When it comes to design work, there are a lot of different job descriptions for designers, potential or otherwise.
People often get the roles of UX Designer, UI Designer, and Graphic Designer confused and, while they do admittedly share a lot of commonalities when it comes to the overall goal and general tools used in these positions, there are clear distinctions between them which need to be recognised.
Graphic Designer: the process of skilfully combining text, pictures, and other visual elements to create a visual product, such as an advertisement, website, etc.
UX Designer: the process a design team undertakes to create a final product that provides a meaningful experience to the end user, acting as an ‘advocate’ for the needs and desires of the end users for the product.
UI Designer: the process of developing interfaces for the product with an emphasis on style and overall looks, aiming to produce an easy-to-use product and enjoyable user experience.
Graphic Design is a more broad term to define the application of problem-solving skills in tandem with visual communication, using imagery, colours, typography, layout, spacing, etc. to convey a concept, feeling, or idea through visual design.
This designer will not be involved in the development of the product itself, only with ‘polishing’ it for user consumption. In short, the graphic designer uses visual design techniques to portray imagery in a particular way.
UX (User Experience) Design
Graphic design does, technically speaking, fall under the umbrella of UX design, but while a graphic designer bases their work in marketing and creative instinct, a UX designer creates a framework rooted in the end user experience. UX designers have a user-centred approach to produce solutions for users which also meet the needs of the business or brand.
UI (User Interface) Design
A UI designer handles the overall look or feel of a product, based entirely upon the work of the UX designer, focusing on the design of the interfaces with which the user interacts.
What this means, in essence, is that UI design follows directly from the path the UX has paved, visually communicating what the UX intends for the message to be.
This includes any interactive elements, including animations, drop-down menus, buttons, links, and form-input fields. The UI designer needs to ensure continuity across the board and create a cohesive visual identity for the product.
So, what’s the difference?
These design roles work hand-in-hand and you can’t have one without the other.
While the UX designer considers the process the user takes, the UI considers the visual and emotional experience of the product.
“Graphic or UI designers focus on executing details, largely visual factors from typography to imagery to colour palettes – making mood-boards or in other ways inform the direction for the artistic side of the product, to design a visual style guide for the brand.”
The UX designer is involved in the project from much earlier on than a graphic or UI designer; they are more related to informing the product vision such as through market and competitor research, conducting interviews, generating prototypes of new product designs, run product testing, running workshops with stakeholders, and liaising with web developers.
The skill set and job requirements for UX designers are broad, but the goal is simple: to cultivate and deliver the best possible experience to the user whilst simultaneously ensuring that business requirements are at all times fulfilled.
This is distinct from graphic design in that UI design cultivates a digital space using interactive elements.
UX designers handle the structural, logical, and logistical elements that the user will actually be interacting in when the product is complete and published.
“The UX designer produces different deliverables from UI/graphic designers – this could include prototypes, wireframes, flows, and site maps. It involves heavy research phases as well as validation using a usability/pain-point analysis and makes the necessary revisions based on test results and user data.”
Michael Dehoyos is a web developer at Phd Kingdom and Academic Brits . He assists companies in developing their marketing strategy concepts and contributes to numerous sites and publications. In his spare time, Michael is a writer at Origin Writings , an academic service.