Working as a designer ✨ in a corporation ðŸ¢

I want to start this by saying that this article is based on my own experience and it is not meant to generalise. I’m sharing this to try to help the people in Iaşi looking for a job as a UX/UI Designer and to share my experiences in the field.

In the past I have interviewed people for entry level positions. I can understand the difficulty candidates have with imagining what it means and what it takes to work as a designer in a big company. I have also seen some folks that have a hard time understanding the difference between Graphic Design and UX/UI Design but that’s a story for another time. For now let’s try to focus on what it means to work as a designer in a corporation.

The Company – Values, Mission, Vision 🤔

Before we get into the actual work, I want to talk a bit about the company values, mission and vision. Most companies have these kind of guides in order to set up their goals. As a designer and as an employee you should be in agreement with those in order for you to understand your role there, your purpose and what the company is trying to achieve.

As an example if the company values innovation, as a designer it is part of your job to get out of your comfort zone and try to push boundaries. There are companies whose mission is to keep their clients happy and which value good customer support. In that case your role as a designer is to understand your client and deliver what they ask for. How you can do it properly, that’s another story.

Outsourced vs insourced projects

Judging from what I have experienced so far I believe that the designer is sometimes seen as a ‘nice to have’ but not as a ‘must have’ when it comes to creating a good application. This can be seen even more frequently in the outsourcing industry where the client holds a lot of power of decision over the way a project is made.

Mind you, the concept of a ‘UX Designer’ is quite a new thing. Going back 10 years ago, this term didn’t even exist on the job market in Iaşi.
Sure, the term ‘web designer’ was around but I wouldn’t put an equal sign between that and the term UX/UI Designer.

With that in mind, I found it hard to make people understand the importance of having a designer on their team from the very beginning of a project. And if you don’t have backup from your own colleagues, imagine how a client will react to that idea.

So what does that mean for you? Well, in that scenario, as a designer you might find yourself pretty limited in what you can create. You might have to redesign an old application but be forced to keep the same layout. You might design a pretty slick looking app only to find that the implementation would be too costly.

In other words it more or less boils down to time and money that some people might not what to invest in design. 💁

If you are really good at what you do you have a chance to change their mind but it will take time and it probably won’t be a week or two. I am talking months or years depending on the case.

On the other hand if you work in a company that builds its own products you might have an easier time getting things done the ‘right way’.

The team 🤝

When working in a corporation you will surely be working with a bunch of other people, which means that collaboration and communication are important skills to have. The better you are at them, the easier it will be to work with your colleagues.

In my experience, as a designer you will sometimes work on multiple projects with different teams which means your time is limited. You will have to be organised and transparent with your work.

It is also useful to get to know your teammates, managers and product owners because it will help you create a connection and better understand their communication style and how to work with them efficiently.

Your role as a designer is to bring into focus the user’s perspective, to make your teammates aware of issues and improvements and to be open to feedback.

I would also like to mention that every team is different. Sometimes it will be easier to connect with the other colleagues and sometimes it will be harder. If the company has healthy values that are being reinforced, it will help you be part of a strong team.

The Design Process 💡

You will probably have to be flexible and adapt to the team and the project. The priorities can change even inside the project itself. I have seen this happen, projects that went from focusing on delivering functionality to creating a better user experience. Sometimes it can also go the other way around.

In some cases you will be able to go thorough research, create wireframes, do a user journey, create a design, prototype it and test it with users. But in most cases you will skip a few steps. Most often than not you won’t have access to the end user so usability testing might not even happen.

There will be many meetings and video calls. You will probably work scrum or kanban. You will use a trello / tfs / Jira board to organise your tasks. And you will hold presentations of your work.

An important step is to separate yourself from your work. I’ve seen many new designers struggling with this. If your design doesn’t get approved, find out why and don’t assume it is because you suck as a designer. Sometimes it is because the Product Owner has other priorities, sometimes it’s because it is too time consuming to be developed and yes sometimes you might have come up with a proposal that just doesn’t work.

The bottom line is that you are not your work. In a corporation there will be many times when you have no control over the final decision.

The best thing you can do is make sure you did your best creating and explaining your design idea.

Some final thoughts 🌅

Working as a designer in a corporation is a challenge. Depending on what the mission of your company is, your job might be harder or easier to do. Don’t set up high expectations for your work before you test the waters because you might end up being disappointed. If this is your first job and you feel like you are not challenged as a designer try to learn new things. If that doesn’t work and it’s been at least 6 months maybe you should try looking for another job. Time is precious and it’s your biggest asset. Don’t waste it.

Is this kind of job for everyone? Of course not! But it’s a good, safe and comfortable place to start. You probably get the chance to meet some awesome people and make some friends along the way.

If you strive to be better you will have to be patient. You will have to be open to new ideas and challenges. You must fight for what you think is right. But most of all, don’t forget, it’s just a job! 😉