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Transitioning from Graphic Design to UX Design

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UX design is becoming increasingly prominent especially with the rise of Big Tech companies such as Meta and Google, coupled with the growth of new, innovative digital start-ups across various industries. As interest in digitalisation spreads across every industry, there has been an increasing emphasis on building strong digital products with stellar user experiences to engage and retain users.

Transferable skills from UIUX

A common pathway for those wanting to break into the tech industry from a design-related field is through UIUX design, considering how fundamental design skills are easily transferable. Having a background in graphic design means that you do not have to learn UI UX design from scratch, giving you a step up as compared to a generalist. Design fundamentals on topics such as color, typography, and general design sense are all foundational to UIUX design. A brief look at Airbnb’s app shows how design fundamentals are essential to app design, in areas such as text hierarchy, color theory, and illustrations.

Airbnb’s app

Specific UX design tasks that heavily overlap with graphic design knowledge includes:

1. Crafting a visual identity

Like physical products, digital products need to be visually consistent across features and screens. This is similar to a brand guide, which maintains a visual style according to a target audience.

2. Creating a design system

A design system involves standardising and documenting fonts, colors, and typography used throughout various products or screens.

3. Using Adobe Suite

If you’re familiar with programs such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, the transition to commonly used UI prototyping tools such as Adobe XD or Figma might come quite naturally to you.

What exactly is UX design?

Having an eye for design is only one aspect of being a UX designer. The job of a UX designer encompasses much more than that. As seen from the illustration below, the work scope of a UX designer is a blend of both design and research. Design decisions have to be justified through user research and testing rather than visual appeal or aesthetics.

Source: coursera

Users are the Focus of the Design Thinking Process

A large part of being a UX designer entails utilising the design thinking process to come up with new products or features that directly impacts users.

Design thinking process. Source: Maqe

Designers have to first understand their user’s needs and problems through user research and interviews. Once conducted, these insights are synthesised and grouped to find common themes. This can involve hours of sifting through recorded interviews and arranging post-its.

Usability Tests and Prototyping

The designers then have to brainstorm ideas to solve these problems, creating simple prototypes of ideas that might work. These prototypes are usually very basic, built with the purpose to see if a feature or flow makes sense.

Example of the initial prototype. Source: workshopper

These prototypes are then tested on real users to obtain more relevant, in-depth insights. Usability testing UX involves close, hands-on interaction with users, listening to their thoughts as they walk through different screens. Once tested, the prototypes are adapted accordingly and further polished to create a high-fidelity digital wireframe, where visual elements such as colors, icons, and images finally come into play. This process of testing and iterating continues until the product is developed.

So as you can see, actual high-fidelity UI design work actually only comes in quite late in the process. Rather than just creating appealing visuals, UX design also focuses heavily on stakeholder communication, problem-solving, and research. Familiarity with these design thinking processes is UI UX design fundamentals that every UX designer should have.

Importance of soft skills

As you might have guessed from the processes above, having strong soft skills are critical for UX design. UX designers have to frequently work with both internal stakeholders (e.g. engineers, product managers, and other designers) and external stakeholders (e.g. users, clients, and agencies) for their jobs. Here is a list of soft skills that are relevant to the role:

1. Effective Communication

Being able to emphathise with users is the basis of good UX design. A designer should be able to communicate and connect with users across varying backgrounds. This is key to understanding their pain points and coming up with solutions for them. Research methods for gaining user insights often require close interaction with participants, from user interviews to design workshops.

2. Being a team player

A typical product team consists of designers, engineers, and product managers. UX designers have to work across and communicate their decisions across these functions. As they are the ones closest to the users, it is also their responsibility to influence product direction and push the team toward what users need.

3. Ability to constantly upskill

The field of tech is constantly changing and UX designers have to upskill along with it constantly. From the release of new collaboration tools like FigJam to user research software like Betafi, UX designers are always learning new apps to improve their workflow.

Leaping into UX Design from Graphics Design

Aside from being familiar with all these skills mentioned above, how can someone transition from graphic design to UX design? Online resources such as videos, books, and articles are fantastic resources to get you started on this journey. A good thing about the field of UX is the number of resources available online for anyone willing to learn.

Train in a Bootcamp

However, attending a UX design bootcamp can bring you further as it allows you to gain first-hand experience working with teams to create a real product. A bootcamp provides participants with opportunities to manage team members, talk to real users, and more importantly, get advice and mentorship from an experienced industry practitioner. It also allows participants to use real UX projects for their portfolios when applying for jobs. If you are serious in wanting to pivot into the field of UX design, an online course or bootcamp may be the right choice for you.

What’s Next?

Overall, we seek to only provide a short glimpse into what the field of UX design is like, and how it varies from traditional graphic design. If you find such information useful to you, be sure to check out our other articles on our blog. More importantly, if the idea of gaining real project experience through a bootcamp strongly resonates with you, be sure to check out CuriousCore’s 4-month UX Career Accelerator Course, where students get a chance to work with real clients in leading industries to collaborate and create products, unlike many other UX bootcamps and UX design courses.