I asked Seb to take a moment to step back and reflect upon his time with us so far. Here, he shares his thoughts on what he’s been up to, how he’s approaching his work, and how the journey began.

Words from Seb:

Getting started

Although already a leading agency in the field of UX for a number of years, I first heard of Clearleft whilst attending UX Brighton’s “Supercharge Your UX Career” workshop at the Fabrica Gallery.

Originally coming from a background in industrial and 3D design I had made the transition into Digital a few years earlier and had been working under the broad title of “digital designer”. Coming from a solid grounding in human centred design I had always had a user focused approach to my digital work but now with a drive to work on larger, more meaningful projects, I was driven by the desire to refine my skill set and develop a deeper understanding of the field of UX.

This led me to the UX career workshop where I was fortunate to meet Clearleft’s Creative Director, James Bates. James was incredibly approachable and helpful, inviting me to their Middle Street studio to discuss furthering my UX career and after nine months and several meetings later I took the decision to put my freelance projects on hold and join Clearleft’s team as a UX Intern.

In order to ensure that I would get the most out of my time with Clearleft I started my internship by asking myself the following three questions:

Why am I doing this internship?

  • To understand the dynamics and inner workings of a leading UX agency.

  • To gain additional experience in the field with a view to work on larger meaningful projects whilst learning from industry experts.

  • To deepen and expand my knowledge and understanding of UX strategy with real life examples and applications.

  • To gauge my own skills whilst demonstrating my work ethic and value as a team member.

What are my initial concerns?

  • At 33 years old am I too old to be an intern and how will the position be viewed on my CV?

  • After working as a solo-freelance designer for the last few years how will my existing skills set match up to my peers?

  • How can I add value to the team with a view to make meaningful contributions to projects?

What will be my approach to get the most out of my time at Clearleft?

  • Adopt an inquisitive and passionate mindset for new projects.

  • Be driven and self motivated in my approach to work and tasks.

  • Listen, learn and grow from other's experiences (be a sponge to knowledge).

  • Have a positive and upbeat approach to challenges and learn from mistakes.

Furthermore, at the end of each day I decided to record the following observations:

What did I learn today?

What did I find challenging?

What will I try to improve tomorrow?

First impressions

What struck me most about Clearleft was that everybody is open and approachable. There is a collaborative attitude within and outside of client projects that permeates the day to day activities from the internal design workshops, to the pow-wows and UX laundro-mats where team members discuss and share their weekly obstacles and challenges.

Clearleft’s open approach to sharing knowledge and fostering design learnings seems to bring employees together around a common passion and creates a camaraderie within the company.

Getting stuck in

During my first couple of weeks at Clearleft I have taken part in a wide range of projects in areas from design research and usability testing to strategy sessions. These have enabled me to gain invaluable insights into the internal dynamics and daily operations of a progressive design agency.

Without going into vast detail, here are a few observations and learnings that I have recorded from my time here so far…

  • UX is a mindset and not a process. There is not a rigid structure that guides approaches to projects, instead it is important to be fluid, approach each project with an inquisitive mindset and draw upon the tools relevant for the project at hand.

  • Strategic UX is not always about solving the problem that the client thinks they have. Sometimes meaningful UX is about digging deeper and exploring beneath the surface of the initial problem. Through understanding the user’s needs and the wider context of the clients business goals it can be possible to reframe problems with a view to deliver meaningful work with impact beyond initial expectations.

  • Go with the flow. Going from a full-time freelance designer to an internship position can be a difficult adjustment as you may not initially have much ownership, involvement or expectations placed upon you for the projects on which you work. People can be in the midst of projects or working to a deadline and it’s difficult to involve someone who is new to the project. On these occasions it is important to go with the flow, keep in mind the educational value of the position and to be prepared to help out in whatever capacity is available (it also helps to have a side project to work on). 

  • Watch out for seagulls!! (You might be unlucky/lucky enough to have one drop something nasty on your head outside the studio.)

In summary, I see Clearleft as a vibrant and evolving design ecosystem that has a genuine focus on furthering the practice of design as a positive force in the world - and for the next three months I’m thrilled to be a part of it!

Seb will be taking over the Clearleft Intern account - follow his experience on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/clearlefti...