Transforming From a Graphic Designer to a UX Designer

Marielle Lee
People used to call me a difficult customer because I always look for a way to improve the functionality of a product. For the past 8 years, I have worked as a graphic designer and like most in this profession, I like to make things pretty and sexy, and always question, “does it really work?”  

A great visual design without functionality will not work
A classic example I used to tell clients when they wanted a detailed fancy logo, was “a logo can be done as sexy as you want. For example, if you have a gardening company and you want your logo design as a beautiful leaf, with lots of veins (like the design below) I’d be like, yeah, let’s do it! This would look great on the screen however when came to print, those small details could become an issue. Either it couldn’t print correctly or it will increase the cost.”
One of the design principles I use all the time is “K.I.S.S.”= Keep It Simple and Sexy.

How can I make customers smile?

I always keep the customer in mind when designing a poster or box packaging, not an ordinary one, but a pain-in-the-*** one. I figure if I can make that customer smile, I could probably make most of them smile.
I like to ask myself, “how can I communicate with my audience in the easiest way? How can I keep them engaged and  how can I make them do business with us with a smile?”


Above are my portable shampoo and conditioner containers that I carry to the gym every day. I got these silicone bottles from a Japanese shop and, they literally changed my life. This product is not only cute looking, it is also caring, thoughtful, fun to use and most importantly, it is a problem solver when it comes to the last bit of the shampoo.

How I discovered UX

I was talking to my partner’s friend about our job one day, he’s a UX designer in a big corporate company. I was so amazed and inspired with what he does, and I realised this is exactly what I have been wanting to do.
He tried to hook me up with some UX jobs, but I wasn’t confident enough to take on a solid role with only a graphic design background. Then I started to realise I have been doing some kind of UX thinking without knowing it That’s when my partner noticed my lack of confidence and surprised me with an online UX course. Yes, he’s a keeper J
Studying UX

After spending a few hours on the online UX course, it has totally changed the way I see things. I remember when I was presenting a new website concept to my old boss with the UX process I learnt and she was super impressed (in fact, she was a bit shocked).
Then I said to myself, these few hours online study has already impacted me so much, I couldn’t imagine how great I could be after finishing the whole online course (I still had 10+ hours to go). However, the hardest part of online study for me is that I get distracted easily. So, I decided to quit my job at the time and do a full time UX course in a school.
It was one of the hardest but best decisions I have made in my life. We had built up such a great culture at work, like a family, but I knew I needed to follow my passion.

(This picture was taken after our first class UX project)

UX makes me a better person

I used to make fun of my mum (just a little bit) when I had to teach her new technology (e.g. using a new app or online shopping. Sorry, mum!). Last time she was having difficulty with a website, I said to her, “this is not your fault. It’s the stupid website, not you.”
Mum looked at me with a funny face and thought I was still making fun of her but then I explained to her about what a good UX is. After that day, I have noticed my mum started using her computer more, I think somehow I have encouraged her not be scared of new technology.
UX has also taught me that when there is a problem, do not focus on solutions but the root of the problem, which is similar to one of my favourite quotes by Albert Einstein: “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
Landing on a UX job

After doing a 10 weeks intensive UX course, I am very lucky to find a job in an awesome IT consultant company, Kiandra IT. Not to mention having the opportunity to work on different projects (having my first UX work trip in Tasmania next week, woohoo) but also receiving lots of support from everyone.

(My mentor and I at Kiandra)

So what is UX?

If you ask 10 UX designers what UX is, you will probably get 10 different answers. This is the same when different people ask me, I might give different answer (e.g. I tell my mum a good UX is something that makes her life easier, and while using the product, she doesn’t have to think too much and it might make her smile).
In general, I say UX is what makes a product useful, it meets users’ need, easy to use, delightful to interact with, helping users make decision quicker and solve problems through empathy.


So what’s next?

My passion has always been making things simple and functional as I believe a delightful customer experience will always result in better business outcomes.
I am still a difficult customer but people now call me a UX designer instead. Although I have only been working in Kiandra for 3.5 months, I felt like I have already grown so much and still have a lot to learn. I never thought I would ever work in the IT industry and I am loving it. I can’t wait to see where my UX journey takes me and what impact I will be making to the world.



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