Everything a Design Student Needs to Know About Getting Started in Adobe XD

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Everything a Design Student Needs to Know About Getting Started in Adobe XD

Today’s students are the design industry’s best resources, as they enter the workforce with a fair amount of experience using design tools during their university careers. Adobe currently grants university students access to Creative Cloud at a very discounted rate, creating big opportunities for students looking to start a career in design or anything digital to gain skills early on.

While these opportunities exist for design students, they have to understand how to make the most of them. It’s one thing to have access to a product like Adobe XD, but it’s another for a student to leverage it for its full potential.

Build interest at a young age

It helps if you’ve been exposed to Adobe’s suite of products at a young age — this makes the transition to using design tools like XD in university an easier process.

As Alexander Hoffmann, a designer and graduate of Indiana University Bloomington’s human-computer interaction program, can attest, getting familiar with design tools early on in life instills a love of design that can help you carve out a career path. Earlier this year, he competed in an Adobe Creative Jam, but he got his first experience with Adobe when he was only in middle school.

Alexander Hoffmann participates in the Adobe Creative Jam at Indiana University Bloomington. Image source: Steven Leonard, IU Photo Services.

As Alexander puts it, “My mother did a lot of photography and used some of the Adobe Photoshop Elements, so I was introduced to the products then.”

From there, his exposure to Adobe, including XD, only grew.

“Once I got into high school, I began taking multimedia and technology courses where I became familiar with products like Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and, to some extent, Illustrator. Again, into college, I studied radio and television and had a minor in advertising, so my Adobe skillset expanded with the inclusion of InDesign, Audition, and more Illustrator. Once I got to grad school, I continued in a similar direction, and though it hadn’t released yet, I was quite excited about XD. Once it released, I was all over it, and I continued to use a variety of other products along the way.”

Appreciate what a simple UI does for your ability to design

The old adage “Keep it simple, stupid” seems to be a good rule of thumb when designing interfaces. One of XD’s strengths is its usability and lack of friction for the designer.

XD doesn’t hit you with too many options, said Alexander. Once you’re in the platform, you’re free to do what you have to do to complete your tasks.

“Adobe XD is simple, which is nice. It gives a few options — then the rest is up to you. There aren’t a bunch of settings and templates to muddle your decisions. It asks what kind of artboard you want, and you build. Simple as that. Once you’re in, you have free rein to make boxes, write stuff, design the next big thing,” Alexander said.

How to use XD’s features to your advantage

Adobe XD offers students the resources they need to get their design projects done while encouraging their creative expression. Understanding the nuances of XD gives students a leg-up as they start using the tool.

Alexander identified several features he deems his “top bits” for students:

  • Repeat Grid :  Being able to group pieces of a design and replicate them is absolutely wonderful, not to mention you merely need to snag a group of photos or a .txt to fill it.
  • Symbols: With any design, there are bound to be things that are the same from one screen to the next, and this tool is wonderful for just that. If you’re working on five pages or 50 pages, having a place to put grouped assets right there to grab is always useful.
  • Creative Cloud Libraries/Folders: For students, this is your key to highly functional teams, by placing assets/files, colors, and fonts. Also, if you happen to find yourself in a lab, you don’t need to bring an external hard drive to work on a project.
  • UI kits:  These are high on my list of “What did I do to deserve this goodness in my life?” because I definitely don’t want to be making a pixel-perfect header every single time from scratch.
  • One big design space :  Everything is on one plate, or table, just like paper prototyping or whiteboarding. You can drag things off to the side if you don’t need them or import artboards with content that you need. The workspace is nearly limitless.
  • Link publishing :  Along with Creative Cloud, there are prototype-testing capabilities that are insanely simple. Being able to go from design to prototype to test is massively streamlined.

According to the designer, XD’s ability to partner with the Creative Cloud is the platform’s biggest strength, as the possibilities for the product are virtually endless, thanks to its ability to sync with the other Adobe products.

Some of Alexander Hoffmann's work in Adobe XD, which he has been using at school and during internships. Image source: Steven Leonard, IU Photo Services.

As for individual features, Alexander loves XD’s assets bar.

“As I build more and more screens on any project, it makes life quite easy if I can pick and choose the colors, fonts, and pre-created symbols I have in my assets.”

Realize that nothing beats affordability, sheer functionality, and fast testing

Students need to hone their skills as they go through university and beyond. Adobe XD’s functionality is the ideal ecosystem to foster this learning and eventual mastery of design tools.

Alexander outlines three points he believes make XD the ideal fit for student use.

First up is the affordability.

“Through many universities and schools, students are granted access to the Creative Cloud, which stands as the first reason for students to use it: It can be free.”

Next up is its functionality.

“Secondly, I believe the functionality it provides as a beginning tool in creating digital designs and prototypes makes it welcoming for students who are looking to develop their skills. The product is not only acting as a tool for designers, but it fits into an ecosystem that gives students the opportunity to work across platforms and devices to build their projects. If they have access, each student in a four-person team could be working in different Creative Cloud products and adding assets to libraries and folders on the cloud to be pulled and used in real-time (this is before we see simultaneous editing in XD as well).”

 

Experienced designers know that even their best ideas and mockups mean nothing without real-world testing. XD has students covered there, too.

“Finally, students need to be able to test quickly, something that doesn’t seem to work in many other products. You can build and prototype and test in a few hours, giving students the opportunity to start and finish a project for testing in rapid succession.”

Hone your design skills with XD (and carve out your career path)

For design students to be viable in the workforce after they leave school, they need to be more than just familiar with design platforms. They have to be extremely proficient in them.

“Adobe XD has been my only design/prototyping tool since it came out in beta for Windows. It has not only given me a place to hone my skills, but I have been able to teach it to others because of my familiarity with the product and the Adobe ecosystem. As the product has grown, I’ve been able to expand my abilities with it, building an understanding of what the company sees as the biggest features to put through to the live product.”

Image source: Steven Leonard, IU Photo Services.

This proficiency with XD has also had a positive impact on his career prospects. Knowing how to use XD very well has prepared Alexander to jump into UX/UI work at some of the world’s biggest companies and agencies.

Alexander’s career goals include landing a job with an agency or a big company and working on its dedicated design team. From there, he hopes to expand into project and product management roles.

Overall, the future looks bright for this young designer — as it does for every design student whose passion for the industry is reflected in their desire to be as proficient as possible in the design tools they’ll be using their entire careers.

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