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How to Become a UI Designer

What Skills Do You Need to Be a UI Designer?

Ready to start your career in Design? Find out more about BrainStation's User Experience Design Bootcamp

Many—not all—UI Designers begin with a background in design, later adding the technical skills it takes to work in UI. Others begin in a programming or development role before adding design theory and research skills to their technical knowledge.

What Are Essential UI Design Skills?

Becoming a UI Designer requires developing a mix of hard (technical) and soft (transferable) skills. Let’s take a closer look.

Hard Skills

To start developing the technical knowhow a UI Designer needs, you’ll want to focus on wireframing and prototyping, responsive design, and widely used industry tools, including Sketch and InVision, to bring designs to life.

There are also certain skills that are specific to UI design, including the principles of interaction design—the ways in which users navigate and interact with flows of information—as well as an understanding of user research and testing models, and how to create and use personas as a guide to design planning.

FInally, you’ll have to build a strong foundation of design knowledge, including basic design principles such as branding, typography and color theory, and how to develop and use style guides.

Soft Skills

A successful UI Designer draws on a few soft skills as well. Given the collaborative environment that development takes place in, an ability to work well as part of a team is an obvious asset. So too are communication skills. UI Designers need to communicate not only with their fellow employees; they’re also frequently called on to interact with people outside the team, including soliciting feedback from test user groups or delivering presentations to stakeholders.

Perhaps the most elusive skill, and the one most unique to UI and UX Designers, is the need for an intuitive understanding of how other people think. You might call it “empathy”; what it boils down to is a clear sense of how the mind works, and especially which design strategies will translate into a successful product. The shorthand might be, how to use your intuition to develop an interface that end users can navigate without even thinking about it, using their intuition.

Layout, color, typography, and other design elements all come into play here. Making them look appealing is only half the battle; the other half is anticipating how users will respond to them, then deploying these elements to achieve a desired reaction from the user. To extend the metaphor of the user journey: a UX Designer draws the building’s foundation and plans the route through it from A to Z, while the UI Designer decides where the windows and doors will be, creates the wayfinding signs and chooses where to place them.

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