Ivy League Insights for UX Design
What I learned as a UX Designer sitting in on classes for two days at an Ivy League university
As a UX designer with eight years of professional experience, I’ve always been on the lookout for opportunities to expand my horizons and enhance my skills. So, when I had the chance to drop into classes at an Ivy League university for two days, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
🚙 A Surprise Stop
When I was driving a friend to visit their brother they surprised me with a detour to an Ivy League university. We explored the campus including a unique museum that was open to the public.
As the day unfolded, we couldn’t help but be captivated by the academic atmosphere surrounding us. The vibrant energy of the campus was infectious, and we couldn’t resist the idea of sitting in on a class. After discovering that it was possible to do just that we quickly put together a schedule for a full day of classes on campus the following day. The prospect of attending classes in science, philosophy, politics, and psychology at one of the world’s most prestigious institutions filled us with excitement.
👨🎓 Becoming Students Again
The next day we entered the world of academia as students once more. The experience was nothing short of exhilarating. We found ourselves in lecture halls filled with eager minds, soaking in knowledge, and engaging in thought-provoking discussions. We participated in class discussions and took notes during lectures.
The classes we attended were as diverse as they were intellectually stimulating. From unraveling the controversies of modern astronomy to delving into the mechanics of the human eye’s perception of light and color (including an examination of color blindness highly applicable to accessibility considerations), our day was a whirlwind of intellectual exploration. We were challenged, inspired, and invigorated by the professors and fellow students.
🙋♂️ Asking Questions Earns Points
One of the most intriguing revelations from my Ivy League experience was the fact that students could earn points for asking questions in addition to answering them on quizzes. This stood in stark contrast to my previous experiences at state universities, where points were primarily awarded for providing correct answers. The emphasis on question-asking underscored the importance of curiosity and active participation in the learning process — qualities that align with the user-centric approach in UX design.
In UX, we often stress the significance of asking the right questions to understand users’ needs better. My Ivy League encounter reinforced the idea that fostering a culture of inquiry and feedback can lead to more innovative and user-friendly designs.
🌟 A Higher Standard of Knowledge
The professors and students I encountered at the Ivy League university were undeniably at a different level of intellectual prowess. Their expansive vocabularies and the breadth of their knowledge were awe-inspiring. What struck me was the interconnectedness of their expertise across various subjects. Examples and concepts from one class seamlessly wove into discussions in another — a testament to the value of interdisciplinary thinking.
In the world of UX design, understanding diverse perspectives and domains is invaluable. My Ivy League experience underscored the importance of drawing inspiration from different disciplines to create more holistic and innovative user experiences.
🌈 Color Perception
In a class discussing sensory illusions we reviewed that color is not an inherent property of objects but rather a reflectance property. We perceive color using three types of cone cells in our eyes, and each person has a unique arrangement of approximately the same number of each cone type. Some people are lacking one of these three cones which causes color blindness: the inability to distinguish between certain colors.
It is important in UX to understand how humans perceive the world so that we can design experiences for people with diverse sensory abilities. By learning about the science and psychology of perception, UX designers gain invaluable insights into the nuances of human cognition, enabling us to create interfaces and interactions that are universally accessible.
🚧 Challenging Social Norms & Breaking Down Barriers
One of the most valuable lessons you can take away from my experience is the importance of breaking down barriers, particularly when it comes to seeking opportunities.
Before class, I approached the professor and honestly explained my situation. I expressed my genuine interest in sitting in on their class and asked for permission to do so. The professor responded very positively and welcomed me to sit in on her lecture.
Often, we hesitate to ask for permission because we fear rejection, especially when the request seems to go against established social norms. However, by not taking that leap of faith and asking, we inadvertently hold ourselves back from potential growth and transformative experiences.
It’s easy to feel like we don’t belong in spaces like prestigious and well-respected institutions. While the registered students were investing considerable resources in pursuit of a degree from a top school, my friend and I were driven by a different objective — our thirst for knowledge and intellectual expansion.
In the world of UX design and beyond, it’s crucial to remember that seeking permission isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a demonstration of initiative and a commitment to personal and professional development. So, whether it’s requesting to join a class, proposing a new idea at work, or venturing into uncharted territories in your career, don’t let fear hold you back. By asking for permission and pursuing opportunities, you unlock the doors to growth, learning, and personal enrichment that can ultimately shape your journey in remarkable ways.
🦾 Embrace the Unexpected
My unexpected detour to an Ivy League university reminded me that life is full of surprises, and each experience, no matter how unplanned, can be a source of inspiration. As I continue my journey as a UX designer, I carry with me the lessons learned during those memorable days—and plan to sit in on more university lectures whenever the opportunity arises. I encourage you to embrace the unexpected, seek out new experiences, and never stop learning — because you never know where your next adventure might lead you.
If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to reach out. Let’s keep the conversation going!
Ivy League Insights for UX Design
What I learned as a UX Designer sittting in on classes for two days at an Ivy League university
One life, one planet. | LeoVogel.com