Getting Started in Design with Gerry Scullion

Rohan Walsh 'Making and breaking into UX & Service Design'

John Carter
February 7, 2023
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Rohan Walsh 'Making and breaking into UX & Service Design'

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We shine a light on that transitionary period between education and employment and try and understand what that experience is like for people trying to break into the industry. In my opinion it is every Designers responsibility to be that person we wished we could have met when we were looking for our first break.I caught up Rohan Walsh, a UX designer from Port Macquarie inAustralia but now based in the Lebanon. We speak about Rohan’s journey to get where he is currently - including internships atAustralia Post amongst others. Rohan is an awesome designer, filled with so much potential and quality in all areas of his life

Episode Transcript

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Rohan===[00:00:00] It was hectic, but honestly like one of the most amazing experiences, we were interns officially, but we were on paper and in actual fact treated as full fledged members of the team, which were newly formed from other business units within Australia Post. And that was really cool just to put it into action.[00:00:30] Hello, welcome to Getting Started in Design, and this is a cd. My name is Jerry Scullion and I'm a designer educator, and the host of this is CD based in the wonderful city of Dublin. The getting started in design podcasts are created for people looking to break into. We shine a light on that transitionary period between education and employment and try and understand what that experience is like for people trying to break into our industry.[00:00:55] In my opinion, is every designer's responsibility to be that [00:01:00] person we wished we could have met when we were looking for our first break. Now I caught up with Rowan Walsh, a UX designer from Port Macquarie in Australia, but now based in the. We speak about Rowan's journey to get where he is currently, including internships at Australia Post amongst others.[00:01:16] Rowan is a truly awesome designer and person filled with so much potential and quality in all areas of his life, and I know you're just gonna love listening to his story. Let's get straight into it. Rowan, a very warm welcome to getting started in design. How are you doing? Thanks for having me. Uh, yeah, going well.[00:01:33] Thanks . I'm doing moderately. Okay. ? Moderately. Okay. These days I'm looking forward to Christmas. Um, but we've been catching up. You know, I put a post out there on LinkedIn, um, a couple of weeks ago looking for graduates of design. Um, trying to explore what their experience is like getting into the field of design.[00:01:55] And you were straight out of the blocks. I had only hit send, uh, um, [00:02:00] milliseconds. Later you had responded with, uh, Omni. It was, it was a couple of days later you said you'd like to be, and I was like, absolutely. So maybe for our listeners, Rowan, um, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you studied and where you studied and where you're coming from.[00:02:18] Yeah, for sure. So I, um, I started off initially within, um, product design out at, um, Swinburn in Melbourne, um, before moving over to industrial design, uh, at R M I T, um, which was really good fun. I mean, what kind of drew me to it was seeing how design could be a reflection of a society at any given time.[00:02:37] And in turn there's the vice versa relationship. Um, started off, uh, at R M I T, went in exchange to India. Got to see some, um, really cool wow. Uh, designs over there, which was super fun. Learned how to sew, um, which made, um, you know, mom and dad proud. Um, super fun. And then, Came back and realized I needed [00:03:00] to, you know, develop some, uh, visual communication skills.[00:03:03] And, um, yeah, did a diploma in graphic design at R M I T as kind of a, a midway sabbatical before, um, diving back into industrial design and finishing. Um, In the midst of that, I was also working within graph design and, um, service design as well, doing some kinda design research roles. Um, and now I'm, um, based over in Lebanon where I've been for about four months now and working as a, um, UX UI designer and freelancing and web design as well, which is, uh, good fun.[00:03:33] Fantastic. Let's take a step back. Um, people will be like trying to sort of understand your accent a little bit. Um, you grew up in New South Wales, um, is that right? In Northern New South Wales? That's right. Yep. As well. Yep. Oh, what were. Port Macquarie, uh, a great town for anyone who's looking to visit, um, Australia, port Macquarie must be on that list as well, especially if you're doing a [00:04:00] travel from Sydney up to Byron or any of those kinda things that's always worth the stop off.[00:04:04] Um, but tell us a little bit about what you were like in school. Um, You know, you mentioned there, you studied industrial design first. Um, what were the strengths that you had and how did you find industrial design when you were doing your, um, hse? Is it HSE is the believing Yeah. Yep. You are correct. Um, it's a really good question because I didn't actually look at, um, design at all.[00:04:31] I think it's well coming from like a, a regional Australian town like art, design, music. Yeah. All those kind of more creative fields. They're not, um, Outrightly disdain, but there's nothing really kind of taking you there. Um, it's either you go into sciences Yeah. Or kinda humanities. Um, so in, uh, year 12, I was, um, weighing up between psychology, um, or engineering, and.[00:04:58] Design is somewhat in the middle of [00:05:00] that. Like I always like to figure out how things worked and inspect objects and pull them apart. Um, and also just understand how people work and, um, what motivates them. So design for me is kind smack bang in the middle there. Um, it wasn't until, you know, a few years after Universe, after, sorry, high school, that I, um, started looking into design as a, as a pathway.[00:05:22] Oh, okay. So there was, there was a gap there between school and university a couple of years. Yeah. I actually went into it first, funnily enough. Um, right. And, uh, I remember in the first lecture, um, in the orientation, you know, the, the head of the program was saying, half of you won't be here, uh, next semester.[00:05:42] And I was thinking, ha ha, ha. Um, I know what I'm doing. I didn't. Um, and yeah, it took a little bit of time. Didn't to get to industrial design? No. Didn't, I did finish the first year and then decided to change my tune. Yeah. Cause I'm really interested in [00:06:00] that whole kind of segue between, um, high school as I'd say probably globally and university.[00:06:07] How do people find that bridge into design school? Um, typically what seems to happen. The students feel like they're the most artistic in their, in their year or the, the best performing drawers or illustrators, and they're automatically treated like, okay, they, they're the creative ones. They're, they're set up to go to design school or something, a little bit more kind of creative.[00:06:32] Um, um, that's not necessarily the case in this instance, which is, which is good. You find your, you found your way into industrial design. Um, It might have been taking you a couple of years, but it sounds like you, you got into the, the course that you were most happy with cuz you completed that one, didn't you?[00:06:47] Yeah, yeah, for sure. Definitely. It's, um, it wasn't something that was kind of traditionally that I'd be focused. I wasn't really. Uh, I started off in product design at Twin Burn, um mm-hmm. , [00:07:00] because I, I saw some really good, it's definitely, um, a little bit of a stereotype. You know, you start to see like, um, IDEO or like Apple or those kind of like huge product design studios, um mm-hmm.[00:07:16] or just design studios and you think I wanna work for them. Um, and then over time I started to kind of break down that notion after. Maybe, uh, just looking inward it a little bit and thinking about why I wanted to go into design and what good, uh, being a, a designer from a developing country, a developed country, going to a developing, um, and after, yeah, going to Nepal and India, I started to kind of question that route and go into more digital research kinda side of things.[00:07:48] Cause I was gonna ask you. How did that change? Because it sounds like, you know, from speaking to you in the prelude here, there was a shift that happened somewhere between years two and [00:08:00] four in your, um, industrial design career. Talk to us a little bit more about how you managed to find yourself in India, um, during the industrial design, um, degree.[00:08:11] Um, what did you see? And also, What led you to change? Like what was the, the next step? Because there seems to be an awful lot of growth happening in the first five or six years of your, of your career. Personal growth, I mean, yeah, for sure. Um, it was the start of 2018. I went to, um, to Nepal, um, on a, uh, on a study tool, um, to.[00:08:36] Learn about human centered design. And that tour, it was, um, really quite amazing. Met some really, really, um, amazing designers and engineers and people who were working locally in Nepal. Um, but it really. Led me to kind of look back on my own experiences in Australia and the, the local problems that we have there.[00:08:58] And I changed my tune a bit, [00:09:00] um, wanting to look more deeply into the problems that I understood rather than going to a whole new, uh, country or place and trying to create change. We can often be a little bit problematic. Um, and in India, I. It was a really, really great time just seeing, um, the really rich, um, crafts, um, and techstar design scene.[00:09:25] Um, and it just made me, hmm, gonna think about that a little bit. Because it's really, I find it really fascinating, and I haven't had enough experience in this field where I'm, I'm Western educated. All my experience has been created from working in Western cultures and then to go into a developing world.[00:09:49] You almost see design through a different lens. Um, and how in the Western world, it's all about creating and, you know, generating new ideas and new [00:10:00] things. Whereas in the developing world, it's really, um, About fixing and really about understanding its place. And it seems to be a lot more considered, I think so I think that, um, if you are, if you're studying design or if you're a pro practitioner in the West, um, especially within universities, it's a very safe kind of ecosystem where.[00:10:22] I feel like there is almost a little bit of like a, a narrative of you are a designer, you work in isolation, you can solve the world and its problems. And that's typically kind of manufactured through a product design. Um, Narrative, I guess. Um, and then you go over to, um, anywhere in the east and you start to see how these, like mass manufactured, so-called solutions, um, don't work or, uh, adversely affecting, um, people and [00:11:00] their communities and there's.[00:11:03] Yeah, exactly. And there's this one concept which isn't, um, of course unique to, to India, but um, ard, which is like an ad hoc design. So you start to, um, see how people take these kind of products that are, uh, mass manufactured at scale, um, believing that they solve a problem. And then you see how people on the ground are actually adapting them to.[00:11:27] Uh, work better for them. And that was something I really, really enjoyed because you have both the top down and the bottom up working together, and it's more of a kinda a communal, um, effort to, to make design work for them. So, I'm really enjoying, um, the, the narrative here on, on where you're at in your career at this piece.[00:11:49] Cuz like I had a similar trajectory when I, when I finished university, I kind of repositioned myself and I was like, actually I don't know if I wanna be part of the industrial design cult. [00:12:00] At that time I felt, felt like it was trying to crack into a cult and I remember. people have probably heard this story before anyway, in the podcast where my very first project was working for a camera company and I was like so excited.[00:12:12] I was like, I was gonna design digital cameras. No, no, no, no, no, no. I was designing a blister pack for AA batteries and um, I was like, how many of these are gonna get made in like a million? And I'm like, I'm building something and designing something that I'm spending in months on a blister pack to hold four AA batteries that's gonna end up in the ground.[00:12:30] And I remember saying to myself, Hmm, I don't think that's right. As a 23 year old, I was like, I don't think this feels like the industry for me. Sounds like you were on a similar path, um, where you, you were questioning your things and I guess when you come back to Australia, You've kind of been somewhat enlightened to, uh, human-centered design design generally.[00:12:53] What did that look like in terms of getting a job? Um, because I'm really keen to understand, [00:13:00] um, how you, how you managed to find that fit and find the work that you found interesting. Based on this new kind of enlightened state. Yeah, for sure. Was it, that's a good question. What happened once they came back?[00:13:15] Um, okay, so when I was in India, I was at, um, what, I was 23 at the time, and I was in the only government funded design university in India, uh, the National Institute of Design. And. This isn't to talk myself up whatsoever. It was more kind of the um, yeah. Huge gap that existed because. Over there, there is, um, what, there were 100 places and 50,000 people sit the, uh, the test to actually get admission into n I d.[00:13:55] Wow. So they're all hugely advanced in their technical skills. [00:14:00] They know how to draw, they know how to render beautifully. Um, it is really, really quite amazing to see, um, the skills that they have. And that was something that coming back to Australia, I, I really felt like I didn't, I knew how to think.[00:14:17] University helped me develop that, but I didn't know how to use any kind of, um, of the kind of industry tools. So mostly looking at like the Adobe suite, which is what I use for the most part now. Um, and yeah, I started to want to actually learn how to create a, a visually, Appealing and intuitive, um, piece of information.[00:14:43] Um, and so I came back and just dived into a yearlong course there, um, at R M I T out in, um, in Brunswick, in the, in the north of Melbourne. And that was really good because it was a good way for me to. Build from the ground up. Like I [00:15:00] think honestly within design, it's, it's so often the case that you might have a, like what you think is a great idea, but you don't have the skills to actually bring it to life.[00:15:12] Um mm-hmm. . And that was one of kind of the, the initial barriers I had with coming from a non-design background, um, within high school and then getting into design within a university context. And same for, yeah, just coming back and realizing I was, wasn't really loving industrial design or didn't wanna become a product designer, so I thought I might just, mm-hmm.[00:15:32] change my tune a little bit and go more into the graphic and, um, information design space. Um, Okay. So when you came back from India, you were going back into university, is that right? That's right, yeah. So I had another, um, two years of my degree, um, to finish off. Okay. But looking at your portfolio and your LinkedIn profile as well, it shows that [00:16:00] you've been busy throughout.[00:16:01] Okay. Um, you, you've been quite entrepreneurial. You've been taking on work and you've been working on side projects that were congruent. To your studies as well. How did you manage all of that? Yeah, well, it kind of kicked off when I got back for the most part. I, I had a few attempts at, you know, trying to find internships in the first, like second, uh, first and second year of uni.[00:16:24] Um, but. Just for a a, I mean for really with the circumstance, it just didn't end up, um, eventuation into anything. Um, so I came back and after having that, um, diploma and graphic design under my belt, I, um, was able to just go out there and, you know, go to like Melbourne Knowledge Week, go to Melbourne Design Week.[00:16:45] I was really just trying. Soak up as much information as possible. And it was at, um, one of those events, I, I met someone who needed a graphic designer and, um, I actually ended up taking a contract, um, with them for just under [00:17:00] about two months, um, putting together some nice infographics, um, and, uh, a pitch deck, um, which was really, really great.[00:17:10] Put it all into action. Um, that's what I think was really lacking, um, in my own university experience, um, was that link to industry. Um, while it is often well intended, it might not go, um, according to plan, and that's as it goes. Yeah. Um, but I really just wanted to get out there and put the skills to the test.[00:17:31] I think that's one of the, the best things that that graduates can do if they're, if they're working throughout, even if it's just mixers, as they're called it in Ireland, where little bits of work here and there, little, little pockets of opportunity to apply the learnings. In a business scenario, when it comes to doing your portfolio at the very end, it shows that your hungry and it shows that you're eager to learn and it's not just looking to be handed to you on a plate.[00:17:58] I think in [00:18:00] design we we're not, um, in the space where if you, if you study marketing, you'll get a marketing junior's job. Or if you study accounting, you'll go in and do an intake As, as an junior accountant in design, it's still a little bit and you have to forge your own look and that's. That's, it's echoing what, what I did as well.[00:18:20] So I think, um, I'm keen to understand a little bit more around the interview process. When you landed your, your first job, I think post, um, industrial design, was that with uh, street or was that with, um, the post on Australia Post that would, so Street and Australia posts were while I was still studying.[00:18:42] Um, wow. Okay. They. Summer jobs, I guess. So street being, yeah. Yeah. About um, what, four, six weeks and then Australia Post being, um, three months. And that was, uh, while I was juggling full-time study as well for the, um, for the last part of it. [00:19:00] Um, wow. Final four weeks. That's impressive. Rolling. That's impressive stuff.[00:19:04] It was hectic. Um, but honestly, like one of the, the most amazing experiences being able to, um, we were, uh, we were interns officially, but we were, um, on paper and um, in actual fact like treated as full-fledged members of the team, um, which were newly formed from other business units within Australia Post.[00:19:26] Um, and that was really cool just to Great. Um, Yeah, just put it into action. But, um, first design role after that was, um, actually now that I'm here in, um, in Lebanon, which was, uh, working as a, um, UX UI designer for an agency, um, here, um, just outside of Beirut. Um, so yeah, I guess the, um, The challenges of that was first coming to a complete, obviously like I am very well, uh, attuned to the design scene and [00:20:00] design kind of language, um, within Australia, but coming to another country, I mean, it is definitely a both a, a.[00:20:08] Pro and a con. Um, yeah, but you do kind of have to adapt as well to, um, how design is communicated. Um, not even just how products are visualized, but how you actually talk about design. Like if I said that I was a service designer, um, and often go to the, the example of, um, wayfinding in a hospital or in a airport or a supermarket or shopping center rather.[00:20:37] That didn't really have the same kind of pull. Um, so I went back to, you know, the really just like a painfully common one, which is just like, you know, going for like food delivery services. You talk through the various points that you go through and, um, how the food actually gets to your doorsteps and how uh, how many hands it has to go through the [00:21:00] orchestration.[00:21:00] So yeah, I guess, um, for me it was actually. It was quite a short, um, process. Um, in getting this role. I had, um, one interview with the, um, the head of design here, and we just kind of talked about my past experiences and got to know each other a little bit on a personal, but also, um, as designers with how we kind of worked in, um, how he might be a potential fit.[00:21:27] Um, and from that, yeah, uh, went away with a. Like a design challenge, I guess. Um, which was a task to be completed in, um, I think it was about three days. Um, so that was actually creating a, can you wanna tell us what the challenge was? Uh, yeah, it was creating a, um, can you remember? A, a app design, um, for a fitness app, um, to the likes of kind of du lingo where you can earn points and it's all kind of gamified.[00:21:57] Um, so that was really cool. [00:22:00] Yeah. So what did you use for. What did that look like in terms of, did I use, I used Adobe xd actually. When you say, what did that look like? I had to make all the, um, the, uh, the elements and kind of adjust from previous projects and also, um, then make it, um, Make it work. So add all the functionalities and the, um, the links between the individual screens.[00:22:26] Um, so it was a pretty big few days. Um, and then after that I had a, um, an interview with the, um, the ceo. Um, and that was more just kind of finalizing and, and talking about the, um, the contract and the offer and pay and all those. Key bits. Um, yes. Instead I've Exactly. Always a, um, can I ask you bit a tricky, I'm not gonna ask you about mm-hmm.[00:22:51] I'm not gonna ask you about the details of, of your contract, but what tends to be one of the most problematic areas for anyone who's [00:23:00] coming outta university is learning the language of how to negotiate, how was that experience? Um, and knowing what. Was reasonable to ask for. Can you remember going back to that time, what that looked like?[00:23:14] How, how did you, how did you know that you weren't being duped? Um, because I know when I arrived into Australia second time, um, and my first gig, I was like, I don't know, this is, this is 2006. I was like, I don't know if this is a good. Or a bad deal. I'm like, I think they look like good people. I think I'm gonna sign this contract.[00:23:38] Yes. I'm gonna sign it. The pen is on the paper. I've signed it. I've signed it. Yeah, signed it. I've got a job. So, um, it was a little bit like that. I wasn't really prepared. Um, and as it turns out it was an okay deal. What was that experience like for you? Yeah, I guess for me too, um, you know, coming here to a different country, it wasn't really the exact [00:24:00] role that I had my heart set on, um mm-hmm.[00:24:02] in terms of the task that I'd be doing, but it was still gonna be something where I could be, um, learning and making impact and getting to know, um, the local design scene. So, yeah. Um, for me, what that kind of looked like, So was that in terms of like the actual negotiation and figuring out all that? Yeah, I mean all that stuff, you know, was there a negotiation or was it just a, an accepted thing?[00:24:27] Like, you've got a job, you've got an offer. I think I'll just take it like, you know, you know. Was there anyone helping you during that process of how to negotiate? Um, how did you handle the whole thing? Did we have to benchmark against other things like, Trying to figure out that side of things was a little bit complex.[00:24:45] Um, luckily enough I have my, um, my partner, um, who has worked here and, um, comes from a business background himself. Um, so that was really quite good [00:25:00] to have, um, that local kind of experience to, to help kind of lead me into the. Yeah, into like the negotiations and talk about what would be a reasonable offer.[00:25:12] Also, like knowing some designers here who have worked for varying companies, they, um, they told me what the kind of range was to expect. Um, so I did go in with, um, a range of what I was after. Um, and they met me about midway for that. Um, and. I personally felt it was a little bit of like what I offered was the lower end of things because I know the situation here, um mm-hmm.[00:25:42] where, you know, people are 70, 80% of the pe of the population is living in poverty. I was really just trying to meet my, like living costs, which is Yeah. Which is quite minor. Um, yeah, so I did mention that I wanted, um, I would like a, uh, [00:26:00] Reevaluation, um, in a few months time to see, you know, if I'm performing well, if that can be, um, to raise everyone down the line if there's room.[00:26:08] Yeah. Um, and thankfully they did meet me there, which was, um, quite good, so That sounds fair. Currently it's on a, um, yeah, it's on a three month basis and then we'll, um, reevaluate from there. So I'm gonna be happy with how it's gone. I mean, that's cool. We'll roll on. Thanks for, for first of Welcom coming on on the podcast.[00:26:28] I know it's kind of a little bit intrusive in terms of like me asking you all these questions, what it was like and you know, your, you know, for our listeners to this specific podcast, getting started in design. I'm told that it is fantastically useful for other people who are going through that journey as well and trying to understand what they need to be aware of.[00:26:51] Um, and especially the fact that I can put a link to you as well that they can reach out and ask questions. I'll put a link to your portfolio, um, in the [00:27:00] show notes for this episode. Maybe. Is it okay if we put a link to your LinkedIn as well if people wanna reach out and maybe ask you questions over there as well?[00:27:06] Mm-hmm. , I know people are gonna have loads of questions. Absolutely. Well look, Ron, thanks for, for giving me your time and energy today and for getting up so early. It's five 30 in the Lebanon folks. It's probably closer to six 30 now, um, for you over there. But is there anything else you wanna add before, before we wrap up the episode, Ron?[00:27:25] Hmm. That's the toughest question. I think. Um, , I think the biggest thing for me has been, um, finding a community. Um, Especially if you're still within university, like finding people who are talking your language. Especially if you're studying like quite a broad degree, it can be a little bit hard to find people who are talking about the same kind of design you are.[00:27:52] Um, That's hugely helpful, um, because I know how big like imposter syndrome can be [00:28:00] as a, an emerging designer. So actually having your, your friends there who can, um, pat you on the back and reassure you that, no, this is like a good decision. I can see why you've done this, um, and give you some constructive criticism in a really.[00:28:15] Safe and kind of friendly manner. Um, yeah, that's the biggest thing that I think has helped me get to where I am, where I am today and where continue to go. It sounds like that, that's great advice. Um, but I think that's one of the biggest challenges for, um, emerging talent to find their place, their new home, where they understand and they share that language of what design can be to make sure that you're on the right track for the future.[00:28:44] Um, if you go into a business that they don't really get the same level of design as you, it's kind of very hard and you're gonna feel very frustrated for a long time. And it sounds like you've navigated that world accident. Excellently. There's another word for you folks. I don't know if it's, um, but you know, [00:29:00] absolutely kudos to you.[00:29:01] Um, keep us posted on how you're getting on. If you ever wanna come back onto getting started in design and share anything else, row and you're more than welcome to come back. I, I've really enjoyed speaking with you. Likewise. Thanks for having on Jerry. So there you have it. That's all for this episode. If you like this episode, feel free to visit.[00:29:17] This is where you can access our back catalog of over a hundred episodes with episodes related to service design, product management, design, research, and much, much more. If you're interested in design and innovation training, feel free to check out our business. This is where you can join online classrooms and learn from the world's best design and innovation.[00:29:37] Join that. This is CD newsletter where you'd receive updates from the network. And also, if you're interested, apply to join the Slack community. And this is Stay safe and until next time, take care.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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