Three Tips for UX/UI Career Success

The demand for interaction and UX/UI designers is at an all-time high. Because of this, competition is thick, and the race for candidates to stand out from the crowd is tough. The way UX/UI designers work, how they learn the latest tricks and tips, and how work is delivered is constantly evolving.

Eager to hear his take on what it takes to start a career in this uber “hot” role, we asked Scott Theisen, Associate Partner, Interaction Design at VSA, what he believes are the keys to success.

  1. Know the tools of the trade.
    Get acquainted with the latest prototyping and design software. It can be both exciting and stressful, but the variety of software available to design interfaces keeps changing and you don’t want to be left behind. Older tools like Adobe® Photoshop and Adobe® Illustrator are still useful for some projects, but newer resources like Sketch, UXPin, and Adobe® XD are challenging how we design. Dive right in. Try some of them out to get a sense of their capabilities. Search Medium (my favorite) or YouTube to see demos. Agencies and companies are using all combinations of UI design tools, so making yourself familiar is no longer an option, it’s table stakes.  
  1. Always be observing.
    Like in most professions, it’s crucial to stay on top of the latest and greatest. I spend a ridiculous amount of time each week looking at sites like Spyline.de, siteInspire, SiteSee to see who’s making new interfaces. Again, UXPin and Medium, as well as InVision, are all great sources for articles on UI, UX, product design and systems thinking. Always be open to how fast the game is changing, who is doing what, and how the digital medium is affecting users. The more you can stay ahead—whether it’s emerging tools, latest trends or what’s being recognized as “great” work—the more successful your efforts will be.
  1. Adopt the right attitude.
    There are two kinds of games: There are finite ones, with rules and an end. Then there are infinite ones, where the rules are always changing and are always meant to be played. Digital, and the pursuit of better UX/UI is such a game—and if you go into it with a mindset of perpetual experimentation, questioning and improvement… You’ll win. There is always tension between, design, ux, content and dev—What can be done, how and when? If you take the long view, bring an attitude of empathy and cooperation, and you’ll get more done.

For example, mobile interfaces we have today are very different than the ones we began with 10 years ago (go to the Wayback Machine to compare sites from 2000 to their site now.) What you’ll see is a perpetually evolving landscape of code, frameworks, style, functionality, hyperlinks, drop-downs and page compositions. All changing as we learn more about humans, call to actions and our appetite for web content.


Scott Theisen is Associate Partner, Interaction Design at VSA Partners. For longer than he cares to remember, Scott has led creative teams of brand and digital designers on projects for clients such as Thomson Reuters, IBM, Google, Abbvie and Harley-Davidson. He specializes in concepting and developing new online visual experiences with the rest of the larger Interaction Discipline at VSA. Since receiving his MFA, his work has been recognized by the Chicago Emmys, The Webby Awards, Graphis, Communication Arts, AR100, the American Association of Museums, CASE, Coupe and Print magazine.

Scott will speak to a group of students at Columbia College Chicago on Wednesday, Oct. 18 about pursuing design paths in UX/UI. The forum will feature panelists with backgrounds in Graphic Design, Marketing and Game Design, who will gather to discuss career paths that have led to UX/UI careers and answer students’ questions.

Scott can be contacted at stheisen@vsapartners.com.