Mike is a Northeastern University professor who teaches evening interactive design classes and guides students in their senior thesis projects. Recently, a student asked Mike some questions about UX/UI design, so we decided to share them there.

What personality traits work well for people in UX/UI?

Mike: I think someone analytical, good at working with teams and taking direction. UX/UI professionals should be able to look at data to determine the best solution, but also be open to changing your approach to come up with ways to test a solution. While creativity is a plus, designers must be able to separate their personal creative likes from what the client actually needs.

What does the future look like for UX/UI?

Mike: The future of UI/UX as a career path is solid. It’s not going away. EVERYTHING is getting a screen and they’ll all need UX/UI. Plus, interface design is evolving past screens and into AR/VR spacial design, and voice control. Simple design solutions may get automated, but as complex tools and AI evolves, I think you’ll always need someone there to steer and correct. Also, truly well thought out custom solutions will need people at the helm.

Where do you find design inspiration?

Mike: Be aware. Look at all design and be curious and critical — from the keypad on your microwave to the apps and websites you use. I had a friend in college who could identify typography everywhere he went. He was passionate about recognizing good design and really enjoyed it. Have a way to store good ideas to revisit later either when you need them, or when you’re just bored. I keep all my notes in Evernote. I save inspirational imagery in Instagram. I have a great bookmarking tool in my web browser.

How do I start a career in UX/UI?

Mike: You need a website with a portfolio of your work. Your site doesn’t have to be anything fancy or custom-designed. Something clean and simple is fine, whether it’s custom-built in WordPress or just using a template from Wix or Squarespace. Ideally, you want around 8-10 pieces, but if you only have 3-4 really good pieces, then leave the rest out. It’s better to have fewer, and better, pieces. Treat your portfolio as you would any design challenge — Ask yourself who is looking at this portfolio, and what do they want to see included? The reviewer will be focused on their needs, not yours.
Internships and real world experiences are not just resume boosters, they are opportunities to enrich your portfolio. When I started out, I reached out to companies that I really liked, and offered to do work for free, or sometimes in-trade. (I have a lot of movie posters from that poster shop!) Only do free work for companies you like and respect. In the end, you’ll have another portfolio piece, and a reference!
Most importantly, this career requires team players who can take direction and collaborate with other designers, developers, managers, and clients on the project. Employers will hire people they find likable and interesting. They also need someone who appears to be eager and able to learn. Show your enthusiasm, stay positive, and talk about your process. You want to make the employer feel like the company would be at a loss if they didn’t hire you!