The teachers were really accommodating and would frequently ask me if I was able to follow the class and encouraged me to speak up during seasons – which led to an interesting but obvious side effect - my Portuguese got much better!
Your academic area is Psychology, and you came from Croatia to Portugal. Why? Tell us a little about your academic and professional path and why you decided to join EDIT.’s UX&UI Design program in Lisbon.
I started my long journey to UX (and Portugal) as a volunteer Marketing Officer in the European Federation of Psychology Students (EFPA). Having some skills in illustration and graphic design (and being super excited about the idea of traveling around Europe and meeting other psychology students) I spend the next several years building the graphic elements, brand consistency and online presence of EFPSA. It was this experience of multicultural team efforts what got me interested in team performance and managing online teams with the help of management tools. One day there was an opening for doing just that in SGAC, a non-profit Organisation managing young space professionals… And I took it! This, in turn, led me to “boldly go” into the space industry, where I developed my thesis on performance of analog astronauts in isolation experiments. During my time there, I got the chance to build some small conceptual and digital internal tools, mainly to support mission communication, which was quite a rewarding experience.
It was in this moment that I found that I was particularly driven to discover and implement solutions that could improve the experience of individuals in their context. Trying to build these tools led me to research several usability-related topics, which inevitably led me to discover UX design… and the rest is history!
As for Portugal, I came here for a ERASMUS plus internship and after a few months couldn’t imagine my coffee without a pastel de nata – so I stayed for good! Jokes aside I truly enjoy Portugal and I have had a wonderful time studying in EDIT (and now working) in Lisbon, thus I see no reason to change that any time soon. Also, the incredible beaches are a pretty great benefit.
What attracts you the most in this area?
When it comes to User experience at first it seems as it’s such a rapidly changing profession and that there is no way to keep up. And in some way, it is! Which makes for a super dynamic and challenging area.
On the other hand, even though the technology, style, and interactions are ever changing, the User remains pretty much the same. It takes tens, if not hundreds, generations for the human genome to change significantly. Sure, habits and tastes can change quite quickly, and learning and desensitisation happens all the time (that’s why pop up adds loss their appeal pretty quickly), but many of the basics stay the same.
We can observe the same heuristics (like aversion to loss) in many other primates when experimenting with grapes and coins. Millennials and boomers might have a different brain structure but both will be likely to click away if your website takes more than 6 seconds to load. We will all still use Gestalt principals (like grouping by similarity) to make sense of the space around us and the digital space. To sum up, once you learn the core principals of human decision making, perception and behaviour you can apply it to almost any context.
And the context is also very broad in UX – you can work on anything from space suits to washing machines and still have many more directions to go for some new challenges.
I always said that I would be truly happy if I can help design a washing machine anyone can run successfully without having to read the instruction manual… hey, we can all dream!
Describe us a little of your experience as an international student and what were, for you, the key points of the UX&UI Design course.
As an international student I found it really helpful that a lot of the visual materials presented at the UX/UI course in EDIT were in English – this is a massive aid for us who are still trying to grapple with a foreign language (and trying to learn a new skill on top of that!). This was also helpful when it comes to working in a group, since we could use common nomenclature to share ideas even if we had different levels language proficiency. The teachers were really accommodating and would frequently ask me if I was able to follow the class and encouraged me to speak up during seasons – which led to an interesting but obvious side effect – my Portuguese got much better!
Did you enjoy participating in the 360º Digital Campaign Project? What are the advantages of a project of this nature, involving a real client and multidisciplinary teams?
I really loved the experience of the 360º Digital Campaign. Our mission was to develop an all-encompassing campaign for the Volvo XC40 and it was a great endeavour. During the course of the 360º Digital Campaign I met some great professionals from other EDIT courses (like product designers, front end developers and account managers) and I really enjoyed working with all these different profiles. The mentors were knowledgeable and helpful and provided many different perspectives during the project. It was definitely a challenge since it was a time consuming and intense experience, which is exactly what I signed up for.
In general, I would say I learned many things, but with me I carry two main “lessons learned”. The first one is about shifting requirements – and learning how to manage them. This has come in handy many times when working with a large team, more specifically it helped me to define the boundaries of how to integrate the actual need of the client with new ideas whilst still guaranteeing the agreed deadline of delivery.
The second lesson learned was about how to integrate a digital product into the brand itself – not to see it as an isolated product but as a part of a bigger picture. This allows you to keep an eye on the mission and vision of the organisation as a whole and how the product you are creating is fitting in with the other different products, services and processes of an organisation.
We have recently seen an increase in demand for professionals specialized in UX&UI Design. Do you think that companies made a good bet on this field?
People are actually pretty bad at sharing and manipulating abstract concepts without visual aid – in that sense, a UX designer does more than just increase usability for the User. We are there to provide a communication tool between the Stakeholders, Product owners, Business Annalists, Project managers and Users. Once we have a prototype, we have a real anchor for opinions and discussions. This discussion can be quickly implemented and tested, mistakes can be made and corrected and solutions take less time to test. Let’s also mention how it’s much more affordable to change a feature in a prototype, then in a product that already entered development.
In general, I think that the companies utilising usability consultants get a great value for their money, and I can clearly see that many of them are recognising the need of having a UX designer integrated in their digital production team.
What platforms or websites do you use and can recommend to anyone who wants to keep abreast of UX&UI Design trends and news?
I am not a good example of a UX/UI novelty reader (I do follow the UX Collective, Usability Geek and regularly use the UX stack exchange forums) but I would definitely recommend some books which I reach out for time and time again.
If you want a good insight into how humans perceive reality and make decisions I would recommend “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. Not everything in this book is related to usability, but I think it really builds understanding on how to approach people’s decision making process, heuristics and perception from a scientific point of view.
“Don’t make me think” by Steve Krug is as relevant as ever. Showcasing usability in a funny, straight to the point and practical manner, it is truly something every person that is trying to start a career in this field should read.
After learning about the nuts and bolts of our Users, reading “Switch” – by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, will help you understand how to get your management (and the people on your team) on board with your idea. It is a great showcase of how to change people’s perspectives and get a point across.
As an international student, do you have any advice or suggestions that you consider future students should take into account when making the decision to take courses outside their home country?
Specifically, in my case, I did a lot of research. I read a lot or reviews and forums as well as doing a cost/benefit analysis. I understand that this is almost useless advice, but find what is important for you and build your decision around it.
For me, it was really important that I will be provided with instruments and knowledge that would be practical – and make me better at being a usability consultant. I found that there were some UX certifications that would last for one (or a few) weekends and, knowing that time is needed for a skill to truly be developed, I was looking for something that would truly give me the space and time needed for that.
The orientation interview with EDIT was a really important factor in my decision, as well as the fact that the teachers were consulted on weather, in their opinion, a foreign student could manage to get the same value from the program as a native speaker. They said yes and I think they were right!