From Loose Screws to Seamless Slides: My Journey to UX/UI Design

Elaine Grobler
September 4, 2023
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I recently tried to assemble a desk. It was pretty straightforward up until the point where I had to install the drawer. After a few days, a lot of holes, and some pep talks in between I finally managed a smooth sliding drawer. Boy, do I not take drawers for granted now!

An office chair by a desk with a pulled-out drawer.

Installing the drawer reminded me of my journey to UX/UI Design. Similar to the drawer it took years, some ‘holes’, and a lot of pep talks to get me where I am today — on my way to becoming a smooth sliding drawer.

My love for people and the urge to have an impact and create something meaningful first led me to the world of theatre. It was here where I could freely dive into the human psyche, uncovering what motivates people and what makes them act in a certain way. Dramas intrigued me the most. They often portray beautifully complex humans caught in between the gray. It teaches empathy and understanding.

Education piqued my interest next. Engaging young minds and distilling complicated concepts into easily digestible chunks that would intrigue and excite. It was challenging, frustrating, invigorating, and filled with so much joy. I have grown to have an immense respect for educators. I understand why one chooses to teach — for as much as it takes, it gives back in abundance.

Management was intertwined with my education journey. Early in my education career, I was presented with the opportunity to lead through support and collaboration. I loved this space. A space where problem-solving, critical thinking, empathy, organization and so much more came into play. From it, I learned a lot about myself, others, and what it means to be a team. In many ways, it shaped who I am and how I show up for myself and others today.

“Together, we create!” graffitied onto a red brick wall.

All in all a beautiful journey albeit rocky at times (stories for another day). Even though the drawer pulled in and out, it protruded in the front, was slightly skewed, and slid in and out with much effort. I needed more. I needed a nicely fitted, smooth sliding drawer. With a mix of yearning, a lot of searching, and a beautiful friend I found UX/UI Design.

UX/UI Design somehow manages to incorporate problem-solving, creativity, and strategic thinking with a steadfast focus on placing humans at the heart of the design process. It so wonderfully captures my passion while simultaneously playing to my strengths. The smooth sliding drawer I’ve been looking for!

So far it’s been like reading your favorite book for the first time. You’re at the edge of your seat, not able to put it down, going through a range of emotions, and being, pleasantly surprised around every corner. (Clearly, I’m a newbie to the industry — still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.)

Here are some insights I’ve gained about the industry thus far:

  • Build good design habits from the start. Immerse yourself in best practices and diligently follow them. It will help to set a strong foundation for your design journey.
  • Inclusivity at the forefront. Inclusive design should serve as a guiding principle throughout every step of the process, informing decisions and shaping outcomes. In a world that tends to exclude, we can encourage and facilitate inclusion.
  • Design for people and business. Success lies in embracing the dual perspective of creating experiences that delight the people using it while aligning with the goals and objectives of the company they serve.
  • The almighty AI is here to stay. This is arguably one of the most powerful tools that we as designers will have at our disposal. It will require learning new skills, adapting, and being open to finding ways to use it to our advantage.
  • Embrace vulnerability. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and share your challenges, your fears, your victories, and what you feel proud of. At some point or another, someone has struggled with imposter syndrome. It helps to know you’re not alone.

There is much to learn on this journey ahead and for the first time, the excitement trumps the fear. That in and of itself is a telling sign that I am moving in the right direction — in no time I will have a smooth sliding drawer.

Till next time!

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