When you hear the word, Design — what career comes to mind?
In the past, the most likely answer would be graphic design, befitting society’s increasing desire for aesthetically pleasing materials. However, if you look at design from a broader view, you will encounter many disciplines catering to diverse artistic pursuits.
From visual design to interior design to environmental design, design disciplines keep expanding as innovations and technology reach the general public.
In the digital realm, the design fields that reign supreme (as of late) are graphic design and UI/UX design. As designers, you need to comprehend the profound significance of these two as it helps in targeting your skill development, ensuring that you stay relevant and adaptable as a designer.
If this interests you, let’s embark on your knowledge pursuit together.
Graphic Design: Exploring the Fundamentals
For many visually appealing content, you see in life, we can guarantee that a graphic designer was behind it.
Graphic design, in its essence, is the artful practice of composing and balancing many visual elements, including color, form, line, shape, size, space, and texture, to relay ideas and messages visually. Hence, we can assume that graphic design was at the root of many artworks.
Graphic design can take form digitally (websites and mobile apps) and printed (magazines, books, papers, clothes), so long as it’s non-interactive and static – you’re seeing the skillful result of graphic design. To create compelling and impactful visuals, as a graphic designer, you must master the 7 basics principles of graphic design, which are;
- Rhythm (Repetition)
- Colour & Space
UIUX Design: A Recap
In brief, UI/UX design is two complementary designing disciplines that focus on making digital products easy and enjoyable for a user. UI design touches on the appearance and feel of a digital product (buttons, menus, and icons).
In contrast, UX design specializes in making the overall experience of using the product as smooth as possible (intuitive, efficient, and meeting needs).
If you’re looking for an in-depth look at these design disciplines, our UI vs. UX: The Differences and Working Together article will serve you well
Core Differences: Graphic Design vs. UIUX Design
Although both design fields are passionate about creativity and aesthetics, they differ significantly in their day-to-day tasks, design processes, and skillset. This article section will explore just that — the distinctive nuances of graphic design and UI/UX design.
Graphic designers focus more on branding through visual communication; hence, their time is mainly spent on understanding and curating visuals per a brand’s identity. They strive to communicate a brand message well through their work, which includes tasks such as;
- Creating visual elements such as logos, illustrations, icons, and graphics for various purposes and mediums.
- Developing and maintaining brand identities through consistent use of design elements across different materials and platforms.
- Preparing and overseeing the printing process to ensure the final output meets quality standards.
- Editing and manipulating images to improve their quality and suitability for the design.
UI designers and UX designers, on the other hand, have slightly different responsibilities that intertwine with each other. As mentioned, UI designers specialize in designing the appearance of digital products, which consists of;
- Creating and maintaining style guidelines according to requirements to ensure consistency in the visual design
- Designing the overall interface of the product, i.e., visual, layout, interaction, and responsiveness across devices and screen sizes.
- Selecting suitable fonts and color palettes to enhance readability and visual appeal.
Whereas UX designers are responsible for the product’s digital experience;
- Conducting user research to understand their needs, behaviors, and pain points.
- Mapping out user flow, ensuring the user experience is smooth and logical.
- Identifying design challenges and finding innovative solutions to improve the overall user experience
For a clearer picture, here’s a concise table differentiating the three designing disciplines:
|Graphic Design||UI Design||UX Design|
|• Create Visual Assets|
• Print Production
• Image Editing
|• Style Guides|
• Interface Design
• Typography & Color Selection
|• User Research|
• User Flow Design
Design processes often share the same core idea: Brief, Research, Design, Feedback, and Deliver. The aspect that differentiates them across disciplines usually depends on the type of discipline, the project requirements, and designer preferences.
A typical graphic design process generally includes the following steps:
- Design Brief – Understanding and analyzing requirements, objectives, target audience, and brand guidelines
- Research – Researching to gain insights into the industry, competitors, and current design trends.
- Conceptualize – Developing and refining concept sketches which may include experimenting with color, typography, graphic elements, and layout on paper or digitally.
- Design – Upon finalizing the concepts, designers will start to create high-quality visuals using design tools such as Illustrator or Photoshop or other design tools according to their preferences and matching the client’s requirements.
- Review – With a developed design, designers will present it to the client for review and feedback. At this stage, multiple iterations are conducted to the design to ensure the design appeases the client.
- Delivery – Once the design fulfills all the requirements and receives approval, it’ll then move to the final stage — production and delivery. If the design is intended for print, designers prepare high-resolution files and work with printers to ensure the design is printed accurately. If it’s for digital platforms, designers may collaborate with clients to go live on the intended platform.
On the other hand, most UIUX designers utilize a design thinking approach for their design process, which consists of the following stages:
- Empathize – Researching to understand the intended users’ needs from an emphatic perspective.
- Define – With the information gathered from the empathize stage, designers will then define the problem statement by analyzing and synthesizing the insights.
- Ideate – At this stage, designers will collaborate with other stakeholders to brainstorm, evaluate and select the most promising creative solution.
- Prototype – Designers would produce tangible representations of the chosen ideas, allowing them to evaluate the ideas and tackle flaws early on.
- Test – The final prototype will then be subjected to user testing to ensure the product meets the desired goals. This phase also encourages designers to accumulate feedback and implement improvements before finalizing the product for launch.
Skillset & Tools
Graphic design and UI/UX design reside under the design umbrella, but their skill sets and tools are uniquely different.
If you’re re-examining your skills as a designer or just considering your options for a career change, make sure you’ve acquired the common skills accordingly to the career path you’re aiming for, such as;
|Graphic Design||UI/UX Design|
|• Visual Communication|
• Color Theory
• Photography & Image Editing
• Print Production
• Tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Procreate, Pixlr.
|• Interaction Design|
• Information Architecture
• Wireframing/ Prototyping
• UX Writing
• Tools: Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch, InVision, Axure
FAQ: Graphic Design vs. UIUX Design
With the fundamental differences covered, here we provide you a glimpse of the reality of both design fields and how they work, with answers (courtesy of our UIUX designer) to some of the internet’s most commonly asked questions.
1. Can a graphic designer be a UIUX designer?
- Of course! Anyone can become a UIUX designer if it interests them. Graphic designers have an advantage when starting on their UIUX journey as they have many transferrable skills – visual design, familiarity with graphic editing tools, a trained eye for “what looks good,” and intuitiveness are necessary for the creative process.
- UI (User Interface) will come relatively easy for graphic designers due to the aforementioned skills; it’s the UX (User Experience) part that’s going to be more challenging, as designing systems for people to use and interact with is much more complicated than designing graphics meant to communicate messages and ideas to people, and thus will require you to learn a whole new set of skills.
- With UIUX design, we’re not only concerned about how it looks but, more importantly, how it works – what comes before, during, and after an interaction. How to help the user achieve their end goal through the interface and how to make them feel positive about that experience.
2. Should I learn graphic design before UIUX?
- Not necessarily. Graphic design itself is pretty broad, and there are a lot of skills to learn in graphic design itself that overlap with the skills needed for a UI designer. But for the most part, UI designers aren’t expected to create complicated graphics. And again, working in UIUX requires you to think more about usability than aesthetics. You can learn the necessary graphic design skills AS you learn UI design, so I definitely wouldn’t consider it a pre-requisite.
3. Does UIUX design require coding?
- Nope. You don’t need to learn to code to do UIUX design. BUT, it is beneficial as you would be able to understand things from a development point of view, understanding data structures and feasibility as you create your designs.
- However, it’s definitely not necessary. And having to both design AND code will inevitably force you to compromise one thing or another – and more often than not, it’s the design process that gets the short end of the stick as coding is often more demanding.
- Fret not, though; UIUX designers who focus on design can still bridge the gap by building good communication skills with their developers. Involve them early in the design process, and ask them for feedback as you create your design.
4. Which is harder to learn between graphic design and UIUX design?
- First off, I think how difficult something is to learn really depends on the individual – natural talents, existing skills, past experiences, brain chemistry. But I’d say there’s definitely MORE to learn in UIUX design compared to graphic design – both in breadth and depth.
- Some of the hard skills to learn are wireframing, prototyping, visual design, interaction design, responsive design, UX writing, information architecture, how to build design systems, how to do user research, how to analyze and synthesize research findings, etc.
- Soft skills include learning how to ask the right questions, how to communicate with your stakeholders effectively, and more importantly, developing your ability to empathize and your intuitive understanding of how people think – psychology is a big part of UX design, and it’s highly beneficial if you have a good idea of what goes through the mind of the user you are designing for, so you can anticipate how they would respond to an interaction.
5. What tools do I need to familiarize myself with to become a UIUX designer?
- Figma is definitely the leading tool in the UIUX industry at the moment – it has a free personal plan, and it’s super intuitive to use (especially for graphic designers who have used a handful of other editing software). You could quickly design your first few screens by downloading free UI kits from the Figma Community. Figma’s whiteboarding tool, Figjam, is also a great tool to start building flowcharts or conduct collaborative brainstorming sessions.
- Familiarise yourself with what makes up an interface – what components and patterns exist that we users in the digital age have grown accustomed to interacting with that our brains immediately know what to do when we see it. Knowing what existing patterns are at your disposal will allow you to design more instinctively – but of course, collecting that knowledge base takes time and practice, so there is no rush. There are plenty of online resources you could use to look up UI references – some of my favorite go-to’s are Mobbin, Screenland, and Dribbble.
- But remember, while it’s easy to get lost in making the UI look good, UX is at the heart of what makes a good product that users love, so it’s worth starting a habit of being more aware as a user. When you’re using your phone or computer (or literally anything you interact with, like a coffee machine or, heck, a door), take a moment to think about why it is designed the way it is, what problem it’s trying to solve, how it makes you feel, and even how you would make it better. Design is everywhere around us, and even the act of opening a door is a problem that requires a design to solve (what kind of handle is there? Am I supposed to push or pull? Which side am I supposed to push on?).
Understanding the discrepancies between graphic design and UI/UX design grants designers a richer appreciation for their unique roles in the design landscape.
Graphic design’s creative artistry captivates the eyes and communicates messages effectively, while UI/UX design focuses on seamlessly enhancing user experiences. Embracing both disciplines is vital to crafting exceptional designs that impress visually and resonate profoundly with users.
Whether you’re seeking striking visual identities or intuitive digital experiences, at Snappymob, our team of skilled designers is here to materialize your vision into reality. We can’t wait to design a brighter future for you — reach out to us today!