extremely difficult or frustrating. But I always knew that I was making progress toward my future.
What did you find was the most useful skill, tool, or experience from your time in the program?
I think that being exposed to user research methods was critical for me—as soon as we started talking to people and doing some concept testing, I found a niche that was really fascinating and fun for me. But I wouldn’t have understood the power of research and testing without participating in all stages of the design process.
How did Designation help prepare you for your job?
Being a Designer-in-Residence was a great step in preparing me for the real world. I was able to reabsorb all of the material I’d just learned while supporting the next cohort in their Designation journey. Giving feedback and advice deepened my understanding of both UX and UI in a way that I was not expecting. I ended my time as a DIR with confidence in myself, something that I certainly didn’t have when I started the program.
“Designation was so empowering. I still can’t believe that I learned so much in such a short amount of time.”
What’s your favorite thing about being a professional designer now?
Everything! Research is endlessly fascinating and I’m sure I’ll continue learning forever. I get to be curious and creative on a daily basis. What could be better?