The purpose of this blog is to reflect on my experience in graduate school. I am currently in the process of changing careers from massage therapy to user experience design (UXD). This blog is an assignment in my UXD Principles and Concepts class at Kent State University.
January 15, 2020
I have really enjoyed this first week of graduate school. I am very grateful that we are starting with this "easy" class to allow all of us time to acclimate to our new schedules and establish some common ground in our understanding of UXD.
What stood out most to me from our reading this week is Don Norman's definition of UXD from his book, The Design of Everyday Things. Norman describes it like this, "The practice of designing products, processes, services, events, and environments with a focus placed on the quality and enjoyment of the total experience."
I like this definition because it is broad enough to include the work I have been doing for the past 25 years as a massage therapist. Every session I have given and every class I have taught has been intentionally designed to provide an enjoyable experience — from the soft music and lighting in a massage room to the organization and flow of information presented in the classroom.
Even though most, if not all, UXD jobs now involve working in the digital space (designing apps and websites), I think this background will serve me well.
January 24, 2020
What impacted me most this week is Norman's description of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's work on flow states, which occurs when a task is neither too difficult nor too easy but just the right balance between the two. In contrast to flow, he says, "A difficult task, far above our skill, leads to so many failed expectations that it causes frustration, anxiety, and helplessness" (56). Unfortunately, I've been experiencing this with some of the difficult tasks I've been assigned in my UI Immersion bootcamp that I'm taking in addition to grad school.
This is such a big career change for me that sometimes I feel like I've been dropped into a foreign land where I don't know anyone and I don't speak the language or know my way around. Luckily, this first class at Kent State is doing a much better job at meeting me where I'm at and helping me orient to this whole new world of design.
This week, I have also enjoyed reading the book, Designing with the Mind in Mind by Jeff Johnson. I have learned about the design principles and guidelines in two or three other classes, but never the cognitive psychology behind why they are effective. This is adding a whole new layer of meaning and understanding to this subject.
February 2, 2020
My favorite quote from our reading this week is from The Design of Everyday Things. Here, Norman says, "We should deal with error by embracing it, by seeking to understand the causes and ensuring they do not happen again. We need to assist rather than punish or scold" (216). This philosophy and approach to design is very compassionate. It recognizes that we are all human, and we all make mistakes. Instead of blaming the person when errors occur while interacting with technology, we can seek to understand the root cause of the problem, learn from the experience, and redesign things to be more user-friendly.
February 9, 2020
Don Norman makes a very provocative statement in his book, The Design of Everyday Things, when he says, "One of my rules of consulting is simple: never solve the problem I am asked to solve" (217). At first glance, this seemed outrageous to me! This is probably due to my training in five-star service from working in luxury spas where "the customer is always right" is the rule of law. But, Norman makes a good argument for why designers take a different approach. Instead of simply accepting the problems they are given, good designers question everything. They think broadly and seek to get to the root of the issues, so they can solve the right problem (219). This is an important lesson that not only stuck with me this week, but will hopefully influence my thinking for my entire career as a UX designer.
February 12, 2020
The main thing that stood out to me this week was the work load actually fit into the recommended 15-20 hours a week schedule that this program was supposedly designed for. Last week's assignments and reading took me over 45 hours to complete! Granted I'm pretty slow (because I'm super thorough and want to learn things in depth), but that was more than double the amount of time I had planned for when I signed up for this program. I've also gotten really behind on my UI Immersion bootcamp because I've devoted all my free time to grad school so far. To make more room for school, I've decided to close my massage practice at the end of the month and to quit my other part-time job. Hopefully, this will help me find a better balance in my schedule soon.
In terms of this week's content, nothing really stood out to me because I have learned these design principles in a few other classes. It's always nice to review them, though, and it was interesting to see the examples my classmate's shared in their discussion posts. It's much harder for me to actually apply these principles when working on various projects. I still have a lot to learn, but hopefully with practice and more experience, it will get easier (and quicker!).
February 23, 2020
I really enjoy learning about typography. I took a whole class on it last semester, but I still feel like I've only begun to scratch the surface. The lecture presentations on this topic were very insightful. They covered a lot of ground, but in a comprehensive and concise way. It was particularly helpful to have a video that clearly illustrated the expectations of the assignment for this week.
February 26, 2020
This is our last week of class, and it has been a wonderful experience so far! In particular, I really enjoyed the human-centered design thinking Don Norman presented in his book as well as the cognitive psychology behind design principles in Jeff Johnson's book. I'm deeply fascinated by these two subjects, so I'm grateful we got to explore them in this class.
I also really enjoyed the recorded lectures each week. I prefer in-person learning much more than online learning mostly because I like interacting with people face-to-face, but also because I like listening to lectures. None of the other online classes I've taken in the past included lectures from the professors, so I was very happy to have this. It would've been even better if they were as long as lectures given in the classroom, but I'm glad we got at least a little taste of that.
This week, I had a lot of fun designing the layout for the student persona. It felt like everything I've learned so far really came together in this assignment. Last semester, I took a class on typography and another class on Adobe Illustrator. I was able to use these skills, along with the lessons learned in this class, to create the persona. Usually, I spend ten times longer than I should on assignments, and the process is painful, stressful, and laborious. But, this time I allowed myself to be more creative and less critical. I didn't worry as much about getting it "right" or trying to make it perfect; I just had fun with it and enjoyed the creative process. I hope I can take this lesson with me into my future projects.