ui designer (2024 Guide)

What Is UI Design?

BrainStation’s UI Designer career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in UI design. Read on for an overview of what UI design is and how it differs from UX design.

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The “UI” in “UI design” stands for “user interface”—in other words, it’s the field of design concerning all the visual elements the users of a website, app, or piece of software (or mobile device, or even appliance) interact with. That makes UI design a close cousin of graphic design, albeit one with a few more competencies added to the repertoire.

What’s the Difference Between UX and UI Design?

User interface design is considered a subset of user experience (UX) design, and that can lead to a lot of confusion among outsiders or even team members about where the job titles overlap and split away.

UI design is a sibling to UX (user experience) design—but with a narrower focus. UI design deals with individual design elements, while UX concerns a user’s entire journey from beginning to end.

“Unlike UX Designers, who are concerned with the overall feel of the product, User Interface Designers are particular about how the product is laid out,” says Designer and Developer Lo Min Ming in Fast Company. “For example, a UI Designer creating an analytics dashboard might front-load the most important content at the top, or decide whether a slider or a control knob makes the most intuitive sense to adjust a graph.”

Here’s a quick overview of the differences and similarities between UX and UI design:

User Experience (UX) Design

  • Human-first approach to the design process
  • Focuses on the entire user experience from users’ very first point of contact
  • Can be applied to physical and digital products and experiences
  • Creates products that delight users

User Interface (UI) Design

  • Human-first approach to the visual design process
  • Focuses on visual elements users interact with (interaction design) and factors like style, color theory, and visual effects
  • Can be applied to digital products
  • Creates products that delight users with their aesthetic and visual appeal

Types of UI Design

Although there are many types of user interface design, these are three of the most popular types of UI design:

Graphical user interfaces

Think visual – any time users interact with visual objects on a digital screen (whether using a mouse or their fingers), they’re interacting with Graphical User Interfaces. Consistency is a big focus when looking at this type of UI design.

Voice user interfaces

Fast-rising in popularity – just think of how many voice-enabled products are being sold now compared to a few years ago – voice user interfaces require a totally different design process, in which words and syntax are crucial.

Menu-driven interfaces

Another type of user interface allows users to select from a range of commands organized into menus.

What Is the Role of a UI Designer?

UI Designers work closely with other design specialists (including UX Designers) to make sure every web page conforms to the overall design vision of the website. Put another way, UI Designers are in charge of designing each of the screens or pages that users interact with, and making sure they all work together to create the experience the UX Designer is aiming for. That requires a canny blend of appealing visuals and functionality—where those overlap is the UI Designer’s sphere.

Other aspects of the UI Designer’s role may include creating a cohesive style guide, maintaining visual consistency, and working alongside the Graphic Designers and Copywriters who create content for the product.