This Is How I Became A UI Designer

Careers | 08th January 2018
We went to visit our colleague Patrícia Murta at OutSystems earlier this month and talked about her experience becoming a UI Designer and inspiration for those who are interested in the area. 

When did you first become interested in UI Design?

Patricia Murta: Before I went to university, web design was an area that interested me a lot, because I thought that I would be able to create something that could be used by many people every day, and that I would focus on things with aesthetically pleasing aspects, something that looks nice. That was something that really excited me. Then I heard about the course that I later took at Coimbra University, called Design and Multimedia. My first thoughts and understanding of it was related to web design, so I decided to enrol in the course and it allowed me to come more in touch with that area of expertise and I became more and more interested in UI Design specifically.

Patricia is a Hi INteractive UI Designer currently working at OutSystems

When did you know it was something you wanted to work in?

Patricia Murta: I definitely knew this was what I wanted to do when I had to choose the theme for my final dissertation. Despite not having had many disciplines about User Interface Design during the course, I think I always knew that was the area for me. I’m very interested in UX Design too, but that discipline wasn’t something that we got taught about a lot. Even UI Design wasn’t commonly taught, we barely had any classes on it and focused more on talking about web design as a Front-End Developer.

How did your view about UI Design change since you started working in the area? 

Patricia Murta: Like I said, during the course we didn’t touch much on UI, so all I understood and was thinking about when I thought about this work was doing pretty things for the web. Since I started working professionally, I became conscious that we can do much much more. For instance, we work on APP's and websites that can really change the users’ lives and improve how they work every day. That’s a big thing that I don't think I understood very well in the beginning. That is also why UX Design is important to me as well as UI, and I believe I am becoming better in this area. 

“We work on applications and websites that can really change the users’ lives and improve how they work every day.”

What do you enjoy most about your work? 

Patricia Murta: Tricky question! I really enjoy working on a new user story and have a discussion with the team to start brainstorming and understanding what solution is needed. It is a lot about the teamwork, sharing ideas! At the same time, I don’t like having meetings all day as I want to focus on the project, but I appreciate having occasional conversations and discussions with my colleagues to talk about the main themes of the project. 

What is the biggest challenge for you as a UI Designer? 

Patricia Murta: What I struggle with the most is creating the contact with the end users. In many projects, that is simply not possible. For example, I’m currently working on a project for a hospital system in Kuwait. We are working here in Portugal, but our end users are there, in Kuwait, so we usually don’t get in touch with them. Therefore sometimes it is very difficult to assume things. We talk with stakeholders a lot and gain knowledge  which helps us understand what they bring from the field. But it is very difficult not having the possibility to have an easy conversation with the person who will actually be using our end product.

Interviewing Patricia Murta at OutSystems' offices

What was one project that you really enjoyed working on?

Patricia Murta: It would have to be this one I talked about because I have been working on it for a full year now and it has been a very interesting journey. I started in this project as a UI Designer and had an opportunity to design the style guide for the project where I redesign the APP itself, the software, and gave it a brand new face. That was very challenging. And now recently I started working on the UX Design as well, which was one of my goals from the start. I see myself finally reaching it and it is very exciting.

“Recently I started working on the UX design as well, which was one of my goals from the start. I see myself finally reaching it and it is very exciting.”, said Patricia.

You mentioned your growing involvement with UX Design. Are there any particular areas or project you’d still like to get involved in?

Patricia Murta: Yes, I still feel like I have a lot to learn in User Experience Design, because it is a very complex area of expertise with a lot of different methods and a lot of different ways to work with it. Our team is moving closer to them, but we still have a long way to go.

In general, I see myself working on a lot more products in the future, than projects. When I first started working at OutSystems, I was part of services department and I did a lot of one-day project where we would have only that day to work on UI. Although that was very helpful to evolve as a designer and to learn new things, it was a little bit stressful. To work on a longer project from the beginning to the end and to see the product working as you imagined is very rewarding. 

Who in the industry do you follow and look up to?

Patricia Murta: I do use Dribbble a lot for my own inspiration and I have a number of people who I follow there. For example, in terms of UI Design, I follow Tobias van Schneider, Burocratik, Fantasy, Tubik. For UX: Don Norman, Jakob Nielsen, Luke Wroblewski. But also, if I am struggling with a certain pattern, for instance, I go to Dribbble, just search for it and will see a number or results. I think that platform is an amazing support for me as a UI designer. I also read Medium articles about the topics. Other two teams I could think of that inspire me are InVision design team and Spotify design team.

“You should never forget the end users. You are not making the product for yourself, you are doing it for someone else to use it, to improve their life in some way.”

What would be your advice, for someone like you, who would like to become a UI Designer? 

Patricia Murta: Well, first of all I think education is important. Look very carefully what is out there on offer for you, because  your course might be called ‘Design and Multimedia’ as the name of your course but the most important part is what exactly you will learn there, what subjects are being taught. In my course for instance we didn’t have a lot of understanding of what it is going to be like to work for a company, deal with stakeholders and, especially, with users. It was more focused on engineering or graphic design, rather than digital design.  Even though education is always valuable, do your research! 

But also never forget to keep on practicing on your own, do a lot of research on UI Design. This area is always evolving and changing.  What we learned last year now is a little bit different, it’s always innovating itself. So you have to be on top of that to deliver the best results and for your own growth as a professional. You need to be one step in front of every change coming!

Finally, you should never forget the end users. You are not making the product for yourself, you are doing it for someone else to use it, to improve their life in some way. Again, do a lot of research about them, who they are and what they require. If you have the chance to talk to them directly, even better. 
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