User interface design is an exciting, challenging and financially rewarding career path—and today’s business landscape is bursting with opportunity.
With design-led companies significantly outperforming their competitors, design has become absolutely crucial to business success. As more and more companies realise this, the demand for talented UI designers will only grow.
In the current market, UI designers earn an average base salary of $81,794—but for many UI designers, the real reward lies in shaping the user experience and being part of the brand’s success story.
Before pursuing a career in UI design, it’s important to know exactly what the role entails, as well as what skills you’ll need in order to be successful. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about becoming a UI designer.
- What does a UI designer do?
- How do I know if a career in UI design is right for me?
- Do I need a certification or formal qualification to become a UI designer?
- How do I get started in UI design?
- Further reading
I also invite you to watch the webinar below in which senior UI designer and UI design course author Eric Bieller talks about he first entered the field.
1. What does a UI designer do?
The UI designer is responsible for the user’s visual and interactive experience with a product interface—be it an app or a website. As the user navigates their way through an app, for example, they will swipe, scroll and tap various buttons in order to move between different screens. All of these touchpoints are created by the UI designer.
Whilst UI design is a very creative role, there is much more to it besides designing the interface itself. First, the UI designer will spend lots of time getting to know the client and their brand, as well as the target user for whom they are designing. There’s plenty of research to be done before the creative work can begin. You’ll also collaborate very closely with the UX designer throughout this process.
You can find out what a UI designer does in more detail in a popular post I wrote a few months back, but the role primarily consists of:
- Working together with the client and UX designer to establish a common vision
- Researching your target audience and getting to know the user personas
- Designing screens, buttons, scrollbars and other navigational elements
- Prototyping and testing
- Liaising with developers to ensure correct implementation
2. How do I know if a career in UI design is right for me?
To help you determine whether this is the job for you, let’s take a look at what makes a great UI designer.
It goes without saying that a flair for design is a must. UI designers have an eye for color, spacing, patterns and typography—but not just from an aesthetic point of view. It’s crucial to design functional interfaces that not only look good, but also feel effortless and intuitive so you need to understand how each visual element impacts the overall user experience.
This brings us to user empathy. The best UI designers are able to see things from the user’s perspective, anticipating their needs and expectations when interacting with the product. If you find it easy to step into someone else’s shoes and understand where they’re coming from, you’re already halfway there. Excellent communication skills are also key: from clients to UX designers, and developers, you’ll be working with others throughout, so an ability to articulate and discuss your ideas is essential.
At the same time, UI designers are not afraid to get technical—especially when it comes to things like wireframing, communicating with developers and getting to grips with responsive design.
As Amy, our in-house UI designer here at CareerFoundry, puts it:
“A good UI designer has their eyes open at all times. They excel at problem-solving and obsess over every little detail. You should always be on the lookout for great solutions—not just visually, but also in terms of what works well technically and evokes positive feelings for the user. Be aware of how technology is evolving, but be wary of trends for trends’ sake. Ultimately, you need to understand your target audience and the needs of the brand/company you’re working for.”
(For a look at the most current trends in UI design: 5 UI Design Trends to Look Out For)
3. Do I need a certification or formal qualification to become a UI designer?
To start a career in UI design, you don’t need to follow a particular course of study. A background in graphic design can be useful, but in theory, anyone can learn the necessary skills. So what are they?
When hiring a UI designer, employers will want to see that you’ve mastered the following:
- Interaction design principles
- Branding, typography and color theory
- Wireframing and prototyping
- Style guides
- User research and personas
- Teamwork and communication skills
- Key industry tools, including Sketch
More often than not, employers will be more interested in your portfolio than your formal qualifications. As long as you can demonstrate your understanding of core UI design principles, there’s nothing to stop you marketing yourself as a UI designer.
4. How do I get started in UI design?
If you like the sound of a career in UI design, there’s plenty you can do to get the ball rolling. Start by familiarising yourself with the industry: read up on current UI trends and see what other designers are up to. Sites like UI Parade and UI Movement are fantastic for inspiration and examples. There are also, of course, a lot of UI design mistakes you should avoid (and learn from)!
Next, you’ll need to start learning those key skills we mentioned earlier—and this is where CareerFoundry steps in. Our UI Design Program has been created to take you from novice to professional, focusing on both UI design theory and practical application. The course is broken down into six modules, and you can expect to get hands-on from the very beginning. The final module will have you creating an app from start to finish—gathering user requirements, developing user stories, wireframing, and iterating through the design/critique loop until the project is ready for production.
Everything you work on throughout the course goes towards your professional portfolio—and here’s the best part: we’ll get you a job within six months of graduating, or your money back. Ready to dive head-first into the wonderful world of UI? Chat to a Career Advisor today and discover your options.