User experience org fuses tech, design, interactivity

UX Club Courtesy Norm Cox of experience design firm Cox&Hall spoke to the UX Club on April 23. He worked with Xerox to develop early user interfaces.

Behind every electronic screen, there’s a team of designers, architects and engineers perfecting a seamless experience for consumers. Students have taken notice and are working to gain traction in the field of user experience. 

The User Experience Club, or UX Club, became an official organization in February and is working to connect emerging media and communication students, among other majors, to industry professionals in a growing field. 

Stephanie Brisendine, EMAC senior and vice president of the UX Club, said user experience is anything under the huge umbrella of design involving the interaction between humans and technology. 

The organization is not entirely composed of EMAC majors, as it’s attracted computer science and neuroscience majors for the field’s focus on human interactivity with technology. 

“For instance, you walk into a restaurant and they have huge screens that display the menu and they’re interactive,” Brisendine said. “Everything from the atmosphere of the restaurant to the little motion a button makes is user experience. The ultimate goal is to make user experience so seamless that people don’t notice it.”

Something as simple as the color of a button on a website can have major implications for a company, and designers trained in UX are aware of that, she said. 

The club is the combined effort of several EMAC students, including Brisendine, and clinical assistant professor Cassini Nazir. 

UX Club Courtesy
UX Club Courtesy

“We joke that (Nazir’s) kind of like an octopus and he has his tentacles in everything because he really spreads himself over many areas,” Brisendine said. 

His connections with the local UX community have helped the club bring in industry professionals for guest lectures. 

 “One thing that we as students wanted to start was something outside of school that could give students a direct link to industry,” Brisendine said. “We’ve had a few big shot industry members come and speak to us as guest speakers, and we also connected with the Dallas user experience group on MeetUp.”

So far, the UX Club has hosted Brian Sullivan, principal for tech company Sabre; Jeremy Johnson, director of user experience for projekt202; and Norm Cox of experience design company Cox&Hall.  

Cox was the visual and interface designer for the Xerox “Star” project which was “the world’s first graphical user interface,” according to the Cox&Hall website. 

During his guest lecture on April 23, Cox spoke to the UX Club about the challenge of being a UX professional who often has a wide variety of computer, design and other skills. 

“Our clients have no idea what we do, so if you can do any one of these, they’re going to expect you to do all,” Cox said. “My encouragement to (students) is to learn everything you can about this discipline about creating experiences either in an environment or on computers. “

EMAC senior Angie Luu agrees with Cox. UX doesn’t have a large presence in the EMAC program, and there aren’t many forces directing students toward that career path, Luu said. 

“As a user experience professional, you have to be more of a generalist and understand a lot of different disciplines, and that’s what you get out of EMAC,” she said.

Luu, who is also secretary for the UX Club, interns at the digital market agency MEplusYOU, and she’s used the club’s resources and connections to her advantage to meet people in the Dallas UX group and in the broader UX community. 

Apart from meeting industry professionals, the UX Club also organizes workshops and studio days where members can get input on class projects and advice from other members.

Members often share interview tips because UX-related interviews can be very different from other fields, Brisendine said. 

“There’s no class right now that teaches us what we’d be doing in the industry day-to-day,” Brisendine said. “Because our major is so versatile, new and ever-changing, it’s hard to define what it is, and so, (UX) is another resource for students to have.”

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