The Ultimate Guide for Preparing a Transition in UX Design as an Industrial Designer

If you’ve been following our series on transitioning from ID to UX, you’ve already read about what makes a good UX designer and the various career pathways available to IDers interested in UX design. Now, you may be wondering how to prepare for this transition. In this article, we answer some common questions and provide tangible resources to help IDers break into the UX design field. We offer advice and resources to help navigate the transition from ID to UX and land your first UX Design job.

Part 1: Gain a Better Understanding of the UX Design Field

UX Design was born out of the necessity of addressing the interaction design people have with digital interfaces. While it requires certain technical skills for someone to work as a UX Designer, it shares similar problem-solving processes with Industrial Design.

What skills do I need to qualify for a UX Designer job?

UX Designer skills vary across companies and depend on the problems they aim to solve, but here are some foundational skills that can help set up success when dealing with different design challenges. You might even recognize some skills you already possess as an Industrial Designer, in which case, you can easily adapt them into the UX Design field.

Information architecture (IA): Organizing and structuring digital information for effective use and navigation

Journey mapping: Visually representing a user’s experience across different touchpoints

Workshop facilitation: Guiding discussions and activities to generate ideas, better understand user values and business goals, align on project scope and more depending on the stage of the project

Wireframing: Creating a low-fidelity visual representation of a digital concept

User testing: Gathering feedback and data qualitatively or quantitatively from users to improve the user experience

Prototyping: Creating a functional user flow or interaction pattern to communicate the affordances and user behaviors in a tangible way

What are different types of UX Designers in this field?

Understanding the differences between UX Design roles can help you evaluate whether you are qualified for a particular UX Design position and whether the job would allow you to grow in the areas that you find the most interesting and fulfilling.

Product Designer: This is the type of designer who does it all, and it’s a common role for in-house companies. A Product Designer is responsible for the end-to-end design of a digital product, including information architecture, user flows, interaction design, visual design, and prototyping and more

UX Designer/Interaction Designer: A UX Designer/Interaction Designer is more common for creative agencies and/or companies that have specialized design. A UX Designer/Interaction Designer is usually the one who focuses on designing and improving the Information Architecture, interactions and flows of a digital product through wireframes, and works with a Visual Designer who will bring the design to life through brand colors, visual assets and/motion design

Differences between the responsibilities of a Product Designer vs. a UX Designer

What does a typical day look like for a UX Designer?

While this may not come as a surprise, the majority of a UX Designer’s day is not spent creating design artifacts! Depending on the state of the project and the role design plays in an organization, the answer to this question may vary. Here are some of the tasks you can expect to take on as a UX designer beyond design execution:

Project scoping + planning: Since UX Design follows a more iterative process, there’s more flexibility in releasing design and updates incrementally. To do this well, you want to work with your Product Manager to establish project scope, design goals and business metrics, as well as timeline for each product release. And revisit this conversation after each product release.

Close cross-functional collaboration: A UX Designer works with people from many other disciplines, especially with engineers and data analysts. Collaborating and communicating closely with your engineers can help you better understand the technical constraints and requirements of your design, and working closely with the data analysts can help you stress test your design across all possible use cases.

Design critique and reviews: Most of the time, a UX Designer’s work is only one part of a larger ecosystem and can impact other designers’ work directly or indirectly. Showing your design and participating in regular design critique can help increase visibility across the design team and ensure each of your designs works cohesively as a system.

Part 2: Start Establishing Your Skills and Network

Now that you have a good overview of the lay of the land, you’ll want to start developing the skills you need to qualify for a UX Design position. It can seem intimidating to start, but there are many great (and free!) resources that can help you get ready to become a UX Designer. Below are two commonly asked questions when it comes to skill building and networking.

Are bootcamps worth it?

While bootcamps seem to be a common path most people take to get a jumpstart of their UX Design career, it’s not a necessary one and its value could vary for people with different individual circumstances and goals.

If you’re someone fresh out of an ID program who has minimal to no prior work experience, a bootcamp can be a great option—it provides you with a structured learning program and hands-on experience in a relatively short amount of time. Most bootcamps cover the fundamentals of UX Design, such as user research, wireframing, prototyping, and user testing. One caveat about bootcamps, however, is that they don’t teach you how design operates within a business setting.

But if you already have experience working in ID—and bonus points if you have collaborated with UX Designers on projects—a bootcamp might not be the best use of your time and money. You may benefit more from reviewing relevant online resources and/or seeking UX Design opportunities within your organization if applicable.

The amount of bootcamps available is overwhelming. It’s important to research the quality and reputation of the bootcamp you choose by reading reviews from former students and industry professionals.

How can I network and find a mentor in the world of UX Design?

Building a professional support network can be really helpful when you’re in transition between jobs, industries and fields. Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram are great places to start if you are looking for inspiration and connecting with your favorite designers and thought leaders.

If you’re looking for more 1:1 mentoring sessions, is a free online platform that connects UX designers, researchers, and product managers with experienced mentors from top companies in the tech and design industry. I know from experience how helpful ADPlist can be—the mentors I found there helped me refine my portfolio and practice a few mock interviews, which ultimately helped me land my latest job.

While networking, keep in mind that no one owes you a job. Two tips that have helped me build my network are:

Approach these conversations with no aim on getting a job opportunity, and ask genuine questions to show that you’re truly interested in what this person does at their company.

Read the room and decide whether you should follow up with this person to express your interest in working at their company. And it’s okay if it doesn’t work out this time—you can always follow up with them in the future once you feel the timing is right.

Part 3: Identify the Right Opportunities For You

With layoffs happening across multiple industries, it’s hard to predict which industry has the most stability. Though the job market is incredibly competitive and challenging, there are still opportunities that can help you build your skills and experience. And when the economy bounces back, you will have better leverage to land on a role that’s a better fit should you decide so.

What should I be looking for when searching for a UX Design job?

Here are a few pieces advice based off of my personal career transition and development:

Evaluate opportunities according to your skill level:

Keep in mind if you’re applying for a junior designer role, you may not find their ideal UX design job right away or work for a company that you’ve never heard of. But that’s okay! Instead, you should focus on skill development and improving efficiency. An internship, though feels like a downgrade, might still be a valuable way to build some experience.

As a senior or lead designer, technical skills can be acquired quickly. Focus instead on finding an industry where you can create tangible impact for the business and pursue your passion. Freelancing could also be a great option and can help open up your pool of opportunities.

A supportive environment + willingness to invest:

Transitioning from Industrial Design to UX Design may seem daunting, but a supportive environment that invests in growth can provide room for mistakes and improvement. During interviews, ask about the design team, company culture, feedback processes, and the manager’s coaching and mentoring style to gauge the company’s support for the transition.

People > work:

Projects might not last, but people do. Building a network through work is a lifelong investment, and having a great mentor or manager is just as valuable as working in an interesting problem space.

What type of companies do I want to join?

As someone who has experienced all the company types listed below, I can attest that no job is perfect. But in each scenario, you get to learn about different ways of working and slowly get to know which works best for you. Understanding the differences between these company types is especially helpful for junior designers:

Established entities vs. startup

Working at established companies like Google or IBM has its benefits, such as structured design systems and balanced work pace. However, it may come with less ownership over designs, top-down decision-making, and more competition for career advancement.

Working at a startup offers the advantages of creating an impact quickly, working closely with senior stakeholders, and building a portfolio with many case studies in a short time. However, the fast-paced and rapidly changing environment may lack process, require balancing between MVP and the product’s north star vision, and involve creating scalable design assets while maintaining the existing system.

Pros and cons between working for established entities vs. startups

Agency vs. in-house

The choice between working at an agency or in-house has its pros and cons, and depends on personal preferences and career goals. Some designers and design leaders switch between the two environments throughout their careers, and there is no right or wrong path for either.

Agency: If you’re transitioning into UX for the first time, you might want to consider agency first to build the skills and experience. As a UX Designer at an agency, you’ll get to work on a wide range of projects for different clients, juggling multiple tasks in a fast-paced, collaborative environment. However, you may have less control over the projects you work on, and sometimes your work might not see the light of day due to client priorities.

In-house: If you want to become a generalist in design and an expert in a certain industry (healthcare, commerce, AI, etc.), working at an in-house UX or Product Designer is right for you. You work for a single company, focusing on their products or services, giving you a deeper understanding of their users and goals. You can have a significant impact on the user experience and work closely with cross-functional teams. However, you may miss opportunities to collaborate with designers outside of the company, limiting exposure to diverse design approaches and perspectives.

Part 4: Preparing for a UX Design job interview

After learning the necessary skills to become a UX Designer and finding exciting job opportunities, preparing for a UX Design job interview is the next step. Although the interview process varies by company, it’s possible to prepare materials that can be used for most parts of the interview process. It’s important to be over-prepared and tailor the materials to each company being interviewed.

How to prepare my portfolio?

A functional and mobile-friendly website is crucial

While there is no expectation to code your own website, remember those with deep knowledge in the UX space, especially the hiring managers, will be reviewing your portfolio. Make sure the interaction basics are covered when it comes to site functionality.

Include 2-3 detailed but digestible case studies that are digital-focused

One major difference between the process of ID and UX Design is the iterative nature digital design brings, and the interviewers are looking for evidence and stories about how the candidates create and iterate their design based on the consumer insights (quantitative data), user feedback (qualitative data), technical constraints, roadmap, business metrics, stakeholder feedback, and more. More importantly, show how your design decisions made an impact on the user experience and business performance if applicable.

What does the interview process look like for a UX Design job interview and how to prepare for them?

The interview process for a UX Design job typically involves multiple rounds of evaluation to assess the candidate’s skills, experience, and fit for the role. Every UX Design job interview is different, but the typical interview occurs in four stages, beginning with a Portfolio Review.

Portfolio review

A portfolio review is where the interviewers assess how well you approach design problems. Unlike the case studies in your portfolio which are more high level summary of your work, you’re expected to dive deep into your process during your portfolio review.

Here are some helpful resources I referenced while preparing for my portfolio review:

My EXACT Portfolio Presentation that Got Me Hired at Google, Facebook & Amazon by Tony Aube

Presenting portfolio projects in a design interview by Femke van Schoonhoven

Whiteboard challenge

The interview process may also include a whiteboard challenge, where the candidate is presented with a design problem and asked to sketch out a solution on a whiteboard.

Here are a few resources I used to help me prepare for my whiteboard challenge:

5 steps to master whiteboard design challenge by Zhenshuo Fang

Solving Product Design Exercises: Questions & Answers by Artiom Dashinsky

App critique

An app critique may also be included to evaluate the candidate’s attention to detail and design thinking. It’s usually interchangeable with the whiteboard challenge.

To learn more about how to prepare for an app critique, here’s a Youtube video I referenced:

How to ACE your design app critique in interviews by Christine Chun

Behavioral questions

Additionally, the interviewers may ask behavioral questions to gauge the candidate’s ability to work under pressure, collaborate effectively and handle challenging situations. The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) framework is a valuable tool for answering behavioral questions in a UX Design job interview.

Nielsen Norman Group has a great article on “How to Answer UX Job Interview Questions“.


If you have made it this far, great! But if you are short on time but want to leave with something valuable and actionable from this article, here are 3 main takeaways:

1. When you are early in your career and transitioning from ID to UX Design, focus on skill building first. Then you can be more picky about the industry/company you want to work in.

2. Job searching is temporary, but networking is a long-term investment. Having a great mentor or manager is just as valuable as working in an interesting problem space. Go for the people, not just the jobs.

3. A lot of your ID skills are transferable to UX Design. It’s a matter of framing your past experiences in ID in an actionable way while admitting your areas of growth during this transition.

Career transition is hard, but the move from Industrial Design to UX Design is actually fairly approachable. Technical skills is the easiest barrier to overcome, and even for seasoned UX Designers, they are still learning new skills every once in a while given the advancement of the softwares. Many of the soft skills take time to learn and master, and the most important thing is to get your foot in the door.

I hope for any Industrial Designers looking to land a job in UX Design, you will find this article helpful and feel more motivated to take your first step in this transition through these actionable insights. I’m rooting for you!

For people who work in UX, especially transitioned out of ID, feel free to add anything else you’ve found helpful for your transition in the comments below.

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