From techies to designers


From techies to designers

Is it difficult to become a designer with a higher technical education behind you?

Alexander Moiseev, a graduate of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, told his story: how during his studies he became interested in design, worked as a freelancer, and then joined the Yandex.Search design team.

Until April 24, Yandex continues to enroll in the summer schools of the Mobilization project. Interesting fact: half of the participants in the School of Design last year had a technical education. About the same ratio in Yandex itself: half of the designers have a higher engineering education.

Not everyone knows about this, and sometimes students and graduates of technical faculties hesitate whether they should send their applications. If you are one of those, my answer is worth it. I graduated from the Faculty of Electronic Engineering and decided to tell my story about how and why I became interested in product design and got a job at Yandex.


I am often asked: “how did you decide to become a designer?”. In my second year at the Moscow Power Engineering Institute, I was looking for a part-time job, I decided to try to draw a poster for an event in Photoshop and got involved. After the first experiments, he told his acquaintances that he began to engage in graphic design and was ready to draw anything, at the same time for free. I was quickly overgrown with requests to make a business card or flyer for an event. My experience as a designer started with sales – I drew ads for trainings, advertisements for kitchens, children’s toys and much more. Over time, I bought a graphics tablet, the number of orders grew and I began to take money for my work.

At the very beginning, I had no experience and understanding of how to work with clients. Customers want to make money, and the faster and more, the better. An aspiring designer without specialized education and experience, in pursuit of royalties, generates a lot of ideas and concepts. In this mixture of haste and misunderstanding, the opinion of designers is that these people are decorators and decorators and give out solutions when the wind blows. To be honest, I myself was such an inspired decorator and found my clients. Then I could not even write a letter to the post office normally. I dumped emotions on even more emotional clients. I didn’t have a mentor, so I studied in the process, and the desire to learn was great.

Over time, I realized that design should solve a specific problem. And in order to solve it, it is necessary to formulate and stipulate the stages of work and an assessment of its effectiveness. With this part on the market “landing page for 10 thousand” is extremely bad. Failure to draw up a technical specification, request an advance payment and conclude a contract can lead a designer to complete disappointment, both in the profession and in people.

At this stage, it is important for novice designers to learn how to make decisions consciously, based on arguments. “For beauty” is rarely a decisive argument. It is much more important to convey the necessary information in a clear and readable form. And beauty is not an end in itself. For arguments to be sound, you need to study disciplines. One of the most important things in graphic design is typography. Most of the time a designer works with texts. Only one understanding of the criteria for choosing the sizes of pins, leading and indents will already help to reasonably justify some decisions.

I continued to study at the Department of Physics and take orders in my free time. During this period, I needed money, so I tried to take as many projects as possible. But he quickly felt that the race for money was leading to a loss of focus on his own professional development. I began to learn to keep a balance between the number of orders and self-education. The passion for quality and the desire to become at least a little expert motivated me and I absorbed any information I could find. Order by order, I redid quite a few routine tasks and put together an extensive portfolio. Of course, the work in it was to put it mildly “not very”, but it allowed me to get new projects, and with them experience.

After a while, a developer friend and I started making websites together. He learned how to make up, and taught me a little, I was on the hook. We began to receive orders for online stores, portfolio sites, and landing pages. I studied layout in order to understand how the web works, to be aware of technological possibilities and limitations. By the way, having studied the basics of layout and programming, it became much easier for me to deal with web projects in general, to argue the cost and timing of tasks to the client.

It is very important for a designer to have a good understanding of the material with which he works. Industrial designers study the properties of plastic, metal. Clothing designers know about fabrics. And an IT product designer needs to have a clear understanding of the technologies he works with. Technical education helped me a lot.

Studying at MPEI was not sugar, I had to figure it out and not weak. I continued to take orders and at the same time, together with my research group, conducted a series of experiments to study the spatial and energy characteristics of laser emitters and wrote scientific articles. I really enjoyed doing research work, I designed and assembled an optoelectronic complex for measurements. Therefore, when I defended my bachelor’s degree and it was time to decide with a master’s degree, I was tormented by the question: “where to move on?”

As an engineer, I thought that it would be difficult for me to limit myself to purely technology development. I want to make technology more accessible to people. I am fascinated by the design process when I understand that other people will use the product. Only by understanding the essence and principles of technology and by studying how people perceive and interact with it, you can learn how to create really important and useful products. Design thinking involves empathy and communication with the user. By combining an understanding of technology, graphic design principles and the interests of people, a product designer can find a solution to any business problem and express that solution in an understandable, usable and aesthetic form. So I realized that I wanted to design products.

At that time, a friend of mine was working as an art director at an agency, and when she realized that I already had something to talk about, she invited me for an internship. I learned a lot from her. At the same time, the agency focused on advertising, and I was still interested in the process of developing products that people interact with every day. After a year of work, I again went to freelance: I had enough clients and a good income. Professional growth contributes to financial growth, Tracy wrote. My experience has confirmed this. Now I refused to just draw pages, I assembled site prototypes, wrote and edited texts, thought over the logic of interaction with content, conducted small research and, based on their results, tried to improve the product. By the way, Denis Kortunov wrote well about the difference in work on design in an agency and in a product company.

At the same time, I learned about the 2015 video course of the Yandex Design School. When I watched the first lecture, I realized that I would not be able to fall asleep. I listened to 6 lectures in a row! Almost all of the information from them was already familiar to me, I used most of it in my work, but no one had ever structured this knowledge like that. I understood that I wanted to become a cool designer, but after watching these lectures, I understood what kind of person I want to be. Have a deep understanding of the subject area in which I work, be flexible in accepting criticism and explaining reasonably.

Then the circumstances turned out well and my friend at some conference told a recruiter from Yandex about me. I completed the test task and, after going through several stages of interviews, got a job in the Yandex Search design team.

As a result, I completed all freelance projects and have been working in the search engine design team for almost a year. We study and design scenarios for finding information. I feel that I am doing important tasks and in my place. Quick access to information is a common necessity in any field, be it science or, say, cooking.

The purpose of my story is simple. I want everyone who is looking for themselves and trying new areas to check their inner response. I asked myself simple questions: Am I happy? Am I doing what I want to do? Is what I am doing really important? If the answers to these questions are “yes,” it’s worth continuing.


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