7 Reasons I said goodbye to architecture

and how none of them makes sense anymore

On day one of my architecture college, our professor asked the entire class, “What do you want to be in your career?” and I like everyone else said, “One of the best architects of my time”.

Two and half years later in that five years course, my only career choice was ‘not architect’.

source: Where to find destiny — theQuotes.me

How I transitioned to UX is perhaps a discussion for another time, but I had a few things I didn’t like about the field. Interestingly, having spent 3 years in UX, here’s my observation on the factors I was trying to avoid in architecture and its parallel in UX

“One often meets his destiny on the path he chooses to avoid it.” — Master Oogway

  1. High expectations- An architect is expected to know every ins-and-outs of the project, process, policies and people involved. Someone who can be a solution to every problem on the site and beyond. While I believe this in some parts is justified, it does add a lot of pressure on beginners.
    In UX too, as a beginner, you are expected to know a lot (if not everything) about the product you’re working on, the process, problem, competes & user expectations. Expectations might not be as high as architecture, but they aren’t low either.
  2. Mistakes are rarely forgiven- Mistakes in architecture are casted in brick and mortar (quite literally) and can range from poor space quality, issues in building functionality to complete project failure.
    In UX, although you might get more chances to make a correction, they still can result in failure of a project, product or a company.
  3. Lots of stakeholders- This was the biggest factor which made me switch. There are a ton of stakeholders involved in each project with whom you need to work — client(obviously), your team/ colleagues, contractor, site-incharge, vendors, service people, consultants, govt. authorities, etc.
    However, coming to UX, I realised I haven’t skipped any of this. I still need to interact with lot of stakeholders for any given project — My manager(s), PM(s), fellow designers/ colleagues, developers, consultants, partner teams, team leads, users and many more.
  4. Regulations- There are a lot of rules & regulations for architects to follow. Buildings need to have a fire staircase, that too every 30 meters, corridor width should be this, floor height should be that or more. If you want something to trade off, that’s your creativity as the designer.
    In UX, we have similar requirements — everything should be accessible, elements should have this colour contrast, this is the component library we have, these are the patterns we follow. Rules are important but they sure come at some cost — freedom.
  5. Long project duration- My mentor once told me about an architectural project which was going on for 7 years before he joined the firm, worked on it for 4 years and it is going on for years after he left that place. That gave me shivers. The smallest of projects in architecture can take years to realise. That is a prolonged period of responsibility before any sense of achievement. I obviously didn’t want that.
    Call it my fate but timelines in UX aren’t much different. Some projects literally never end.
  6. Project cost- Every brick you put in a building comes at a cost. A good (not star) architect is expected to help you improve the quality of space and construction while bringing down the cost. At least that’s what we were taught — balance cost and quality. However, in practice, it doesn’t take much for your ideas to be shadowed behind the cost. Do you really need that projection, it will increase cost by this much; that finish, umm that’s expensive. Now you know why almost all buildings today look the same.
    In UX, we again deal with cost, but of a different kind — engineering costs. Do you actually need this new component? Can’t we simply re-use what we already have as it’ll increase the cost and we have limited resources; will this justify the ROI? Different jargon, same concern.
  7. Personal growth- It’s no surprise that architects are underpaid. For us in college, UX looked like a very lucrative field in terms of money.
    Well, when I first joined as a UX designer, my salary was the same as a fresher architect. Not saying that’s always true but at an overall level both fields give similar opportunities to grow. In UX, people are rewarded with better salaries when they gain experience and architects start their own practice.

It’s all the same

Seeing things in perspective, it becomes clear that there are pros and cons in every field and you probably can’t run away from it. My attempt to skip to the good parts has drawn a full circle and this revelation does put things differently. Now the only option I have is to embrace the challenges and learn to live with them

Thanks for reading till the end. If you too made a career change, do tell me in comments why you did it and how you see it now. Cheers!

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Vaibhav Gupta

Designer & storyteller. I write whatever I’ve learnt so far about design, development and other things I care about. https://linkedin.com/in/vaigu