I began my journey towards a career in user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design by thinking I wanted to become a lawyer. My grade-10-self knew that law was the career I wanted to pursue; I was dead set on heading into law.
At the end of grade 10 when I went to sign-up for my junior year courses, my guidance counsellor, Mrs Hawthorne, told me that the law class was full. She then recommended that I come to her office on the first day of grade 11, to see if by then any spots had opened up in the law class; but, it was no use. I couldn’t switch to the class, it was still full.
Mrs Hawthorne suggested I sign-up for the photography course. “It’s a fun course; I’m sure you’ll enjoy it,” she said.
At the time, I considered the art students snobs and weirdos. I neither self-identified as an artist, nor could stand being around the art kids, because of the perception I had of them. Reluctantly, I agreed to be enrolled in the photography course thinking it would be a bird course. For the most part, it was.
Little did I know that course would be life-changing for me. Throughout the course, I found myself wanting to go above and beyond assignment expectations because I thrived off of challenging myself creatively. One of our first assignments was to find all the letters of the alphabet in everyday objects and to capture them in a creative way. After completing the assignment I felt that I would not be satisfied if I just submitted the photos in an envelope without figuring out a creative way to present them.
I ended up creating a whole project out of a simple assignment by incorporating my photos into a picnic-themed alphabet set, designed for children in preschool.
At the end of the course, I found myself signing up for as many art courses as I could, in addition to signing up for classes in my local community center.
That one photography course, in which I unwillingly ended up in, got me onto a path that led me to apply for a Communications program at the University of Toronto (U of T); at the time of my application I was completely unaware of the school’s prestigious status. In fact, that was not at all why I applied to U of T.
In my senior year, I was unsure of what I wanted to study in university. I just knew that I wanted a career that would allow me to grow creatively. I browsed the websites of local universities in the Greater Toronto Area looking for programs that would interest me.
I was having a hard time navigating most of the local universities’ websites except for U of T’s website. The interface was easy to navigate, the layout of each page was simple and it wasn’t overwhelming unlike the other local universities’ websites.
In that moment I thought to myself, “If all the other universities did not take the time to create a website that was easy to navigate, then how can I expect them to invest in my creative education?”.
Little did I know that my review of the websites was the start of a UX and UI analysis. I ended up applying to U of T simply because their website was user-friendly.
At the end of my freshman year, the university announced that it was launching a joint program between the Communications department — where I was already enrolled — and U of T’s School of Information. The new program would be known as Interactive Digital Media (IDM). Luckily I had all the first-year prerequisites needed to apply and I was accepted into the program.
It was in the IDM program that I learned about and discovered my passion for UX design, UI design, and design thinking.
Though the degree was far from easy I am grateful that I was open (albeit reluctant!) to trying something different.
My experience with finding my passion taught me a valuable lesson. You know you have found your passion when the thought (and act) of putting in a lot of work, instead of stressing you out, makes you feel alive.
This is how creating UX designs, conducting UX research, and talking about anything design-related makes me feel.
I’m grateful for not giving into societal and communal pressure to become a lawyer, doctor, engineer or anything else just to impress people. I know what I enjoy and love doing, there is no greater joy in life than allowing yourself to do just that.