A list of skills that you can use to support your UX journey.
Making a career-switch into the field of UX (User Experience) design might not require a degree…but you do have to take the time to understand the design process, learn those technical design skills, and understand how to pull your work together into a portfolio that really showcases your ability and stands out in the job search.
First: there are some really strong courses for beginners—and full career-switching bootcamps–that exist to help you make your career transition a reality in months, rather than years.
Second: UX is a human-centric field, and there’s a good chance that your most hireable skills are ones that you’ve already developed in your life and career to date.
So let’s take a look at some of these transferable skills that can help you stand out as a good UX candidate, and support your career growth within the field.
What Are Transferable Skills?
Transferable skills are skills that you may already possess, and that are a key requirement for working UX designers.
Often, these skills are also helpful as you learn more technical design skills, since they form the conceptual foundation of whythe UX design process works the way it does.
6 Valuable Transferable Skills for Aspiring UX Designers
Let’s take a look at some of the key skills that can support your UX journey, ranging from some obvious ones to skills that might surprise you.
1. Visual Design
Visual design’s purpose is to improve the aesthetic appeal. Graphic designers, illustrators, fine artists, and architects (just to name a few) often have a good grasp of aesthetics.
Aspiring designers who have a background in arts, graphic design, or even writing can bring their creative flair and eye for aesthetics to UX design. These skills help in creating visually appealing interfaces, developing innovative design solutions, and effectively communicating ideas through prototyping and wireframing.
(Many career-switcher students at Designlab begin their journey with UX Academy Foundations. After learning foundational design principles, they’re able to fully dive into UX Academy. )
2. Problem Solving
Problem solving is integral to the UX design process, since it’s essentially a process that moves both users and businesses from problem to solution.
Aspiring UX/UI designers can leverage their analytical and research skills from fields like data analysis, market research, or academic research. These skills enable them to identify user pain points, conduct user research, analyze data, and develop insights that drive informed design decisions.
How you approach problems and challenges will play an important role in your success as a UX designer.
“Companies love to understand a designer's process—how they approach a problem, develop a plan, and execute the solution,” says Designlab mentor Veronica Swords.
3. Design Software Proficiency
Have you been dabbling in Figma as part of your UX design exploration? Do you have any Photoshop or Illustrator skills from a hobby or past job?
Any experience you have with visual and UX design software can help to ease the learning curve when you transition careers—and are great to add to a resume to showcase your ability to create digital designs.
Although Figma currently stands out as one of the most commonly used software programs that UX designers use (and one that you’ll likely want to focus on mastering before anything else), there are others as well that range from prototyping to spatial design tools like Bezel.
4. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is the ability to analyze information and form a judgment on it.
This is one of the most important soft skills for UX designers, since you’ll typically have to take the sketch of an idea, polish it, and turn it into something that will truly help the end users. Critical thinking is crucial to this process.
“We try to test 'out of box' critical thinking by putting the designers in different situations by means of behavioral questions or a white boarding assignment,” says Desiglab mentor Ajay Mittal. “This helps us in identifying how a designer approaches or responds to given situations and problems.”
When we surveyed our design mentors to get their opinion on what skills are a “must” for designers, 70% of them indicated that they believe communication is the number one soft skill.
And yes, this is 100% a transferable skill that you’ve likely been developing your entire life, from leading peers or teams to presentations to pitch ideas or solutions.
Aspiring designers can draw upon their experiences in fields such as marketing, project management, or even public speaking. These skills enable them to clearly articulate design decisions, gather feedback, and work harmoniously with cross-functional teams, ultimately improving the overall quality of their designs.
As a UX designer, you're not only responsible for things like ideas, testing, and interface design, but also for working with stakeholders and developers to ensure that the designs are fully functional and accurately represent the initial project goals. And, in modern workplaces, where async and remote working has become commonplace, it’s arguably the most important soft skill in any industry.
“Skills are obviously important, but personality is always a tiny bit more important. Designing in a team requires a lot of communication and interaction between team members, therefore they simply have to get along with each other in a natural way.
“The team should be able to talk about more things than just purely work-related topics. Every team member should feel free to express their ideas without fear and take and give feedback in a positive way. Other traits that are generally great to have to foster great communication: being able to listen and being curious.” - Chris Django
One of the most crucial skills for UX designers is empathy, or the ability to understand and relate to users' needs, emotions, and experiences.
This empathetic perspective can help them craft designs that address users' pain points and deliver meaningful experiences.
Although becoming a UX designer does require a significant amount of commitment and learning, there are a wealth of transferable skills that you can draw on to make your career transition a success.
These transferable skills are a mixture of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are teachable and measurable, while soft skills are often a combination of personality traits and learned behaviors. They include things like empathy, problem solving, and the ability to maintain a collaborative atmosphere.
As you pursue a new career in the field of UX design, it’s important to lean on the strengths and skills that you’ve already developed, and leverage them in your learning journey and job search … because they just might be the differentiator that merits a job offer.