Sarah Young graduated in 2015 as a UX designer in the Kobi Cohort. Prior to joining Designation, she taught middle school in Hawaii.
Tell us briefly about your job and company.
I’m a UX/UI designer at Insomniac Design, a design agency in Washington, DC that works with clients all over the world to develop digital solutions across a variety of platforms. Our client list includes NGOs, international aid organizations, Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit organizations, small and medium businesses, and governments. The team I work with every day is made up of other UX/UI designers, visual designers, and developers. As a small team, we all work very closely with each other and often find ourselves wearing many hats across any given project.
We typically have a variety of projects going on at once, and my exact role is different depending on the needs of the project. Right now, we’re working on a large digital strategy project where the deliverables are concepts that we’re visualizing. My role for this project has been more strategic, but I’ve also been able to dabble in visual design when considering how these concepts are to be presented.
We just completed another project that was very research-focused in nature, but my role on that one was to collect and analyze data while also identifying opportunities for improvement. My day might also include talking to stakeholders, creating personas and user flows, wireframing, and prototyping.
What did you do professionally before you started at Designation, and why did you decide to attend?
I lived in Hawaii where I taught middle school social studies and science. Before that, I lived in South Korea where I taught English. I actually started teaching myself how to code as a way to break into the tech field. I played Channel One News in my classroom every day, and one episode featured a special about design and development bootcamps. I began researching the options and stumbled upon Designation. UX design seemed like a perfect fit for me because it appealed to my analytical nature but allowed me the opportunity to flex my creative muscles.
What made your Designation experience unique?
Designation constantly forced me to step outside my comfort zone. Making the decision to attend Designation meant moving from Hawaii to Chicago, a place where I didn’t know another soul. This theme continued throughout the program, whether I had to present my work to a client or approach strangers in coffee shops to do guerilla user testing. This was a good thing; a lot of growth and creativity happens outside the comfort zone.
What did you find was the most useful skill, tool, or experience from your time in the program?
The Client Phase provided the opportunity for us to practice the soft skills integral to a successful design process, like asking questions that define the project requirements and communicating ideas and design concepts. Not to mention that it ultimately built up my portfolio, the key to finding employment in this field.
How did Designation help prepare you for your job?
Attending Designation essentially equipped me with a toolbox that I’ve been able to pull from for any project or task I’ve faced in my career as a designer. The sheer number of tools and methodologies I was exposed to during my time there has been invaluable, because I always have at least a place to start, even when it comes to the most challenging problems.
What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry?
Go to design meetups and events. The design community is wonderful and I’ve found the people at these gatherings to be so welcoming and helpful. If you’re a prospective designer, you can go and learn about the field and see what your day-to-day might look like if you make the switch. If you’re trying to break into the field, you can get feedback on your portfolio and possibly open the door to your next opportunity.