Tell me about yourself. This is something we’re asked all the time, whether it’s during a design interview or a casual conversation with a designer. It’s one of first ways we talk about our experiences and what we’re passionate about.
For a while, I’ve been paying close attention to UX design portfolio and résumé “about me” objective statements and what they say about a designer. A good majority of them tell me nothing about the designer as a person that allows me to differentiate them from their work.
You’ve got to stand out from the crowd.
A combination of generic “about me” descriptions I’ve seen look along the lines of this:
“I am a designer who designs delightful and useful experiences”
“I am a user-centered designer who designs with empathy”
“I am a problem solver”
Notice these descriptions are laden with buzzwords that don’t give me a sense of the designer beyond the fact that they’re a designer. Instead, they are explicitly telling me they are a designer when it is obvious from their work. It’s like saying “I am an Uber driver who provides car chargers and safe driving experiences for my passengers.” We don’t think about whether an Uber driver is going to provide a safe driving experience because that’s a given.
The same goes for a designer. It’s a given that they design useful and delightful experiences without saying it in the description.
“Generic ‘about me’ descriptions can reflect laziness or show lack of experience in the field.”
If you’re a junior designer, no worries. You’re still discovering what you want to work on. This is what I have been doing as well, so I am constantly iterating my design objective statement and how it reflects the work I care about.
Here are some steps that have helped me differentiate myself as a UX designer:
Articulate interaction design
If you can explain interaction design, the core of your work, to different types of people successfully, it can help you find what you’re interested in.
Interaction design is the creation of an experience between what and how an user uses something to achieve their goals. It is about making the technicalities of technology accessible and easy to understand for people.
It took me a few years to fully understand interaction design. It was hard explaining it to people due to my lack of experience in the field. When I was able to confidently explain the nature of my work, I knew I had a better understanding of interaction design and the processes/skills that encompassed it. I worried less about how to do something and more about how I could apply my skills to solve problems I was interested in.
Often times, when we start something new, it can be hard to know what we want to focus on because we haven’t fully learned the basics. Once we understand the basics or the nature of how something works, we can start to specialize on parts of our job that allow us to develop our own point of view of the work we produce and how we talk about design.
Find problems you’re passionate about solving
What industries excite you? What do you believe in? Being specialized makes you more interesting and valuable to a cause. It allows you to develop skills which can be strategically applied to different things once you become familiar with one particular field.
“Being a master at one thing produces more impact than someone who is okay at many things.”
A designer’s point of view is what withstands the design work itself because it is ultimately your decision making that allows you to solve problems in a way that leads to the most fulfilling outcome. In order to develop a point of view, we need to understand ourselves and the kind of designer we are or who we want to become.
I have found that knowing the kind of work I’m passionate about led to a better understanding of the work I do and my design process. This awareness has allowed me to continuously iterate and work towards solving problems that fulfill me and align with my guiding principles.
Understand your strengths and weaknesses
Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you improve and help you make decisions regarding opportunities. It also contributes to understanding yourself as a designer.
When you talk about yourself, often times you’ll need to talk about your experiences and how you work in a collaborative setting. Highlighting your strengths and showing how you overcome your weaknesses reveals the characteristics behind how you work and your thought process. This is what people try to understand when you tell them about yourself.
Highlighting your strengths and how they shape your work opens room for more focused discussions and leads to more understanding of how you can apply those skills to your work.
Create a pitch structure (and iterate it)
I constantly iterate my about description because it’s one the first things people read if they see my LinkedIn or portfolio website. I want to immediately show people who I am by describing the fields I’m interested in, my experiences, the impact I made, and my strengths.
Here’s a description I wrote a year ago and my recent description:
I am a curious product designer at California College of the Arts who is knowledgeable in user-centered design and user research. Having worked as a UX researcher and UX designer respectively, instead of being confined to just one position, I believe in using both research and design along with engineering and business consecutively to understand user behavior and find the “right” problem in order to create meaningful design solutions that enhance productivity in everyday situations.
I am a curious, self-driven product designer who is passionate in emerging technologies, social good, advocating UX design across all fields of work, facilitating design education, bridging diverse communities, and being a role model for women and designers looking to grow in their careers.
Learning together is the biggest superpower we can do to drive change. My passion for helping others comes from the guidance my mentors and design community have given me. Touched by their encouragement and willingness to teach me, I strive to do the same, whether it’s writing weekly about my design experiences on Medium, teaching, speaking about design, and empowering teammates in collaborative settings as a leader with a big heart.
“Always be open to learning and growing.”
A good “about me” objective statement should provide additional value that highlights a person’s unique skills and experience, as well as letting people understand you beyond your design work. The description I wrote in the beginning was quite general, not adding too much supplemental value to my work. The description I have now is clear about my passions, why I’m passionate about the work (i.e. hobbies) I do and how it relates to my design work as a whole, and the value I’m able to contribute.
Improve and learn
Always be open to learning and growing. Designers should always have this mindset regardless of where they are in their careers. This allows us to communicate our thoughts more concisely and gain more clarity behind how we can strategically contribute in places that matter to us.
Who you are as a person and designer should be reflected in writing and throughout your portfolio.
In writing, you can being very clear about what fields you’re interested in and how they tie back to your projects. You can also supplement your about page by listing your side projects, hobbies, random facts about yourself, and pictures of your favorite food or books you’re reading.
“A person isn’t solely defined by the work they do. They are defined by their experiences and passions that reflect their point of view on life and thus the way they solve problems.”
When a designer is clear on the kind of work they do, it shows me that they have direction. They are very aware of themselves and the value they can bring. They know how to pitch themselves, which can could lead to developing an unique point of view.
Want to learn more? Check out my Skillshare course on UX research!
Tiffany Eaton is an interaction designer at Google working on messaging and communication tools for the next billion users. As a design advocate, Tiffany writes about her experiences weekly on Medium (@tiffanyeaton), mentors designers in her spare time, and collaborates with companies on social good initiatives through freelance design and writing.