Championing UX & Design Thinking through Education

In the past few years of my design career, I’ve had a number of opportunities to speak about UX Design & Design Thinking to students, design peers, and work colleagues in the gaming industry who aren’t that familiar with the principles & methods of my design specialty. Championing the wisdom and elegance of design thinking helped me solidify my knowledge of the craft & also deepen my confidence in it being the right fit for me.

Venture for Canada Internship Program for Young Entrepreneurs

Venture for Canada is a national charity that helps new graduates develop entrepreneurial leadership skills through training and placements at Canadian startups and tech companies. Myself and a design colleague of mine were invited to speak to their 2018 cohort of 100 recent graduates in their internship training speaker series.

Many subjects were covered by speakers, from Marketing, to Data Analytics, to Business operations; I prepared an hour presentation on the foundations of UX, to pair with my colleagues’ hour presentation on the foundation of visual design. The aim was not to make UX designers out of the recent graduates, that came from many diverse educational backgrounds themselves, but to help them understand the contexts and purposes of the many disciplines they might come to experience in a typical tech startup.

The talk covered

  • The UX process & how it shapes a product’s development
    — The pipeline of creation & iteration & testing
  • Why UX is important & how it can help businesses
    — Good design in impactful industries like healthcare & education can actually change the world for people in need

In-House UX Talks

I took a professional development course on UX through my work, and was asked to share my learnings with my peers. I took the foundations of my UX presentation for VFC, and made it more relevant to UX in the games industry, and added an additional 45 minutes with deeper dives on certain tools we as a company could be using to help improve our processes. The talk was open to anyone in the studio to come and learn more about what my role and UX design could do for the studio, and I was happy to see over 50 faces from almost every discipline come to learn something new.

The talk covered

  • User Research
    — Insights through interviews and user testing
  • Personas
    — Make them early and make a few
  • Journey mapping
    — Visualizing player progression in games
  • The Design Process
    — how it could make a better game production gameplan

I also did a small talk through our design department’s quarterly meet-up on the Laws of UX, summarizing and applying most of the principles of design from lawsofux.com to our industry to help my game design peers better understand many golden standards of design & UX thinking.

Mentorship in the Workplace

My work had a mentorship program for experienced employees to mentor protégés within the office so they could level up their skills in an area of interest, whether or not it relates directly to their day-to-day jobs. I signed up to be a UX mentor, and was paired with a data-tracking developer who had completed a graduate degree in User Experience Research who wanted to know more about the UX role in practice within the games industry and beyond.

Over the year, we met monthly to talk about

  • how a UX role manifests within the context of our studio, the broader company, and our industry at large
  • examples of good and bad UX in commonplace digital experiences
  • a critical look at UX in our projects

We started a project to establish a low-cost user research testing protocol for games that we could implement at the studio to show managers that UXR didn’t always have to be a big, expensive undertaking, and to put his existing knowledge of UXR into practice in a real workplace environment, which was not an opportunity afforded to him in the course of his daily work. You can read more about our testing setup here.

Humber College Student Game Jam

I was approached by Humber College through my work to collaborate on a Game Jam they were running for the students with a focus on prototyping. They wanted some educational materials to help the students understand the basics of UI & UX so multidisciplinary teams that might not include a student from a design program could get a grasp on some of the basic principles to guide them in making good design decisions.

I called it a crash course, and decided to distill the large world of UI & UX into a few key sections that I could put in a slideshow, and narrate over to produce a 10 minute or less video that would be shown to the students before they embarked on their jam.

The talk covered

  • Flows
    — Directing users through the experience
  • The Golden Rules of Good UX
    — Basic Do’s and Don’ts
  • Typography
    — Using type to create better hierarchy
  • Colour
    — Understanding balance, contrast & harmony
  • Examples
    — A variety of common game interfaces

Reflection

The exercise of trying to distill good UI & UX principles into digestible information for really varied audiences has been a great way to consolidate my own understanding of the principles and applications, and has given me a new passion in my career for teaching people things I really believe in.

Even looking at my own work with a renewed educational lens of the ‘ideal & proper’ ways to do things has strengthened my resolve to champion good UX & design process in any context in which it can be applied.

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