Ask A UXpert: What is One Way You Give Back With Your UX Design Work?

UXperts Ryan Rumsey, Emily MacGowen, Daniel Szuc and Andy Vitale

by Sheena Lyonnais

posted on 11-30-2017

There comes a time in many UX designers’ careers where one’s passion for the community morphs into your personal life and you decide it’s time to give back. From mentoring young designers to volunteering at events, there are so many ways you can use your UX skills for good, no matter what stage you’re at in your UX career.

We reached out to four user experience designers to find out how they use their skills as a UX designer to give back to the community and make the world a better place. Here’s what they had to say.

Give your time and energy back to the design community.****

Early in my career, I remember thinking “giving back” equated to donating large sums of money to charity. Fortunately, that thinking didn’t stick. Over the years, I’ve learned how much of a difference I could make by donating my time and energy back to the design community at large. While there are many front-of-the-scenes activities I participate in — like speaking at conferences, attending meetups, or writing — much of the time I give is behind the scenes.

For those already in their professional careers, I’ve been conducting “office-hours” for the last four years. A “monthly gathering for UX designers interested in practical and constructive feedback on stuff that matters to you.” It’s a great way for me to give back while also expanding my network. I also mentor designers internally here at EA, with about 20 percent of my time being spent on one-on-one mentoring, coaching, and co-coordinating an internal network of designers at EA. Within this network, we gather twice annually to facilitate week-long workshops to help resolve EA product and project design problems with paired design activities.

Perhaps my favorite activity is speaking to the new generation of designers. Whether sharing experiences at world class institutions like Georgia Tech, EPFL, and the University of Texas, or speaking to high school students looking for careers in art, video games, or design, I believe it’s important to share experiences and provide pragmatic advice they might not otherwise receive. Typically, that advice revolves around finding, getting, and working design jobs, or how we sometimes fit design process into existing processes. Giving back to those who will shape our futures is quite a thrill and their energy is a source of inspiration!

~ Ryan Rumsey, director of experience design at Electronic Arts.

Design to help your users and mentor younger designers.

UX design has allowed me to have a positive impact on many people throughout my career. As designers, the tools, products, and solutions that we create have exponential impact. The power of design is to recognize there is always a way to improve upon the current state, and to do so through meaningful context. Whether providing solutions in healthcare, delight to passionate users in powersports, or enhancing a workflow, the ability to create value by helping people achieve a desired result easier, or solving a seemingly complex unarticulated need is something I am proud of.

Those successes, and a lot of the struggles and learning opportunities that went along with them, are what allows me give back to the design community. The experiences I have gained as a user experience designer has allowed me to teach students, mentor interns and younger designers, build teams, and share my stories at conferences, on podcasts, and in articles like this. Being able to give back to a design community that has been so supportive of me throughout the years has been my most rewarding accomplishment, and, at the same time, it has provided me the opportunity to meet so many other designers who have inspired me with their stories.

~ Andy Vitale, director of user experience, Polaris Industries.

Volunteer at UX and tech events.

The main way I give back is by volunteering for various design and tech events. Volunteering isn’t user experience design work, right? Actually, it can be! I’ve treated volunteering as an opportunity to practice some experience design thinking.

My most recent volunteer work is with ExploreTech Toronto — a monthly meetup which aims to explore and celebrate the diversity of roles and people in the tech industry. Each month we invite new speakers, 50 percent of which are female, to share their knowledge and experience on a topic of their choice. One way we currently support speakers is by working closely with them before their talks to help improve the content and strengthen their public speaking skills. Seeing these individuals, many of which have never spoken before, deliver an engaging speech is extremely rewarding.

In September, I was also a part of the volunteer team for Fluxible, Canada’s UX festival. During the conference I worked behind the scenes to setup the event and document the entire experience through the lens of my camera. This behind the scenes work meant that I was able to analyze the entire event experience and provide the core organizers with some feedback to improve future iterations of the conference.

Next time you see an interesting event, consider reaching out to be a part of the team that makes it happen! You might be surprised by what you learn and who you impact while volunteering.

~ Emily MacGowen, UX designer at Pharmacy 5in5 and assistant organizer at ExploreTech Toronto.

Share UX content with others.****

Reading has become an integral component of our practice. Reading on a diverse range of topics and themes helps to gain a wider perspective on places, people, opinions, motivations, wants, and needs both locally and globally. I find that reading also provides a lovely way to share with other practitioners to prompt discussions and additional questions that can sometimes turn into deeper friendships over time. Sharing content in the form of sharing general articles, presenting at conferences globally, and also helping people to connect to other practitioners who may be able to help with problems, are ways I like to give back.

It’s also nice to be able to find a topic, or series of topics, that is interesting enough to turn into a project. For myself and Josephine, my partner, we have dedicated the last five years in consideration of this question: why and how can we “Make Meaningful Work?” We created a research project for this as we seek healthier work futures and to consider the questions that go into more valuable businesses as healthy contributors to society.

~ Daniel Szuc, researcher and founder of Apogee.

Interview responses have been condensed and edited.

How do you give back to your design community? Share your advice in the comments below.

Topics: Creativity, Design

Products: Creative Cloud