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Designer and lifelong learner |
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As a design student, you regularly hear about the importance of a portfolio. But how do you start? It seems like most people already have one, and it can feel intimidating when you first hear “you need a portfolio”. While there are many guides on how to perfect a beautiful portfolio, there isn’t as much about simply getting started for the first time. Here are a few lessons to make your initial portfolio creation simpler and less intimidating.

1. Something > Nothing

For the longest time, I thought a portfolio was a special type of website with a specific format that everyone but me…


Part memoir, part journal of scientific discovery, Rana el Kaliouby’s book, “Girl Decoded: A Scientist’s Quest to Reclaim Our Humanity by Bringing Emotional Intelligence to Technology”, details her journey as a young computer scientist with a desire to teach human emotion to computers in the early 2000s, when such a thing was thought impossible.

“Girl Decoded” book by Rana el Kaliouby on a desk with pens and sticky notes
“Girl Decoded” book by Rana el Kaliouby on a desk with pens and sticky notes
Photo by Sumayah Abdulla

The UXer in me chose this book out of curiosity, wanting to educate myself about emotional intelligence. …

It took me two years in college to figure out I wanted to pursue UX. Once I decided to dive into UX, I had a year and a half left to prepare my resume and portfolio and find a job in the field. Here are some lessons and steps I took that helped me graduate with a strong professional network and secure my ideal job. I hope this article helps you avoid mistakes I made and achieve more than you thought possible by the time you graduate.

People sitting around a table with sticky notes on the whiteboard
People sitting around a table with sticky notes on the whiteboard
Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

1. Get involved in a club

As a freshman, I knew almost nothing about extra-curricular involvement and didn’t understand…

In the third and fourth meetings of Post-pandemic Scenarios, we focused our efforts on helping the non-profit organization My Possibilities. My Possibilities serves adults with cognitive disabilities in Collin County and helps them through providing support, education and career opportunities. We used foresight tools to begin figuring out how this organization and ones like it might adapt to function in remote, online and social distancing contexts.

Key vocabulary for this section:

  • Timeless Needs: things we did in the past, we do today, and we will do in the future
  • Critical Uncertainties: things that may or may not happen but are…

In our second meetup for Post-Pandemic Scenarios, we went through a series of futurist exercises to try and make sense of all the ideas we came up with in the first meetup.

What I Did

Assumptions and Reversals

Notes from the assumptions/reversals exercise

As a group, we came up with two pages of assumptions (things we assume to be true or a given) and reversals (flipping the assumption). We focused on thinking about what long held assumptions are changing due to COVID-19.

What I Did

Coggle Mind Map

In the first meetup for the pandemic series, I worked remotely with about forty other online participants in Coggle to map out post-pandemic patterns for the future. Our goal was to visualize what we thought the “new normal” might look like after the pandemic crisis ends.

What started out as a few ideas in four categories branched out into an immense and ever-growing map of possibilities.

Scenario 1: Continuation (all things continue as they normally would)

In this section, we explored what might happen if things continued and resume as normal after the pandemic ends. …

This post marks the end of the Service Design for Education part of my independent study. I will share the last steps of my journey including what I did this week, what I have accomplished throughout the entire project and what my next steps are.

What I Did

This week I read The Elements of Typographic Style (EoTS) by Robert Bringhurst to learn how I might improve the design of content on the workshop cards.

I also read EoTS Applied to the Web to learn how these techniques can be applied in the digital space.

What I Did

This week was all about making adjustments, iterating and tweaking the card designs for improvements.

Testing with Real People

Asked people to hold the cards, observed their behavior and made note of questions they had

After having people physically hold the cards filled with content, I learned that the narrow margins led people to cover the edges of text with their thumbs. This finding informed a decision to increase the margins from 0.125" up to 0.3", making the cards more usable and human-friendly.

What I Did


Over the past week I experimented with InDesign. I watched many tutorials, learned how to use data merge, how to display multiple records by using master pages (kind of, still learning), and worked out many bugs and errors along the way.


Usually I work with inches or pixels, but since the original documents were measured in pica, I learned how to work with picas.

Planning and Prototyping

Quick sketches for 4 cards that fit on an 8.5 x 11" paper and only need to be cut twice

I tested cards with both 0.125" (0p9) and 0.25"(1p6) bleed margin in Illustrator

What I Did

Two weeks ago, I started watching Marc Stickdorn’s talk about service design. I browsed a few articles about service design to gain a basic understanding.

A few days later, I attended an event hosted by the local Service Design meetup group. There I saw presentations which explained the ecosystems of service design, including a case study related to education.

Ecosystem Map by Christopher Robin Roberts

After attending the event I went back and watched the end of Stickdorn’s talk, this time feeling a deeper sense of understanding.

What I Learned

From Stickdorn’s talk, I learned a basic overview of what service design is: designing experiences with the entire end-to-end…

Sumayah Abdulla

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