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Three Things I Learned as UX/UI Intern this Summer

Meher Chand joined us for the Summer from the Emerging Leaders Internship program and shared her thoughts on her experience here.

“Oh you work in user experience. Is it like graphic design or do you code websites?” This was the kind of question I tackled from family and friends all summer. As an incoming junior at the University of Washington majoring in Psychology with a minor in Informatics, I’m beginning to unravel what UX entails for myself. As a way to explore the world of design I applied to the Emerging Leaders Internship (ELI) program. ELI is a program dedicated to uplifting students of color by connecting them with internships, mentors, and career development tools. After months of applying and interviewing, I landed an internship at GRAYBOX! At the end of my 10 weeks of being a UX/UI design intern, I’ve gained three core lessons I can always hold onto.

Get into Character

User experience design is, of course, to serve the user, and the practice of empathizing with key characters reminded me of my middle school acting background. This summer I conducted a lot of UX work through collecting research, organizing partner workshop content, and creating empathy maps. These activities, similar to acting, required additional background research to get more insight into the people we were trying to portray. While working on empathy maps I combined both the opinions from the partner as well as external research to formulate a user persona that grounded our intentions for creative solutions. These exercises were, in my eyes, why UX is unique in the world of design. Taking the time to truly evaluate the wants and needs of the people that will be using what you’re creating helps to shape the way you make decisions for the rest of the process.

It’s All About Questions

One of the biggest lessons I learned this summer was to not be afraid to ask questions. I learned that asking questions both before and during a task helps clarify goals, and cut down on spin with teammates. On the other hand, when it comes to creative interpretation during an assignment, this is an opportunity to dial back the questions and try out your ideas as a creative. Some of the most fun projects I worked on during my internship were when the instructions were open ended and it was up to me to play with color, information architecture, or overall organization of a piece. There is a wonderful balance between what needs to be done and how every designer actually executes it, which was a fun dichotomy I got to experience.

Be like the Bowerbird

In my high school biology class I was introduced to the bowerbird, a species where the male birds collect shiny objects to create a nest and attract potential mates. Their nests end up being an amalgamation of various objects and come together to make something beautiful. The more I work more in design, the more I notice the beauty in everyday objects. Whether it is the construction of the new Jeffrey Campbell heel or the way Nike crafts their search bar function, I am learning to take note of what makes things beautiful to look at and easy to use. What is it about this object that I enjoyed? The color, construction, utility? I’ve started to get in the habit of saving inspiration I find to reference later. Slowly, I, like a bowerbird, am building up a collection of the “shiny” things I find in the everyday world that can inform my design choices and give me something to always look forward to.


Getting my Hands Dirty

Along with these core lessons, I upgraded my hard skills working in Figma, Miro, Jira, Slack, Confluence, Excel, and Adobe Photoshop. With these additions to my tool kit, I improved not only as a designer but as a collaborator in the creative tech space. A lot of these tools showed me how we can effectively collaborate with others as the workplace continues to grow, change, and become more remote. Through these resources I was able to interact with the team as a whole, gain feedback, and be part of the GB team even when we were all at home.

Although these tools provide the space to work with others, it was the people around me that taught me how to function on a team. Being a part of the creative practice showed me the many pathways my colleagues took to have the career I’d like to have as well. Hearing about their experiences and getting their feedback on my work taught me a lot about the review process within design as well as how I can always be improving as a team player.

Takeaways

Through new skills and lessons learned, I feel confident about pursuing UX design as my career. In fact, this experience makes me really excited for what’s in store! Overall, this internship showed me the vast possibilities within the UX design industry. With the foundation I built this summer I can’t wait to apply these fundamentals to solve problems I’m passionate about and continue to make products I’m proud of!

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