Why Graphic Designers Need to Learn UX

By BrainStation October 16, 2019

It wasn’t that long ago that the word “designer” referred almost exclusively to graphic design. But that’s changed rapidly in recent years as companies around the world are realizing the importance of user experience (UX) design.

UX Designers are being viewed as increasingly crucial as companies look to ensure their products, digital offerings, and stores are giving customers the best possible end-to-end experience.

Given the growing need for UX Designers – and we’ve covered the rising shortages in both New York and Vancouver – it’s not surprising that many are considering a career change to take advantage. But at this point, even Graphic Designers who aren’t eyeing a job shift need to consider learning UX. Here are a few reasons why.

Expand Your Skillset to a Multi-Disciplinary Field

Both Graphic Designers and UX Designers need to have a knack for visuals, with a mastery of typography, color, illustration, and images – as well as the ability to create an emotional connection through design and to assemble a visually appealing portfolio – standing as a crucial skill in both professions.

And that overlap can help Graphic Designers pick up UX skills faster than someone without a design background.

“Graphic Designers who are already skilled in Photoshop and Illustrator can transfer those skills,” said Leow Hou Teng, a Senior UX Designer at KPMG Digital Village who transitioned from graphic design. “Many also understand the principles of design thinking and placing users first. Although additional skills are required for the role, these can be picked up through learning and practicing.”

Indeed, UX Design sits at the nexus of many fields and requires a big-picture mindset that anyone would benefit from adopting.

A UX Designer has to simultaneously consider a bevy of factors – including visual design, user research, content strategy, usability and accessibility, information architecture, and overall business goals – while also knowing how to effectively manage a project and communicate findings to a range of stakeholders. And learning how to properly conduct user research – determining what users want and need and why – will help any designer get a better sense of the people they’re designing for.

“With a background in visual or graphic design, adding UX to your skillsets makes you that much more of an asset to your current and future employers,” Jenna Brucoli, the Lead User Experience Designer at Ogilvy told us. “Not only is being a multi-disciplinary Designer hugely marketable and more efficient for agencies and product teams alike, but the methodologies you’ll learn will also help you work more effectively with Researchers, Developers, and Content Strategists as well. Pairing your existing design background with this new way of problem-solving will make you a sort of Swiss Army Knife of design.”

Let’s explore that point a bit further:

Find a Better Design Process

Let’s first briefly define UX Design as a design process that puts people first. UX Designers are concerned with the look, feel, and usability of a product, digital offering, service, or experience, which they must balance against broader business goals.

And while there is certainly overlap in the duties of a Graphic Designer and a UX Designer – ideation and, of course, design standing as crucial parts of both processes – learning the fundamentals of the UX Design process can be an eye-opening experience.

The UX process typically begins with identifying a problem before planning and conducting user research to understand the behavior, needs, and motivation of your user. The design research phase will include the creation of personas, experience maps, and Task Flows.

Those findings will then inform the next part of the process: creating prototypes and wireframes. Even Graphic Designers who know how to prototype might learn something from the iterative nature of the UX Design process, where designs are built, tested, improved, and tested again. Adopting that rigorous devotion to research will help Graphic Designers test and improve their own designs.

Further, Graphic Designers already know how to create things that are visually appealing. But of course, it’s possible to create a design that is pixel-perfect but difficult to use. By learning UX principles, Graphic Designers will have the power to create designs that are both beautiful and functional.

Better Understand Other Roles in Your Company

Learning more about how UX Designers work will also have the benefit of giving Graphic Designers a firmer handle on the priorities, processes, and pain points of other team members, which will lead to better communication and more opportunities for collaboration.

In fact, communication, in general, is another skill that will be bolstered by pursuing a foundation in UX Design.

“It’s about Graphic Designers and UX Designers being able to understand each other’s processes and work together harmoniously and effectively,” said Matthew Cockerill, Creative Director at Swift Creatives.

Demand for UX Skills Is Only Increasing

Indeed recently ranked UX Designer as the fifth-most in-demand role in tech, and there’s reason to believe demand is only poised to rise.

An Adobe study canvassing 500 managers and department heads in UX design found that 87 percent of managers said hiring more UX Designers was their organization’s top priority and 73 percent vowed to hire more UX Designers over the next five years. Further, 63 percent had hired five or more UX Designers in the previous year.

Adobe’s poll also found that 61 percent of managers are hiring UX Designers to work on visual design. Further to that point, BrainStation’s 2019 Digital Skills Survey found that 92 percent of UX Designers polled personally focus on the design phase, with 75 percent focusing on ideation, and just over 50 percent focusing on research, wireframing and prototyping.

In other words, a Graphic Designer’s talent for esthetics and ideation would certainly be valuable and transferable.

Speaking of valuable, there’s another compelling reason to learn UX: a high salary. According to Indeed, Graphic Designers on average bring home a median wage of $17.67 – or $36,754 annually – compared to $89,250 for UX Designers. UX Designers are also treated well at the office – Forbes ranked it the second-best job for work-life balance.

Take the next step. Find out more about BrainStation’s UX Design Certificate course.