Re-entering the field after 4 years – what did I miss

3 years ago from , UX/UI Designer

Hey, I spent 6 years as a designer in Seattle working for companies of all sizes (agency, consulting, non-profit, independent and soul-less Fortune 500 company).

Then a great non-design job opportunity came up — so I quit design (mostly) and that was 4 years ago.

I'm thinking of coming back into the world of design, but I'm curious... what did I miss? What language/priorities/skill sets are companies looking for?

Where should I start to come back into the field? Can you be a UX designer without coding? Does everyone use sketch? Are photoshop and illustrator still in widespread use? Are job titles extremely specific these days, or are they general?



  • James Jun, 3 years ago

    The core tenets of product design hasn't changed much (more nuanced skillsets can be searched on their own), but the design tools have no doubt evolved significantly within that time when it comes to UI design.

    While Sketch was a fairly buggy program way back in 2014, it's become the staple design tool for the industry since then as it's grown leaps & bounds in features and stability. Design system creation & management has become significantly streamlined with support for it in Sketch (as 'Libraries'), Invision DSM & other competing apps. Design versioning has become popularized and easy to do with Abstract. Prototyping is easier than ever.

    The combination of maturing UI tools with the popularization of flat-design ("easy-to-make" interface) dethroned Photoshop & Illustrator as necessary tools. But while that is the case, they still remain in the toolkit of select designers, as Photoshop remains unparalleled in crafting more conceptualized and detailed interfaces along with Illustrator's familiar vector workflow for logos & icons.

    The big noteworthy design tools that have either emerged or grown in those 4 years include Figma, Framer Classic, Framer X, Invision Studio, & Principle. Figma is a web-powered interface tool with powerful collaborative features, available for free for individual use. Framer Classic is a code-powered prototyping (then later interface) tool that allowed for much more nuanced animations you couldn't normally achieve with other tools. It was succeeded by Framer X, a prototyping tool of the same nature powered by React. Invision Studio is a Sketch-esque interface tool that still needs some time to grow, but is worth looking out for. Principle is a pure visual-based prototyping tool that is great for quick-fast animations.

    25 points
    • Jesse Payne, 3 years ago

      Also Affinity's Adobe alternatives: Designer (Illustrator) and Photo (Photoshop) are worth checking out and available on iPad—yet to hear of any big design teams using these over Adobe's versions though.

      3 points
    • Gabriella C, 3 years ago

      Thank you! This is so helpful. Did Invision win out over axure? That was my go-to tool for prototyping...

      0 points
      • James Jun, 3 years ago

        I believe Axure still finds its uses amongst seasoned users, but the approachability of Invision (and recently Sketch) makes them the goto for rudimentary prototyping. You'd find the most if not all design tools both current and incoming will have some sort of rudimentary click-based prototyping. For anything more advanced, people tend to use Principle, Framer, Flinto, Kite Composer.

        2 points
        • A B, 3 years ago

          Yes. For hard-core wireframing, flows and lo-fi UX design, Axure still reigns.

          It is expensive for what it offers, which is why it is becoming less relevant to the majority or designers as it offers poor value for money compared to Figma, Sketch and other tools.

          0 points
  • Skyler Hughes, 3 years ago

    Hi Gabriella, I enjoyed this article by my friend Corey. It breaks down what companies are looking for in a Product Designer. Hope this helps....Cheers


    6 points
  • Antonio Carusone, 3 years ago

    Honestly, I wouldn't worry about it too much, especially about the tools. Learn Sketch, which won't take much time, pick a prototyping tool, and you're good to go.

    The biggest change in terms of skillset that a Product Designer needs to possess is business sense and strategy. Focus on developing this area.

    4 points
    • Taylor LingTaylor Ling, 3 years ago

      I agree with you - most designers are still pretty disconnected from the business side of things, and making design that might solve the visible problem but doesn't make any business sense.

      4 points
      • Antonio Carusone, 3 years ago

        Totally. The job of a Product Designer is changing. Design is becoming more and more vital to business success, and designers need to understand how their designs affect the business.

        1 point
  • Marcos Medina, 3 years ago

    Can you be a UX designer without coding?

    Absolutely. UX design—in my personal experience (pun intended)—requires no coding in order to build flows, concepts, and wireframes. You’ll be designing the paths the users can go through, therefore pen and paper is enough for the first steps of the process.

    Once you apply the UI layer to those designs, tools such as Sketch and InVision will help you create more realistic prototypes. But if you want to build something more precise with specific animations and interactions you might want to use something like Framer, and in that moment any knowledge about coding you have would come in hand.

    I have been working as an in-house Product Designer for the past 8 years. And for the most part of those I haven't used any of my coding. That being said, it won't hurt knowing how to code, it would definitely give you an edge, and it would help you understand and communicate better with Engineers.

    Are job titles extremely specific these days, or are they general?

    I spent 4 years at Asana and my title was always Designer, I did mainly product design. But that’s probably not the norm. I would say Product Designer and Communications Designer define better what either of those do.

    2 points
  • Jennifer Nguyen, 3 years ago

    I'd recommend reading these articles because they went ahead and did the research:

    1) http://uxtools.co/survey-2018 2) https://trends.uxdesign.cc/

    1 point
  • Thomas Michael SemmlerThomas Michael Semmler, 3 years ago

    What you are going to see most is that people will assume that with "designer", you automatically mean "product designer". What type of design did you do four years ago?

    But it's mostly just definitions that changed.

    1 point
    • Gabriella C, 3 years ago

      The last project I was on was involved leading a small team of designers on a VoD competitor to netflix for South American markets.

      Broadly speaking, I did a lot of high-level flows (working cross-team), wireframes, prototypes and presentation design. In the last year, I didn't do a ton of hands on product design (siphoned off to junior designers). I played a role providing direction and dealing directly with project managers, clients, dev team leads.

      I'm not sure what this kind of experience adds up to in today's design landscape.

      0 points
  • Gabriella C, 3 years ago

    I guess I'll voice something again I mentioned in response to James' statement... but I'm hearing that axure isn't a big part of the designer's prototype toolkit. Is that a fair statement?

    0 points
    • Nick Dominguez, 3 years ago

      I can't speak for the industry as a whole but most designers/companies I've talked to have moved away from Axure or have opted for other options like UXPin or Framer. I would imagine there are some larger enterprise companies who are heavily invested in this tool and still using it, but it feels like it's adoption is slowing down rather then ramping up.

      This design survey could be helpful:

      2 points
    • emily carlinemily carlin, 3 years ago

      Yeah, I think that's pretty safe to say. That being said, in the past 3 or so years I've seen folks use Axure a few times for really complex prototypes that require logic, since tools like Invision don't allow for any kind of conditional branching based on the data people enter or button they click (except in a hard-coded way).

      On the bright side, the standard prototyping tools people use today (with the exception of maybe Framer if you don't have coding experience) are extremely simple and easy to learn.

      1 point
    • Jennifer Nguyen, 3 years ago

      The last time I touched axure was 4 years ago....back in college.

      0 points
  • Tom Green, 3 years ago

    Webflow and Figma.

    0 points