UX Motivation: The One Sentence that Pushed Me to Become a UX Designer

It was a weeknight in Seattle, and I was five weeks into living there in the rainy city. At that point I knew I wanted to pursue UX design, but I still had so many doubts. What this girl said to me at a meetup finally put me at ease, and ignited a fire in my UX-job search.

But first, an identity crisis: coming from business strategy and analysis, trying to enter the UX field made me feel like not just a newbie, but an impostor. Wasn’t I supposed to be a pro with front-end code or at least graphic design to enter the field? [link: no]. Sure, I took a few classes, made a few projects. But I felt like there was this huge chasm between UX professionals and myself.

Then I went to the Seattle UX Meetup. I met someone who just started working as a UX Designer at Amazon. So of course I asked her about how she got into the UX field. Not surprisingly (and this is my favorite thing about meeting other UX designers), she had an extremely round-the-bout way into design.

I told her about my identity crisis as someone who’s attempting to transition into UX design. “I still feel like I can’t call myself a UX Designer…how did you make the jump?”

Out of all the UX rockstars who spoke that night, I only remembered her words. What she said left an impression on me:

You just have to start thinking of yourself as a designer.

Sometimes it’s the simplest phrases that are the most powerful. Her reasoning is that NO ONE can say whether you’re a designer or not…except you. Once I started thinking of myself as a designer, things started falling into place.

I gave myself a new identity, and so can you.

When people ask you what you do, tell them you’re a designer. When people ask what you like to do, tell them you like to design things. I didn’t use to like the phrase “fake it till you make it,” but those six words are worth absolute gold.

The pressure of referring to and introducing yourself as a designer will catch up to you, until you have no choice but to sit down and design. This process gives you a new mentality of ownership, and will change your thoughts like so:

I want to be a designerI will try to design (insert app, website) next
I need to learn X skillI will do 1 Illustrator tutorial at lunch today
Which one of these 100s of UX books should I read first?I will read whatever UX book that interests me and that I can finish

You weren’t with me on that rainy Seattle night, so maybe the impact of the words from the Amazon UX Designer don’t translate over as well. But I’ll leave you with an equally stimulating quote that exactly captures the spirit of breaking into a new, creative field:

If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death. – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art


9 responses to “UX Motivation: The One Sentence that Pushed Me to Become a UX Designer”

  1. For people like myself constantly questioning, its reassuring to know that at the very least questioning in and of itself does not equal “you’re doing it wrong” – thanks for sharing this little nugget!

    1. Thanks for the kind words Aaron. I see that you’re coming by way of Norman. I’m sure you guys are killing it at Tradecraft!

  2. Brilliant post, Oz. As I begin my own journey spelunking into design and web dev, this is exactly the philosophy that will keep me inspired!

    1. Can’t wait to see you progress in your journey Lindy :)

  3. Hey Oz, I have just found your blog and I can’t stop reading it :) Thanks for the great and honest content.

    1. Thanks for the kind comments Sara! I checked out your blog too and really like the content too – reading over “How to Sketch for User Experience” now :)

  4. Yay to this! As a wannabe user researcher, I can totally relate to this. And I also love that there’s a Stephen Pressfield quote in there. :)

  5. Loved this article. it really resonated with me as I am constantly questioning myself whether I am enough to call myself a ‘designer’. It’s something I will be changing now :)

  6. This is spot on. Pure gold, Oz. Pure gold. The content on this site overall is incredibly helpful, encouraging and practical. Please keep it coming!

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