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UX/UI Portfolio Crash Course

Advice and tips for creating your Product, UX/UI Designer portfolio and case studies

Game-changing UX skills you might not have thought of

Now that you know more about some of the fundamental skills, techniques and methods that you'll need to learn as a UX/UI/Product Designer here are some other essential things that often go overlooked but are a common part of a UX/UI Designer daily tasks and workflow.

Great pro designers do a lot to keep their skills sharp. You might think they spend all of their time in Figma, designing amazing pixel-perfect mock-ups at lightning speed, creating beautiful case studies and launching incredible products that everyone loves. While some of that may be true, you might be surprised at some of the less obvious things that seasoned designers do that got them to where they are and that you can adopt no matter what stage of your design journey you're in. So let's talk about that.

Hi everyone, I'm Elizabeth from DesignerUp, helping you become a more skillful and mindful designer. So the first surprising thing is that a pro designer Googles really well. There is no end to the amount of new concepts and methods and tools that we have to continually learn and keep up with as UX and product designers. I spend a ton of time researching, looking up terminology, following tutorials, and watching YouTube videos like these. But most of us use Google search instinctively, typing in random questions that come to mind. But using Google search strategically and utilizing things like advanced search and search shortcuts is a little trick that many of my fellow designers use to help surface the most valuable and relevant content, and this can save a lot of time and energy. I recently did a video on this and all of my favorite Google shortcuts and hacks for UX and product designers, so check that video out.

Number 2: Organize really well. There is so much great design content and articles out there, and if you're like me, you probably have 200 tabs open in your browser right now. But it can get pretty messy and overwhelming trying to make sense of it all and refer back to it when you need it. This is where project management and organization tools and software come in handy. I personally love Notion. I've done other videos on my channel about that, and here's an example over here in our Notion of product design workspace, which you can check the link in the description to purchase yourself. There is a table here called a swipe file where I can add the content and tag and categorize it so that I can refer back to it later. And one extra thing that helps me keep on track is by adding the Notion plugin for your browser. This allows you to directly capture articles, images, and other content to your Notion workspace. This is just a landing pad for random ideas and thoughts that I can collect and further organize and tag if I want to.

Number 3: Click every button and open every menu. When we are learning our way around a design app for the first time, it can take a while. We're a little bit slower, we usually don't know where everything is by heart. But as we get more familiar with the software and we use it more often, we start to look for easier and faster ways to get things done. Experienced designers know about progressive disclosure and that some of the most neat advanced features and tricks can be found by exploring and clicking into all of those tiny little icons. For example, you can change the color model system inside of your design apps to HSB if you'd like, and this is the basis for one of my most wildly popular tutorials on how to pick perfect UI color palettes and combinations using just numbers. Check out that video in the link above.

Number 4: Memorize shortcuts. Once you know your way around a little better, you can get much faster at your work by memorizing shortcuts and hotkeys to the things that you do most often. For me, a quick hotkey to bring up the rectangular tool is a lot quicker than clicking around to do it with my mouse. And you can download my checklist for Figma in the description and keep it on hand while you're committing these to memory. Get enough of them down and you can become much faster and more fluid in your design workflow.

Number 5: Creates systems. Even if you are a designer of one, having some sort of component library, UI kit, or style guide can save you so much time when you're working on different projects. Chances are you're always doing the same things over and over again - designing the same screen breakpoints for responsive design and the same grids and navigation layouts. So why not create reusable skeleton components out of these or customize a UI kit that you can fire up at the start of a new project rather than doing it all from scratch?

Number 6: Reads non-design related books. While beginner designers will usually be introduced to the foundational design books like Design of Everyday Things and Don't Make Me Think, designers who have already read those tend to find inspiration in books about other topics and fields. Books about psychology like Think Again by Adam Grant or Atomic Habits by James Clear. Design encompasses so many different aspects of human thought, behavior, and experiences, and there are rich parallels that can be drawn from just about anything if you look hard enough. I've linked to these books in the description as well.

Number 7: Steals and borrows like an artist. Yes, you may think that pro and experienced designers just start with a blank artboard, but I can assure you we all lean pretty heavily on great existing resources. We usually follow tried and true design patterns and use existing resources like icon packs, illustrations, and even UI kits, and tweaking and customizing them to the needs of our project. And you can check out my video on my favorite UI kits for Figma in the link above. We also learn a lot from existing design systems and solutions. I have a great video on how you can steal, learn, and borrow from design systems that exist and were created by some of the biggest, most design-forward thinking companies in the world. So check that video out as well.

Number 8: Has a living portfolio. No matter how long you've been a designer, we'd rather do just about anything else other than work on our portfolios. But nonetheless, it is a necessary formality to have a nice-looking, up-to-date body of work to share with others. Your portfolio doesn't have to be fancy either - a simple Notion page with your latest and most impressive relevant case studies is enough. Remember, your portfolio is just the first date. Keep it scannable, and digestible, and use progressive disclosure yourself. There is no perfect portfolio, only those that are in alignment with your history, your present state, and your future goals. You'll always be tweaking it over time, and that's just how it's meant to be. If you're interested in purchasing our Notion portfolio templates and case studies, check that link out in the description.

Number 9: Doesn't worry about having the right answers. The iterative design process is just a nice way of saying we go around in circles a lot. We make a hypothesis, we research and test to confirm whether we're wrong or right, and then we go and do it all over again. We don't focus on having the right answers, but we care more about asking the right questions and getting comfortable adjusting to the feedback that we receive. It's an endless loop that reveals deeper insights each time, and while we certainly don't get things perfect every time, we appreciate the growth and improvement that comes from learning and answering a little more each time.

Number 10: Actively Learns

Regardless if you've gotten your design degree at university or you've gone to an online bootcamp, being self-motivated to continually learn is an absolute must. One of the best ways I've found to keep learning is to just put things into practice every week, whether I feel like it or not.

I schedule in some time to put something new to the test, whether that means learning a new design tool or software feature, trying out a new design trend, or testing my memory of my shortcuts.

And finally, a little bonus for you is teaching others. Another way that I've found to become a better and more confident designer is to teach. Teaching forces me to be a better researcher, a more objective scientist, to cultivate more empathy, and to simplify and consolidate concepts and improve my presentation and communication skills.

It can be as simple as answering a question for someone on Quora, mentoring a designer that's a few steps behind you, or sharing something you've learned on LinkedIn or Dribble.

So that's it! Those are some of my top surprising things that pro and experienced designers do that you can try doing yourself. If you're interested in actively learning, sharing your knowledge, and improving your skills with others, come check out our product UI/UX Design Course and join me and hundreds of students and alumni in leveling up your design skills.