Demand for UX and UI Designers is not just limited to Silicon Valley – companies all over the world are realizing the importance of solid UX Design. Cities like Barcelona, known for its architectural design, are becoming digital design hubs. Sofía Dalponte teaches UX/UI design at Ironhack bootcamp in Barcelona and has seen the demand for UX/UI Designers increase over the last 18 months. And as Ironhack’s Outcomes Manager, Joana Cahner makes sure Ironhack students are supported in finding the right career path after graduating. They tell us why the design market is hot in Spain right now, what sort of background and skills UX/UI Designers need, and tips for finding a UX/UI Design job!
|The UX/UI Job Market in Spain|
|Ideal Background and Skills for a UX/UI Designer|
|How to Find a UX/UI Job|
|Learning UX/UI Design at Ironhack|
Describe your background and current role with Ironhack.
I'm an industrial designer and I specialized in exhibition design and museum studies. I was working in museums designing cultural experiences, exhibitions, and installations. I worked with the education department to design workshops for kids and adults to help them enjoy the experiences in the museum, and I designed experiences for festival sponsors using augmented reality and virtual reality. After many years, I realized this career wasn’t financially stable.
I joined Ironhack as a student in 2016 in the first design cohort in Madrid. Six weeks after starting my course, I earned a UX/UI Design Lead position here at Ironhack Barcelona. So I started out first as a lead instructor, then shifted to the education team as a Curriculum Associate to help shape our curriculum, and the goals of the course.
What does the job market currently look like for designers?
Every year, more jobs are created in the design sector. As local companies have grown and are using more digital products, Barcelona has become a design center. Many jobs require design skills, at both large companies and startups. Most startups are using mobile apps and need website design experience.
For designers, there’s much more opportunity now than four or five years ago. We’re seeing more open roles in the design industry than we have candidates. Still, the demand for software developers is much higher. But the importance of the designer’s role is similar to the developer.
How has the design ecosystem and market changed over time?
Barcelona is a hot tech hub in Europe right now, and in the future, it will be as important as London and Paris. In just 18 months of teaching our UX/UI design course, we've seen the ecosystem become more mature and more specific job listings as the industry develops. In the past, we only saw job listings for “UX/UI Designer,” or “Web Designer.” Now, we’re seeing new, specific listings for “UX Researcher” or “Interaction Designer.”
What skills do you need to be a great designer?
The essentials for UX/UI design include:
- Design thinking
- Agile methodology
- Research, testing, and mapping techniques
- Interaction design
- Information architecture
Soft skills are also very important. At Ironhack we focus a lot on public speaking skills because we believe that every designer has to be a good communicator. Throughout the course, we do a lot of presentations, and students can attend workshops to practice even more. Another skill we emphasize is how to give and be open to constructive feedback. We have students in our Design and Developer tracks practice communication.
As a designer, knowing the basics of code is important. Coding and design are two different professions and require different skills. But at the same time, if you're designing for technology, it only makes sense that you understand how that technology works. We teach an intense week of front end development during the UX/UI design course.
Is it an advantage for designers to have an artistic background or is that a misconception?
It really depends on the job that you want within UX and UI. There are so many possibilities in this field, so every company and every product needs a different kind of team with different specialties. We've seen students from business marketing backgrounds or the social sciences become very good UX researchers for social scientists or psychologists. Architects also make very good information architects because they are very analytical and thorough. They’re used to navigating a complex plan, but now they’re working on a digital product. We believe there are possibilities for students from any background.
For example, one student was already a full-stack developer and came to Ironhack to enhance her visual skills – now she’s able to design and brand the products she creates.
Should students specialize in one skill to become a good designer when they're first starting out in the field?
In Spain, there are two kinds of professionals – specialists and generalists – and there's room for both. Some specialists are hired to execute motion, animation, or perform UX research. A UX/UI generalist can become a designer or very good product owner or project manager – it really depends on the product and the company.
In today’s market, we’re seeing students get hired and then have the opportunity to continue learning on the job. If they’re hired into a large enough company, then their lead UX/UI designer or Art Director will continue to train them, and then they can discover what is truly interesting to them, and what they want to specialize in.
What are employers looking for in a new designer from a UX/UI bootcamp?
In Spain, there’s been a shift over the last few years – many agencies on the consultancy side are changing from Adobe suite to Sketch, and using new digital product design tools. Employers usually require proficiency in Sketch and want some front end development skills. Companies also want designers who can work on mixed teams with agile methodologies. Ironhack students are trained on these design-thinking methodologies, and they learn how to decide which tools to use, and to be critical about the process itself. Ironhack students know how to plan a design process with tests and iterations.
What are your best job search tips for design bootcamp graduates?
It may sound cheesy, but be yourself. Because job postings for designers can be vague, expect a lot of people to apply. If you are really passionate about a job, then show that passion in the interview and be honest.
Also, because design is always changing, today’s best practices and standards may change in two years – it's a very dynamic industry, so you must keep learning and building. Here are some tips:
- Participate in hackathons
- Build side projects and keep your portfolio updated
- Document your work
- Write about and share your design experience with the community
What does a designer job interview look like? Tell us about some questions to expect!
Here in Spain, our students are prepared mainly for Junior Designer positions. The interview process is generally two or three interviews, including a challenge. It’s not typically a whiteboard challenge, but you’ll usually get a design challenge to complete in about three days. That challenge could be to build something from your portfolio, to map out information from a database, or to create a usability report or visual design to make some type of information more useful.
Give us an overview of Ironhack’s UX/UI design course.
We offer a full-time and a part-time bootcamp in UX/UI design, both taught in English. Our most popular option is the full-time, 9-week course because it gives students a full career transformation to UX/UI design in a short amount of time. We model the curriculum on industry standards and feedback from students. We always try to use tools and technologies that are in demand, as well as best practices in the field.
Our teaching principle at Ironhack is learning by doing. The course is very hands-on, so students learn by building projects. We cover:
- Design thinking and agile methodology
- Research and mapping techniques
- Comprehension of interaction design or information architecture
- Visual/UI design and design systems
Students learn to use a number of technologies that they are likely to come across in a job:
- Principle and Flinto as animation tools
- HTML, CSS
Students develop three full-stack (UX and UI) projects while in the bootcamp: an e-commerce app, a fitness health app, and a final project of the students’ choice, which aims to demonstrate everything they’ve learned. Learning via projects means students can develop their portfolios while doing the course and have three projects to show to potential employers to demonstrate their technical skills.
We teach students to document everything. In a real job, designs created by our graduates will be developed by someone else, so we want to facilitate that communication between designers and developers. We put in a lot of effort to teach our student designers about that handoff.
Towards the end of the program, students receive career services support from Ironhack to officially help you adopt this new profile of a UX/UI designer.
What are some of the companies that have been hiring from Ironhack’s design course?
At the end of every bootcamp, we organize a Hiring Fair just for our students. What we have seen so far is that FinTech is an area which is really growing right now in Barcelona. Last year, a lot of Ironhack grads were hired at fintech companies like GFT, which is a big German company. Startups with mobile products, services, or e-commerce are also hiring Ironhack graduates. Then we have companies like Telefonica that are not necessarily tech companies but are now going digital and forming new UX/UI departments. Barcelona also has a number of retail companies like Mango and Inditex, who are hiring UX/UI designers as service designers. There's a wide variety of companies.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to get the most out of their experience at a design bootcamp?
If you have the money, you know you want to do this career shift, and you are able to devote three months to the experience – a design bootcamp is an experience you won't regret. It’s a very special, immersive experience. You will focus on pure UX/UI design for about 3 months and have a huge opportunity to meet people from the industry. Ironhack tries to optimize the environment for learning through inspiration and sharing with different kinds of people.
We pay attention to every student and their objectives to make sure the experience is valuable for everybody. Just start exploring.
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