Why are architects making the career change to UX Design?

When I started reading up about UX and Architecture online, it struck me that I’m swimming upstream here. By far, the most articles relating to the topic are about architects transitioning to UX design. So why are architects leaving their profession – which they trained long and hard for – to become UX designers?

Craving a career change is a typical trait of just about any human. Most of us will change something about our careers as we live life. Whatever leads us to re-evaluate our choices, the most vocal architect-cum-UX-designers get online and cite frustration and disillusionment as their reasons for getting out of AEC. These newly-minted UX designers were once highly-skilled, passionate, talented architects: and any industry that starts to lose its highly-skilled, passionate, talented people needs to re-evaluate itself. To ignore them is simply self-destruction.

If we’re to determine what the AEC industry’s UX problem is, an excellent place to start is to look at the people who are walking away from the problem they see. Ask the architect: why are jaded and depressed architects leaving for UX design?

So far, here are the top factors I’ve found of why architects leave Architecture in the dust:

1. Speed, or lack thereof

Taking a building from concept to reality is really slow.

2. Politics

Not just governmental power and bureaucracy, but also hierarchies within companies and supply chains.

3. Skimping on the research

Beyond practical and programmatic site metrics, research that could add depth and richness is skipped.

4. Immeasurable

Once the building is built, little is done to review and make improvements for next time (although this is changing).

5. ‘Value’ engineering

Economies of time and money remove the soul from a concept.

6. Ownership

A single building might have multiple architects, engineers and draftspeople, diluting the design intent.

7. Demeaning culture

Long hours and unworkable expectations leave the architect – who is only human after all – depleted.

These factors could apply to any industry, but what I’ve been hearing is the stakes are particularly high in Architecture. The combined pressure of these factors disheartens the architect, whose goal is to create long-lasting, sublime and useful spaces that delight. It’s no surprise they look elsewhere for gratification.

As designers – whether it be spatial, digital, experiential; whatever – part of what makes us so effective is our ability to define the abstract, identify issues, generate ideas and solutions, then translate all of that into a natural, elegant response. It’s time Architecture turned its design process onto itself.

What do you think? Are you switching careers from Architecture to UX? Perhaps you have some other insight or resource to share? I’d love to hear from you.

Further reading

IEA EBC – Annex 79 – Occupant-Centric Building Design and Operation, International Energy Agency (IEA), Ongoing (2018 – 2023)