UX Design — A Shortcut To Make Your College Application Stand Out

If you were offered the choice between a Louis Vuitton bag and a plastic grocery bag, which would you pick? The designer one, most likely. And that comes down to the fact that the designer is more desirable and recognizable. All due to a simple design that tells a story of wealth and style, wanted by many people. However, the concept of design isn’t only good for fashion or luxury brands. The concept of design, particularly UX design, can prove very useful in your success. Donji Yamada, head designer at a tech startup and UX Design educator, spoke to Harmony Plus about how to use design to your advantage in school, career, and more.

What is UX Design and why is it important?

Yamada first breaks down design. He says that design is the art of communicating to others what should be created. Designers will use different ways to communicate including websites, pitch decks, and stories. He focuses on UX (the UX stands for user experience) design which emphasizes and supports the user’s behavior through usability, usefulness, and desirability provided in the interaction with a product. User experience design encompasses traditional human-computer interaction design and extends it by addressing all aspects of a product through the user’s perceptions. Apple is a perfect example of this — UX design is at its forefront with its user-friendly devices and operating systems that get the job done but also give them an unbeatable edge over its competitors.

And while UX design is typically seen in the tech world, it’s storytelling aspect fits right in with crafting successful school applications.

UX Design and college

College applications are essentially a story about who you are. From grades to extracurriculars, you’re telling recruiters (your audience) just who you are and what you’ve done. Yamada mentions that portfolios are one way to tell your story and make you stand out from the crowd. You can use a portfolio to showcase accomplishments, projects you worked on, awards you’ve won — in short, the story of you. But you’re not just saying, “I did this.” Rather, you’re selling yourself by designing a great story for a specific user about who you are. In a portfolio, it’s critical to craft a good story about why what you created is important. Tie it in with a skillfully written college essay and it creates a cohesive package for the recruiter. Plus, it gives you an advantage over other students who may have not gone the extra length.

One way to tell your story is through passion projects. Yamada says that passion projects are extremely important to have when applying to colleges.

When there are thousands of students with perfect GPAs and SAT scores, colleges want someone with passion, too. Checking all the boxes isn’t enough anymore.

A passion project tells a story of how you were passionate enough about a topic to do research, talk to users, find a problem, and create a potential solution to that issue. And with a story that strong, you can frame your entire college application around that. You would tell the story in your essay, then follow it up with your portfolio that showcases your design. Talk about an impressive story that not many students are telling. Passion projects are also great ways to build out an impressive activities section and get exclusive letters of recommendation from experts in that field. All in all, passion projects will make your Ivy League/top tier college application stand out from the others — all with the help from your incredible design.

UX Design and careers

Design also plays a very important part in STEM and other important career fields. For example, engineers must showcase their work, and design is crucial to doing a good job at this. Plus, engineers who know design generally are given more control over the product. In a field like psychology, knowing how people think can help a designer understand the user better and build a more successful product. Design research is one of the most important parts of design and has a lot of overlap with the same methodologies psychologists use. Many designers, like Yamada, have backgrounds in psychology because of this.

In a business field, design can help you create real looking prototypes to demonstrate the idea clearly to raise money (and secure funding). Design is also crucial for creating pitch decks that look impressive. Marketing students study design to be able to create their campaign assets like social media posts, logos, landing pages, and other public-facing assets. As you may know, creating a great product is one of the most important aspects of any business. This requires a deep understanding of the user. One of the main parts of the design is identifying a problem to solve that is a pain point for users, just as you would in UX design. With a background in and knowledge of design, you’ll be ready to rise to the top of any career.

Why learn UX Design NOW?

Learning UX design early on is more important than you may think, Yamada states. While you could major in it in college, the sooner you learn UX design, the more successful you will be. An understanding of design can help in the creation of your portfolio, either for college or work. It’s important to showcase your work well and once it’s set up, you can add to it continuously and tweak as needed. This way, you’ll always have something impressive to show to any recruiter. Telling your story is something you’ll always need to be able to do, from school to jobs. And the better you can communicate (design) something, the more successful you’ll be.

Overall, UX design tips the balance in your favor. Knowing design will always give you the advantage over competitors in the same way that designer brands have an advantage over their generic counterparts. With all other things being equal, design is one way you can stand out from the crowd and be noticed. Also, design is becoming increasingly important as COVID continues. Without face-to-face contact, it is much harder to convey an idea or story. But with design, you will always be able to tell the best story possible of who you are and as a result, be outstanding.

If you want to learn how to up your design skills and make your college application stand out, feel free to check out our UX Design class! Spots fill up fast!

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