If you’re a design student or a design enthusiast you’ve probably heard of a specialist area within design where user interface and user experience designers live. As a student I remember the term UI/UX Design being completely alien to me but after starting to learn UI design properly, I began to understand it’s role in society which changed my perspective of design and design thinking completely.
Starting out in any industry or learning a new set of skills can be challenging and at times quite daunting, however if you’re looking to learn about how to get into UI design or how to become a better UI/UX designer then you’ll be happy to know that we’ve compiled a list of industry insights and design resources just for you. This article covers all (this is THE article about learning UI Design) you need to know about getting your career in UI design off to a flying start – we’ll guide you from newbie to pro and even provide tips on how to land your first paid design gig.
What is UI design? Understanding the role of a UI designer
Learning how to become proficient at UI design entails adhering to certain principles. Getting better at designing a user interface for software and machines such as mobile devices and electronic devices cannot be done overnight. With the right steps to follow and patience, you will learn UI design to a high quality and at your own pace. The main objective of a UI designer is to make human interaction with a GUI as usable as possible – the interface should be simple to use and pleasing to look at. Designmantic offer an insight into the specific skill-sets that a UI designer should possess.
Learn about UI design and the core skills involved with becoming a UI Designer.
First things first, understand UI design Principles
So what’s UI design all about? Let’s find out what being an awesome UI Designer entails; Start by investigating the daily roles of a UI designer, and what the ins and outs of the job involve. This will prepare you for the journey that lies ahead, in the UI/UX industry it pays to be curious so asking questions is skill number one to hone. The illustration below by the guys at HelloMeets over on Medium helps us illustrate some key differences between UI and UX designers.
The illustration shows nicely how UI Designers are traditionally more aesthetically driven than their UX counterparts.
Familiarize Yourself with UI Design Etiquette
Before you start to learn UI Design, it is very important that you associate yourself with UI design resources, best practices and the principles of the underlying UX theories and strategies. You have to know the basics before you cross the threshold of the digital design world. Principles such as the Proximity principle, illustrated below by Eleana Gkogka which she explains that, “White space can boost visual hierarchy and information flow, contributing in easy to read and scan layouts. It will help users achieve their goals faster and delve deeper into the content.” Other broad theories to study include colour, contrast and accessibility; all of which are key knowledge when creating UI designs, be it for web, apps or banners. Multiple books, resources and blog posts are available to stay up-to-date with the latest learnings and best practices.
Find a mentor who pushes your creativity
A mentor is someone with a wealth of experience concerning UI design. The duty of the mentor is to guide you pertaining to UI designing over a period of time, and Invision quote, “A good mentor pushes their mentee to get creative with what they already know.” The keyword here is creative. It doesn’t just have to be any UI designer as such person would be able to review your work and give you tips and advice where needed. This will, in turn, speed up your UI design learning.
Gaining a mentor is key, this may be a Senior Designer within the business you’re working for, or someone you admire on social media. Don’t be afraid to reach out and start a conversation, as this will surely enhance your UI learning.
Develop your UI design style
If you want to be good at designing interfaces then you need to practice, start by investing time into finding tutorials and courses like this to get you started. Designing UI every day allows you to find your own UI style as well as learn how to adapt to different UI styles. You’ll make mistakes and learn its corrections, there’s no better time to do it than with your own unpaid projects.
You can use various digital design tools to enhance your learning – from Adobe Photoshop to brand new tools such as Sketch, take your time to learn your chosen tools; this will pay-off in the long term. Tools such as these are built upon by the community who use them; with multiple plugins being created every day to enhance your learning and productivity within these apps. Installing these plugins is simple and takes no time at all; soon you will have a streamlined work process which you can apply to multiple projects.
In 2018, UI tools are moving into a new age; Invision – a powerful prototyping tool are releasing their newest product in competition with the market, named Design Studio. Launching in the early part of 2018, this will no doubt revolutionise the UI industry and will provide UI designers with another great platform to design and iterate within.
Find Out What UI Designer Skills You Possess Already
There is a huge likeliness that you already possess a UI design related skill. Take, for instance, you may have a desire for; Photoshop, taking photos or sketching. You can apply these already intrinsic skills into UI designing. Being able to figure this out will allow you to detect areas to improve on. It will help make your desire to learn UI design stronger and will inspire you to move forward with a career in UI.
Take on dummy UI design briefs
This doesn’t mean that you should source for projects to perform when you are still trying to learn UI design. You can get inspired by seeking for many things around you that need to be improved. UI designing mainly is about detecting problems and solving them. There may be a Mobile App or machine that needs to be worked on. You can convert this into a project. Finding dummy briefs is now easy to thanks to the DailyUi challenge.
When you’re done with projects try to showcase it to your mentors or to UI designers to get feedback on how to improve. Going through a critique with your mentor will help you explore different possibilities and become better at handling future projects. It’s also great to add your successful dummy briefs to your portfolio, we’ll get to portfolios in a minute.
Design your own UI design Portfolio
A key part of showcasing your work is launching an online portfolio. Depending on your website knowledge you could have a site up and running within an hour, but more designers are turning to providers such as Squarespace and Semplice to generate customisable themes for a price. With a variety of easy and cost effective methods of launching your own design portfolio, there are many possibilities. Your site should be a reflection of you and your work, advertising yourself as an employable UI designer – it can be a key insight for potential clients to judge and understand your experience for your portfolio execution. We always recommend researching what other designers in the UI industry are producing – this can help give you a benchmark for what’s out there. Awwwards is great web design inspiration if you’re looking for something new and experimental.
Join a Small Design Team to learn ui design
The effect of becoming part of a team with an objective of learning UI design is enormous. With no doubt there will be members in the team who are more experienced and this is invaluable; learn from them and expand your working UI knowledge. Becoming a team member would enhance your inspiration and motivate you to become a better UI designer than you could ever think of. You shouldn’t join just any team but one that is concerned about excellent user interface and is well grounded in the principles of user interface design.
Working as a remote UI design team is also an option, with multiple agencies choosing this method of working. Collaboration with team members around the world with established tools and resources will further enhance your UI workflow and knowledge base.
Attend digital UI design industry events
With an active web community around the world continuously hosting conferences, events and Q&As, there has never been a better time to get yourself down to one. Not only is this beneficial from a networking point of view, but can also offer alternative views on subjects and solutions which you may have not considered previously. With keynote speakers containing some of the world’s most popular user interface designers on conference line-ups, this is the ideal opportunity to sell your work and gain valuable contacts within the UI industry.
It is also beneficial to host your own events via Meet-up etc as this will provide you with invaluable contacts, coverage and a source of continuous learning. With top UI designers writing and publishing UI books, launch events for said books can be a great opportunity to network within the UI community, and of course a brand new resource to add to your library.
Online UI Design Resources
The internet is a platform that has a plethora of digital design and sketch app tools to aid you in UI design learning. This can help you save costs as you won’t get to spend a dime in acquiring the UI design materials. With hundreds of YouTube video tutorials on UI design and a continuous video blogging stream from top UI designers, this will give you key insights into the life of a digital designer. This is also a great chance to hone your UI skills, as certain subjects you may not have discovered may contain several demos, interviews or even assets to create your own.
There are also millions of blog posts with a focus on UI design situating on the internet, with the Medium platform contributing a large part of this. The contents of this blogs are put up by UI designers wishing to share their knowledge and attain new business. They would provide you with the basics and principles of UI designing with some added tips and advice. You will also get to form an interactive session with other designers through the likes of Adobe Live which showcases popular UI designers completing set tasks live online. Regularly visiting, reading and studying popular blogs and resource feeds will soon accumulate a wealth of knowledge.
Offline Design Resources
Offline design resources are ideal for commuters who wish to read up on design as they travel, or if you simply want a break from the screen. Galleries, museums and other physical exhibition spaces can offer copious amounts of inspiration for colour palettes, photography to use within your designs and can also help perfect your sketching skills for quick iteration. The ultimate offline design resource are books – which we go into more detail a bit later. More and more of the UI community are producing their own resources and books; e-books and samplers are becoming the norm across budding writers and designers. This is a great way to make content freely accessible and effective in reaching the desired audience. A Book Apart (we’ll earn a small commission if you purchase from this link, if you do – thank you for your support) series of web design books are popular within the community as they cover a wide range of skills, UI subjects and even coding.
UI design writing
The strength of UI blogs are only possible due to contribution from the community; so when you’re ready, writing about UI design yourself will give you a clear understanding about how well you’re progressing with your learning. Writing an article yourself can take weeks or even months, so it’s important that you gather feedback from fellow team members or the community as you progress with your writing, to prevent losing your focus and objective. With up-and-coming UI designers launching their own blog every day, it is an easy method of reaching new audiences and inspiring others, whilst also testing your UI knowledge in the process.
With a variety of UI subjects to write upon from the likes of style guide creation, app design for the multiple operating systems to even product reviews, there is always something to hone in on. Once you’ve picked your chosen subject for example, a UI issue with an app you’re using, post up to your blog with the issue and a clear UI solution. Reviewing a product can be tough as there are multiple viewpoints to consider, but once you’ve understood the basics of UI writing, the community will provide you with the feedback needed to become a stronger writer.
Learn with UI design Books
There is no better place to acquire knowledge than from books. Knowledge is power and books would assuredly give you this power. UI design books can contain lots of information on a variety of subjects – from UI patterns to style guides. Read up, pull out some key learnings and add to your library of resources. You can even learn UI design by getting books online or offline. Offline resources such as eBooks are a great way to absorb information on a commute, without requiring internet connection. Buy ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ on Amazon – written by Steve Krug it’s a must-have for any budding UI designer or UX practitioner.
Every great UI designer today started from the basics. In your bid of becoming a UI designer, reading books, creating dummy projects, getting a mentor can help speed the pace of learning. You can also associate yourself with new digital design and sketch app tools rolled out from time to time. This would help you keep up with the latest design resources, UX resources, and in-trend methods of creating a friendly and easy-to-use user interface for your target audience.
Listen to design Podcasts
Podcasts have become the ultimate method of gaining knowledge whilst on the move. With a variety of UI related podcasts available from some of the biggest platforms, there is plenty to chose from to get you started. The likes of Overtime from Dribbble provides the listener with key UI insights from a particular designer within their platform, interviewing them on some of the methods, and their day-t0-day lives. Having at least 10 podcasts on rotation throughout each week can provide you with multiple viewpoints from across the world. As most UI podcasts are updated once a week, this gives you ample opportunity to delve into their library of hundreds of previous recordings, and stay up-to-date with their latest UI releases. One of the most successful design podcasts on iTunes with over 250 million downloads is 99% Invisible, a podcast which covers weird and often over-looked subjects about the world around us.
No matter how you gather your knowledge and inspiration, there is plenty out there to get you started on your UI design journey. Reading inspirational books from talented and experienced designers will help you – but writing about them and sharing the knowledge provides a platform for other aspiring UI designers to learn from too. Hosting your own platform for your learning is a must in 2018, with free blogging platforms becoming the norm, and many members of the UI community adding to it daily is inspiring and thought-provoking. UI design is a long journey, but establishing a streamlined working and learning process can help hone your skills quicker. Don’t forget to share your work, evaluate your projects and establish a critical design eye will enforce high quality output from yourself, and will fast-track you into becoming a professional UI designer.