This Fall, I started Kent State University’s Master’s program in User Experience Design. Until this year, I never thought I’d enroll in graduate school at all, and I certainly never thought I’d enjoy it. Fortunately, I was wrong.
Why user experience design?
UX was not on my radar until mid-2013. While searching for online programming courses, I stumbled upon Kent’s UXD program. I was surprised that I’d never heard of it before, despite completing a related degree program in the College of Communication and Information.
My curiosity piqued, I tried to get a broad understanding of how skills in UXD would complement my visual design background. I was enamored by the idea of using data and research in the design process. I learned a lot about composition and typography in the VCD program, but found that in “the wild” it was very difficult to justify design decisions to my colleagues. There were many reasons for this—my lack of experience, a breakdown in communication, business priorities that made things like “white space” seem like art school luxuries.
I decided that UX was a natural next step for me. I wanted to develop the skills and tools to solve process problems before they even had a chance to become visual problems.
Why Kent State?
I enrolled in Kent’s UXD program not because Kent was a familiar face, or because it was local, or because I had a strong connection to my alma mater. There were several unique aspects of their program made it a clear best choice for me.
Note: Kent’s not paying me for this post. I guess you could say it’s a prototypical example of UXD’s potential: happy people write nice things about you on the internet.
The format is perfect for me
I had a wife and two kids to look after, and I had a full-time day job. If I was going to pursue another degree, it was going to have to be 100% online—I couldn’t afford to spend any of my precious family time driving back and forth to a lecture hall.
Not only does Kent offer the courses online, their format only requires students to take one course at a time. Each course is 7 weeks long—half of a semester—so they move quickly, but I’ve found that taking courses this way, I am able to focus much more intensely on the task at hand, since I don’t have to juggle deadlines and routines for 2–3 different courses.
I recognize some of my instructors from Twitter
For a while, I had a Twitter account where I followed all the UX and web development people I could find. Several of these people, I found out, were adjunct professors at Kent State.
I liked the idea of being taught by practicing UX designers and information architects. Since the technology industry develops at a notoriously rapid pace, pursuing a technology degree can be a big risk; I wasn’t interested in graduating a Master’s program only to find that I’d learned techniques and skills from five years ago.
I’ll build the top of my “T”
In the UX community, there is a lot of talk about desirable UX candidates being “T-shaped.” Kent’s program allows students to explore many of the fields related to User Experience Design, including Information Architecture, Usability, Content Strategy, and User Research. With this program as a crossbar to my “T,” I am confident that I’ll be able to build that deeper understanding of whichever area I’m best suited for.
Looking forward to learning
I am excited about completing the UXD program, and I have already started to apply the things I’m learning to my current work. If you found this post because you’re considering Kent’s program, I hope it helps you decide. Don’t hesitate to email me if you have questions about my experience.