I’m a user interface designer
When asked what that means, I just tell people I make computer stuff easy to use.
What I really do is try to make applications useful while being as simple as possible. That requires understanding the problems the product is trying to solve, as well as the needs of the intended users.
But doesn’t everyone do that? Well, no. In my experience, they don’t. Everyone has an opinion about UI. But merely having an opinion does not make one a designer.
I have a knack for finding order out of chaos. Gallup’s StrengthsFinder agrees, saying one my core strengths “enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective [that] allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity.” For sure, it helps me translate unclear and incomplete requirements into solid designs and specs.
I have broad experience. I’ve worked at large companies, but I am also a startup veteran. I have designed products on various platforms, and in various domains (e.g. networking, healthcare, and e-commerce).
I write code. My first professional job (not counting internships) was writing applications in C/C++. I have worked on Mac, Windows, and Web applications, and at all levels of the client/server stack, down to the database. While I don’t think this is necessary for a designer, I have found the technical foundation useful even when my role does not call for it.
I have an M.S. in engineering psychology. That’s nice, but how I got there is the more interesting story. There were no degrees in UX back then (“user experience” as a term had not yet been coined).
After 2 years in computer science, I had enough education to realize I had no interest in 2 more years of math. My search for a major led me through architecture, industrial design, and ultimately to cognitive psychology — the kind of subjects you would encounter in a focused degree today. But I discovered that path on my own. It seems I belong in this profession!
I have an open mind
I am confident when I say I am a seasoned designer. Like everyone else, I have opinions, but I also listen. When asked about my “process”, I keep it simple: 1) Requirements, 2) Design, 3) Review, 4) Repeat. Different projects have different needs; different companies have different cultures and methodologies. I prefer to be flexible and pragmatic, not dogmatic. At the end of the day, what matters is what’s best for the product.