Breaking into UX with Adobe XD: How Katharine Atwood Designed, Prototyped, and Shared Her Way to Success

by Patrick Faller

posted on 12-29-2017

For many designers, the idea of adopting a new tool for their work is daunting, no matter what people say. That was true for then-freelance graphic designer Katharine Atwood. Little did she know giving all-in-one design and prototyping tool Adobe XD a try, despite her apprehensions, would lead to some very exciting career developments.

“The idea of learning a new set of software on my own seemed potentially impossible and time-consuming,” said Atwood. “But a freelance client who I was doing graphics work for came to me and asked if I would take a shot at redesigning their website. I told them I’d never designed a website before, but I was happy to try and decided that I would take a look at XD and see if it would help make the process easier. It turns out it did, and it was awesome.”

An interactive prototype of Arkus’s new website, created in Adobe XD by Katharine Atwood.

The end result was rewarding. It turns out that her client, Arkus, a New York-based Salesforce consulting firm, asked her to join the team as a full-time employee. “It’s possible I could have pulled this feat off without XD, but nowhere near as quickly or efficiently,” said Atwood. Here’s her success story.

Pushing past your comfort zone

Last year, Atwood joined an AIGA mentorship program in her home state of Maine, with the goal of expanding her career. Her mentor encouraged her to start using Creative Cloud apps (she was previously using Creative Suite. Despite her initial hesitation over the cost and potential learning curve, she signed up for a subscription.

“I would have just stayed using CS5 forever, thinking I can’t afford to use Creative Cloud, but being involved in the community and hearing feedback from people pushed me into taking a leap to try it out,” she said.

The move led her to try XD, and she used its design and prototyping features to create a new website for her client Arkus. After all, she already had all of the graphics assets she had created for the company in her Creative Cloud Libraries, and she was amazed at how quickly and easily she could put them to work using XD’s features.

“XD is different than Photoshop or InDesign, but it’s the same intuitive interface, and if you know how to use these tools, it’s like you know how to use the tools in XD already. The lesson here is to always go after what initially scares you. I also really recommend getting involved in the community. I probably wouldn’t have got here if I hadn’t been part of that AIGA mentorship program.”

Easy collaboration with the client

Since Atwood is based in Portland, Maine and Arkus is based in New York City, she needed to share her vision for the company’s new website quickly and easily. Rather than waiting to go to New York to present her work, she used the sharing features in XD to send the client a link to the interactive prototype she created.

“I’d never send a client a Photoshop file, because people who don’t frequently work in the software tend to be overwhelmed by it. But I did feel comfortable sending an XD link because it’s more like a preview application with the functionality of being able to collaborate. They could preview and leave comments, so we could work back and forth in the same document,” she said.

Thanks to this collaborative process, Arkus decided that early prototypes of the site were looking good, and the company’s leadership wanted to meet and workshop it with Atwood in person. They also asked to interview her with the possibility of offering her a full-time job. She flew to New York City to meet with the team in person.

Presenting a fully interactive prototype

At Arkus’s offices in New York, Atwood presented a fully interactive prototype of the company’s new website. She projected her designs in XD onto a screen in front of the executives and demonstrated the site’s potential functionality, collecting feedback as they played with the prototype.

“Just being able to workshop the elements of the website we were working on, that was very important to moving the process forward. To be able to say, ‘here is the homepage, what edits do you want to have made?’ was so powerful,” she said.

After presenting and workshopping the website, Atwood interviewed for a full-time job with Arkus. Just a couple months ago, she was officially hired as the company’s marketing associate, with the website she designed and prototyped being coded and put into production. She’s still works from Maine, collaborating remotely with the team in New York.

“I’m not particularly special in what happened to me, it’s just a product of curiosity, and hard work, and not being afraid trying something new. There’s a great deal of freedom in being able to mock things up so quickly, or create graphics and feel like the output is something I’m proud of. It was a big leap to get over the fear of using a new software that I imagined would be difficult or time consuming to learn. And, I am really glad I did it,” she said.

A preview of the new website Atwood designed for Arkus in XD.

Her advice to other freelance designers who are looking to make a career transition into UX design is to push through the fear of learning new tools, like XD, and giving a different type of design work a try.

“Part of the lesson for me is to not stop learning, to keep trying new things, and be open to changing my process to include new software or new tools, or new ways of working that can ultimately take my career to the next level.”

Check out more of Katharine Atwood’s work on her website and for the latest trends and insights in UX/UI design, subscribe to our weekly experience design newsletter!

Topics: Creativity, Design

Products: Photoshop, Creative Cloud