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Clothing by Claude Grant, photo by Morten Bengtsson (2014)

My Design Career Prior To UX

I have spent the majority of my professional life in design, primarily in the fashion industry, several years of which at a label I founded, where I not only designed hundreds of products but created project timelines, pricing and sales strategy, kept teams (and myself) adhered strict schedules, and built a brand identity.

"Only in putting these thoughts down did I realize just how much most design disciplines share in terms of task and process. No doubt this is why I feel UX/UI/Product Design is such a natural progression in my career. It offers me a chance to put all I've learned; all I love about design alongside my desire for human connection to use every day I go to work.

Similarities Across Design Disciplines

When I stop to compare my UX process to the process I used while designing a fashion collection there was a substantial amount of carry over: 

  • Researching
  • Brainstorming
  • Mood boarding
  • Sketching
  • Producing CAD's with Adobe Suite
  • Iterating
  • Protypting
  • Testing, Presentation and Shipping
  • Teamwork whether in a leadership role or otherwise
  • Just to name a few

 

I've often been asked just what it was I did as a fashion designer, therefore thought it important to roadmap my process.

FASHION

A Progression Through A 'Typical' Menswear Collection

Beginning a season or collection begins much like it does at the onset of a UX project, with a loose idea, either yours or one supplied by a stakeholder. Brainstorming occurs during the initial research phase as you gain a better understanding of your subject matter.

SeamlessSeamless

Brainstorming

Best practices and inspiration are catalogged and the most useful are added to a moodboard to give parameters to the collection. This is typically limited to about 3 days.

Sketching

Like an app of other product that begins with a key screen or function, there is often a piece or look from a collection considered the inspiration for the rest; and is often among the first sketches that meet approval. Although this is one of the mose glofified parts of the process, the sketching period is time boxed to about 5 days, out of a 6 MONTH PERIOD.

Refine & Design

Once ideation produces an array of sketches the best are dwindled down by MoSCoW method resulting in the MVP. No matter how much we may like some, resources are always finite so inevitably some have to be shelved for another collection, or killed off altogether.

The sketches or 'looks' that make the cut are then rendered in CAD form prior to producing spec drawings in order for them to be handed off to the pattern makers and sewers. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are the go-to tools for this process, and my experience with these led to proficiency with Sketch in a matter of days.

Spec Sheet for Custom Fabric Development

Working Closely With Development

A designer would be short sighted to hand of a design in the hands of pattern makers and sewers, therefore despite shifting focus to other tasks I work side by side with cutters and sewers in order to answer questions and make necessary changes that arise during the process of translating concept to prototype. 

Early Testing

Once the prototype samples are at a wearable stage they are tested on a model to make sure the design meets expectations. 

At this time if any pieces need to be cut from the collection, substitutes or replacements can be added as I was there to catch any weak points in design brought to light by production at the earliest possible moment.

 

Making Final Edits

Once all prototypes are completed they are compiled for a final edit and anything not considered vital is cut. I look at a collection more as a single product therefore if all pieces do not contribute to a singular message it gets pruned.

Promotional Media

After final edits to the collection the next stage is preparing for presentation, which means working with photography and video that will be used for marketing and sales. When working on collections under my own name I had the task of selecting all talent myself as well as producing digital and print media. 

Video and photography is then used in email and print marketing materials. I've always enjoyed the process of choosing typefaces and constructing layouts. I must admit however that choices were occasionally made for their beauty as opposed to their usability; the primary goals were to inspire and be unique.

MediaMedia

Presentation

The initial presentation of final product is to stakeholders, walking them through each piece, its key features and how it fits into the overall collection.

However the presentation that calls for the sweat and tears is the fashion show. This is a frenetic undertaking that takes weeks to prepare, requires dozens of collaborators to complete and lasts for no more than 15 minutes. My task during this however is simple: to make sure the clothing looks picture perfect.

Myself and design team mate prior to show time, Thom Browne SS'13 Collection

LightingLighting

Fittings Prior to Production

Once sales have been made based on prototype samples the final step prior to production is to have things fitted a final time. During this process all pieces are painstakingly reviewed in order to ensure proportions, stitches, etc. are optimal prior to putting into production. The sooner errors are found the cheaper and less time consuming it is to make changes.

This is not the final test however; regularl reviews are conducted to make sure all products are being delivered in correct condition. Failing to do so would be detrimental to a label's credibility, a key Heuristic.

The Takeaway

Of course steps of the creation process were omitted as they were not directly relevant to the process, but hopefully the takeaway is clear.

Only in putting these thoughts down did I realize just how much these two design disciplines share in terms of task and process. No doubt this is why I feel that UX/UI/Product Design is such a natural progression in my career. It offers me a chance to put all I've learned, all I love about design alongside my desire for human connection to use every day I go to work.