No wonder, we are witnessing a growing industry for UI design, wherein UI stands for User Interface. The first thing one is greeted with whenever they launch a software product, be it an app or a website, is the ‘interface’. The interface is undoubtedly crucial for any product’s success. A ‘good’ interface will give a better experience to the user and, in turn, it will contribute towards a more successful product. Sure, we have coders who code the interface, but who decides what it looks and feels like?
So, if you are curious about what exactly a UI designer does and what one can do to become one professionally, you have come to the right place.
What is UI Design?
UI Design, as understood by its name, refers to the design of interfaces for software applications and websites. It takes into consideration primarily the convenience of interaction between the user and the software at the ‘interface’, apart from keeping aesthetics in mind. UI is often clubbed (and confused) with UX i.e., User Experience design. Both these fields go hand-in-hand but are differentiated by UI being specific to only the surface-level interactions while UX design focuses more on the ‘entire spectrum’ of the experience of a user.
Throughout history, humans have shown an innate ability to ‘design’ and ‘build’ products which make daily life easier. Be it a modern smartphone or an ancient rock tool, this innate drive has continuously prompted us to build and design better products as time passes. From ancient to the medieval age, then to the age of machines and finally, we have reached the digital age of consumerism.
Most, if not all, of our contemporary digital products, have some sort of an interface for it to be used, from computers to websites and smartphones. For making people’s lives easier, products are designed. This led to the evolution of the field of UI design as we know it. For making it easier for people to use the product effectively, a good interface needs to be designed. Hence, there is a need for better interfaces, in an ever-evolving world of new interfaces, from commonly used touch-based graphical interfaces to voice-controlled and now, even gesture-based virtual reality (VR) interfaces.
So now that we know a little about what UI design involves, let’s take a look into what it takes to have a career in it, which is why we are here now.
Safe to say, UI design as a career has a massive scope, and it only makes sense with the rapidly evolving world of interfaces. In fact, in 2019, Glassdoor ranked it within the ‘Top 25 Highest Paying Entry-Level Jobs’. There are a growing number of tech-based startups globally every day, and guess what they all have in common, a need for a well-designed interface.
Qualifications to be a UI Designer
It is not necessary to have followed a particular course of study, to become a UI designer. It is a profession where your work (i.e., portfolio) would matter much more than your formal qualifications, as long as you can demonstrate your understanding of core UI design principles. There is no shortage of short-term to long-term programs to get one started with the field. However, a formal background in graphic design can prove to be advantageous.
One can also consider doing a bachelor’s degree in Design (B. Des.) with a specialization in UI/UX or Interaction Design. Alternatively, one could pursue an undergraduate degree in Computer Science (with a specialization in Human-Computer Interaction), Media Science (with a specialization in Interactive Media) or Liberal Arts (Major in Psychology with Minor/Electives such as Visual Arts, Design or Marketing).
Skills and Tools required for UI Designer
The key skills required in UI design are a mastery of interaction design principles, branding, typography, colour theory, wireframing, prototyping, style guides, user research, teamwork and communication skills. In terms of the key industry tools, one needs to have proficiency in at least a few of the following: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe XD, Balsamiq, Figma, InVision, Sketch and Zeplin.
Where to go?
The following are the top 3 countries for pursuing UI design as a career:
- Switzerland; Average Salary Range: 56,000 – 99,000 USD
- USA; Average Salary Range: 45,000 – 93,000 USD
- UK; Average Salary Range: 29,000 – 67,000 USD
Where to start?
To kick off one’s UI design journey, the best place would be enrolling in online courses which would help you master the fundamentals of interface design. The following are some online programs which can help you begin your journey from scratch.
- Learn UI Design: This adopts a straightforward approach for teaching the fundamental tools, methods and processes of UI design, at one’s own pace. Moreover, one gets access to all the necessary resources and a very supportive online community. (https://learnui.design/)
- Program by CareerFoundry: One of the few UI-specific programs, this program is tailored to take you from a beginner to an industry-ready professional in under 9 months, with a money-back guarantee if you don’t get a job within 6 months of finishing the program. (https://careerfoundry.com/en/courses/become-a-ui-designer/)
- Principles and Practice: This 5-hour intensive Udemy course will teach one the fundamentals and application of theories of colour, typography, gestalt principles and many more, which are essential for any beginner. (https://www.udemy.com/course/design-rules/)
- Glassdoor Team (2019). 25 Highest Paying Entry Level Jobs. [online] www.glassdoor.com. Available at: https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/highest-paying-entry-level-jobs-19/ [Accessed 15 Aug. 2021].
- Hannah, J. (2021). These Are The 7 Best Online UI Design Courses in 2021. [online] careerfoundry.com. Available at: https://careerfoundry.com/en/blog/ui-design/best-ui-design-courses/ [Accessed 15 Aug. 2021].
- Interaction Design Foundation (2018). What is User Interface (UI) Design? [online] The Interaction Design Foundation. Available at: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/ui-design [Accessed 15 Aug. 2021].
- Purna, R. (2020). UI/UX Design Careers: Jobs, Salaries, Colleges & Courses | Stoodnt. [online] www.stoodnt.com. Available at: https://www.stoodnt.com/blog/ui-ux-design-careers-jobs-india/#anchor-7 [Accessed 15 Aug. 2021].
- Reid, D. (2019). The World Is Our Interface – the Evolution of UI Design. [online] Toptal Design Blog. Available at: https://www.toptal.com/designers/ui/touch-the-world-is-our-interface [Accessed 15 Aug. 2021].
- Stevens, E. (2021a). Essential Tools For UI Designers: A Beginner’s Guide. [online] Careerfoundry.com. Available at: https://careerfoundry.com/en/blog/ui-design/essential-tools-for-ui-designers-a-beginners-guide/. [Accessed 15 Aug. 2021].
- Stevens, E. (2021b). The Qualifications You Need To Become A UI Designer in 2021. [online] careerfoundry.com. Available at: https://careerfoundry.com/en/blog/ui-design/what-qualifications-do-you-need-to-become-a-ui-designer/#do-i-need-a-certification-or-formal-qualification-to-become-a-ui-designer [Accessed 15 Aug. 2021].