A user interface designer walking up a flight of stairs

5 Step Guide: This Is How To Get Started In UI Design

Emily Stevens

So you want to pursue a career in UI design, but there’s just one tiny issue holding you back: you have absolutely no idea where to start.

You’re not alone. With so much information out there, it’s impossible to know which way to turn. To make matters worse, UI is often confused with UX, so you need to make sure you’re not being pulled in the wrong direction.

The good news is, you don’t need loads of qualifications—just a passion for the industry and a solid plan of action.

Once you know exactly what a role in UI involves, you’re ready to go. Follow our 5-point plan and you’ll be off to the best possible start in the industry.

  1. Master the fundamentals
  2. Immerse yourself in UI
  3. Build your portfolio
  4. Get connected
  5. Consider your next move

Prefer to learn with both your eyes and your ears? Check out the video below in which Sarah, one of the in-house student advisors on our complete UI Design Course, walks you through the above steps. Prefer just to read? Then keep on scrolling!

1. Master the fundamentals

To become a UI designer, you first need to master the necessary skills. While it’s true that you don’t need a university degree or a specific qualification, you do need a structured approach. The internet is ideal for background research and complementary reading — but don’t be fooled into thinking you can teach yourself.

Learn efficiently and logically with a structured course. This is the best way to make sure you’re covering all the essentials in plenty of detail, whilst skipping the irrelevant (or even incorrect) information that is floating around the web in abundance.

A good UI design course will get you thinking like a designer and introduce you to all aspects of the UI workflow, including user research and personas, moodboards, mockups, wireframes and beyond. Bear in mind that employers will be looking for practical skills, so opt for a course that combines theory with hands-on tasks.

2. Immerse yourself in UI

Alongside your UI studies, there’s plenty you can do to immerse yourself in the world of design. At this stage, it’s all about familiarizing yourself with the industry, so try to absorb as much as possible. Read UI design blogs, keep an eye on industry trends, experiment with different tools and follow inspirational accounts on Twitter and Instagram, such as UX / UI Wireframes and UI trends.

Time-permitting, you might even start a passion project — something you do just for the fun of it, and to practice your newfound UI skills as you acquire them. This could be redesigning a well-known website, or creating the interface for a hypothetical mobile app.

Endeavor to do something UI-related each day, even if it’s just reading a blog article on the way to work or sketching out a quick design before you go to bed. You’ll soon get a firm handle on the industry and start developing your own ideas and approaches as a budding UI designer.

3. Build your portfolio

To land your first UI design role, you need to show that you’ve mastered the key practical skills. This is where many industry newcomers hit a wall: how can you demonstrate such skills without any prior work experience?

This is why a portfolio is absolutely crucial. Your CV tells employers what you can do, and your portfolio proves it. When creating your portfolio, it’s not just about presenting the finished product; be sure to document exactly how you got there, going into detail about the methods and tools used.

Again, you might be wondering: how can you create a portfolio if you haven’t actually worked as a UI designer? If you’re just starting out, you can base your portfolio on passion projects. However, if you take the CareerFoundry UI design course, your portfolio will take care of itself. You’ll work on real projects, such as recreating the interface for an existing travel app, and eventually creating your own app from top to bottom. These exercises form the foundation of your professional portfolio, and will demonstrate all the necessary skills in action.

4. Get connected

As with any industry, a little bit of networking can go a long way. Once upon a time, networking meant attending events and plucking up the courage to start a conversation with complete strangers.

While this is still very much an option, if you prefer a less direct approach, there are ways to network digitally too. Start by joining some online design communities and getting involved in discussions. Online forums are also a great place to ask any questions you might have about your new career path. From there, you may meet some interesting UI professionals who would be happy to exchange tips and advice.

If you do feel brave enough for some face-to-face networking, try searching local design meetups in your area. Whether it’s online or in person, making connections in the industry will give you more insight into your future career and may just open up some professional doors.

5. Consider your next move

As you near the end of your UI course, it’s time to start thinking about your next move. How will you make the transition from studying UI design to actually landing your first role?

At this stage, it’s a good idea to consider the kinds of roles — and companies — you’d like to go for. One of the many perks of a career in design is the flexibility it offers; you can work freelance or in-house, and across a range of different industries. All brands rely on good design, so you’re not limited to a certain niche.

Start by searching online job boards to get an idea of what’s out there. You can then begin to tailor your CV towards the roles that take your fancy. Even if you’re not ready to start applying, it’ll be much easier to get going if you’ve already got a feel for the market.

With the CareerFoundry UI design course, you can also choose to take the Job Preparation module. With the help of a career specialist, you’ll polish your application package and brush up on your interview skills.

If you follow all the steps in our 5-point plan, you’ll soon be ready for a career in UI. Next, find out how much you could earn as a UI designer or jump straight in with our free 7-day short course.

  1. How To Become A UI Designer — Advice From A UI Expert
  2. A Guide To UI Design Job Descriptions — And What They Really Mean
  3. How To Design A Mobile App Interface Like A Pro

What You Should Do Now

  1. Get a hands-on introduction to UI with a free, 7-day short course.
  2. Become a qualified UI designer in 5-9 months—complete with a job guarantee.
  3. Talk to a Career Advisor to discuss career change and find out if UI is right for you.
  4. Learn about our graduates, see their portfolio projects, and find out where they’re at now.

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Emily Stevens

Emily Stevens

Managing Editor at CareerFoundry

Originally from England, Emily moved to Berlin after studying French and German at university. She has spent the last five years working in tech startups, immersed in the world of UX and design thinking. In addition to writing for the CareerFoundry blog, Emily has been a regular contributor to several industry-leading design publications, including the InVision blog, UX Planet, and Adobe XD Ideas.