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Five UX Design Jobs of the Future

January 15, 2020

A decade or two ago, if someone had said they were looking for user experience (UX) design jobs, they may have been met with blank stares. But yesterday’s graphic designers have become some of today’s most celebrated UX designers. So what will tomorrow’s UX designers become? Design has evolved from a mostly stylistic career to a field that solves complex technological and social problems. This evolution will only accelerate as a growing number of companies hire designers for increasingly intricate opportunities, from smart home features to human biology. According to Dave Miller, a recruiter at the design consultancy, Artefact, “Over the next five years, design as a profession will continue to evolve into a hybrid agency that is considered as much technical as it is creative.”1

It’s hard to imagine a world in which people stop using their desktops and smartphones completely, but the same thing was said for landline telephones. The world has changed so much in the last decade that the next generation may never even get to see a wired telephone, so it’s conceivable that radical changes could be on the horizon. Older generations are having trouble mastering touch-screen mobile devices while the younger generations are busy making robots with artificial intelligence. So, what does that mean for the future of design?

Alexa, What’s Happening Tomorrow?

Miller predicts that a new influx of designers who have been formally educated in human-centered design will move into leadership positions. These individuals have been taught to weave together research, interaction, visual and code to solve difficult 21st-century problems, and they’ll use that knowledge to push the design industry to new levels of sophistication.2

As the field and tasks of UX design become increasingly specialized, the ability to master photoshop and web design is no longer enough to get by. Becoming proficient in interaction design, user research and information architecture is what will set UX designers apart in this growing field. According to some of today’s leading designers, avatar programming, artificial organ design, augmented reality design and voice interface are leading trends that UX designers would do well to master. Here are five design careers that we predict will become vital in the coming years:

Voice user interface designer:2 Voice user interface designer: Alexa, Siri, (Okay/hey) Google, Cortana, these are all names you may call out in your home or even through your headphones. Consumers are increasingly forgoing screens and interacting with and integrating virtual assistants into their homes and lives. This trend makes voice user interface (VUI) design an incredibly valuable skill. Voice designers will need to be able to account for and work with all the versions and variations of languages. For English, U.K. and U.S. English alone will not be enough when creating a flow for voice UX. They’ll need to include several versions of one sentence, covering formal and informal lingo and slang so that the device and virtual assistant will understand the request. There are upwards of 10 ways to ask Alexa to book a flight, and the software needs to be able to pick up on keywords in every variation of the request. These keywords are action, location, or even a word like “flight.” No matter how the request is phrased, the program must understand what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and how.

Wearable technology designer:3 Wearable technology is an excellent field for designers who want to work in the space where technology, fashion and wellness converge. As with VUI, wearable technology is not an experience that centers around a device or screen; consumers’ bodies are the central player in this game. Wearables have surpassed merely functioning as a fitness tracker, and now include augmented reality, enterprise solutions and more. There are many types of wearables, each with their own UX considerations, but generally, the UX design for wearables is two-fold: the hardware and the software. Unlike a smartphone, the wearable actually goes on a human body, so the UX design of the hardware must account for fit, functionality and fashion. However, it’s the software that generally makes or breaks a wearable. Determining which operating systems the application will support, where the sensors will go on a human body, how the data will be collected and how that information will play into the overall user experience, are all key considerations. Designers would do well to remember that wearables connect the physical world to the digital world, and users will have different expectations for the experiences provided by each type of wearable.

Augmented reality designer:4 PokemonGo may have made everyone aware of this form of design, but it was far from the first app to utilize it; a Boeing researcher coined the term over 25 years ago. Games like PokemonGo use augmented reality design in gaming apps to transform the entire world into the gaming arena. Augmented reality has altered the design conventions of UX, and it will continue to do so. Previously, a well-designed app was one in which a user could pick it up and intuitively navigate menus and find the information and functions within a few moments. Augmented reality gives designers much more room to play with, and they can dramatically alter the interface, fill the space with objects, controls and data. In the long run, this will transform the way designers balance functionality and ease of use. In a three-dimensional world, you can give users much more information without making the app cumbersome. But there’s a lot more to this design form than just flashy consumer apps. For UX designers with user interface (UI) experience, industry-specific technical knowledge, project management skills or supplemental skills, augmented reality design could be an excellent niche for you to follow your vision and create something revolutionary.

Avatar programmer:1 Avatar programming follows a trend of customization that is currently prevalent in the marketplace. Customization is king, from beauty boxes to socks to your dog's monthly toy and treat box, almost everything you can order online is tailored to your needs. So why not your avatar? According to Glen Murphy, director of UX at Android and Chrome, celebrity clients are increasingly seeking help when representing themselves in virtual reality scenarios such as video games, mobile apps and movies. Think about Kim Kardashian's popular mobile app: all of those customizations were designed to fit her every specification. Avatar programming involves creating a person's optimum representation in low-poly, high-polygon variants. This will also depend on setting up a client for motion capture and text-to-speech emotive outputs. Some experience with artificial intelligence would be helpful in this position. And as these virtual representations become more mainstream, this job will become increasingly important and complicated. Capturing someone's likeness will become a powerful tool, and actors or those with public influence will want increasing control over their image, much like they do in other forms of media. UX designers will be well placed to give them this control.

Complex 3-D designer: In the coming decades, 3-D printers will likely become more affordable and easier to transport. Construction industries have already begun to utilize these tools to reinforce buildings to withstand the stresses of harsh weather.5 Those in the medical field with expertise in bio-engineering and design will be able to fit freshly created organs and artificial limbs to humans.1 Those with a deep understanding of the 3-D printing software and hardware that bio-electronics entail will work within teams to tackle multiple biological sub-systems. The prospect of artificially created human organs is right around the corner, as is the creation of affordable construction materials for remote areas with limited resources, like the surface of Mars. Who will design these organs and materials? It’s early in the process, but leading experts believe UX design will be in the thick of it sooner or later.

What Will Set You Apart?

So how can the field of UX design embrace all the coming change, and how can students prepare for the career revolution that new technology is bringing? How can you earn one of these UX design jobs of the future? The answer is learning the right transferable skills that are required to become problem solvers and design thinkers. The ability to empathize is key; students will need to understand who they're problem-solving for, as well as how and why it benefits them.

If you're ready to learn the process, methodology AND the why behind UX tools and techniques, consider how Kent State University's online Master of Science (MS) in User Experience Design (UXD) can help you gain the skills to get ahead in this rapidly evolving field.