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Graphic Design Experience won’t get you a UI/UX Job

Print design does not qualify as UI/UX Design. So the next time you think of including your lovely logos while applying for a job in a tech company, think again.

A graphic of a stylish cat wearing red glasses standing in front of disco balls

This has now happened to me a number of times. Every time we open a vacancy for a digital designer aka. UI/UX designer, the most number of CV’s that we receive are from people with experience in flyer design, visiting card design, logo design, brochure design and what not design, but unfortunately no UI/UX design. Designing for the web and electronic device is a completely different school of design, and as long as people aren’t aware of this fact, we will continue to receive more and more of such applications, and it hurts to turn them down.

UI/UX Design is specifically that of designing for electronic devices that interact with the user

Meaning, to qualify for UI/UX design, you must be able to do something with the device (tap a watch face, swipe a phone screen, click a mouse, wave at motion detector), and the device should be able to return a response to you. That’s why a printed brochure or a visiting card does not qualify as UI/UX Design. So the next time you think of including those lovely logos that you made while applying for a job in a tech company, think again. I’ve mentioned this in my earlier blog as well why it’s imperative to contextualize your portfolio. You must show the right kind of work your potential employer is looking for, and make sure you’re hitting the right notes. Don’t throw off people like me who are annoyed and irritated if you show me the restaurant menu.

Tech companies have little use of your “graphic design” knowledge

At leapfrog, the maximum amount of design we need is for doing the office stationery and some digital marketing help. Apart from that, there is very little maybe (2% chance) of using your graphic design skills. Most of the work we do is for desktop apps and mobile apps, and those need your UI/UX skills and perhaps for some minor logos or app icons, there’s little use of the said skill. However, I do not mean to negate the whole purpose of why a tech company might hire a graphic designer. They might need a graphics person and that’s fine but that’s not the core stuff that they sell.

Know your lingos

If you aspire to work at a tech company, know the terms UI and UX. As you drill down, both have specific meaning and purposes and they are not to be used interchangeably. A UI design is how the application looks (the colors, fonts, images) and UX design is how it works (who uses it, what happens when they use it, proper response to actions, etc.) So there is a vast difference and you cannot say you’re a UX designer if all you’ve done is designed pretty UI’s in Sketch, Figma or XD and posted them to your Dribbble profile. If you mean to become a UX designer, you gotta dig deeper (and this probably is content for a different blog altogether.)

Dribbble and Facebook Groups are mudding people’s brains

What looks pretty on Dribble might not be the best design ever designed. I’ve seen a ton of designers who are able to design absolutely gorgeous looking visuals. Unfortunately, all that can go in the garbage if it doesn’t work. And most of it doesn’t work — these designs are done without much research, understanding user’s needs or figuring out the real-world use cases. I’m very annoyed by how users in a number of Facebook Groups I’m in post logos or other unrelated stuff to UI/UX groups trying to quench their hunger for page likes. That’s not how it works, that’s not how any of it works. I believe this is partly because people just see the word “design” and are like “Hell yeah! I too have some designs to show off.” Have you ever posted a mobile UI to an interior design group/tag? If not, then the same applies to UI/UX as well. Don’t do it.

Focus on the inside and not the outside

This would be the same dating advice I’d give you, but for this purpose, I’ll be contextualizing it to be about showing off your designs online. I’ve seen a number of posts where the designers spend so much time wrapping their design on a device mockup, applying special effects, using isometric devices and what not. But if you are unable to impress me by showing off a solution to a problem you’re solving, seriously man, your device mockups are useless. That is, without showing off a screen that is solving some user problem, just wrapping it with a fancy mockup will not make it a better design. Unfortunately, a lot of designers run after the pretty looks and forget to prioritize where their focus should be.

Okay, I only have graphic design experience. Where do I go?

If you’re really committed about making the switch and becoming a UI/UX designer, they I recommend you start with an empty slate. There are a number of intersections of skills between graphic design and UI/UX design and there are some that will add absolutely no value. I will divide it into two parts, things that will come handy versus things that you might wanna leave outside the door.

Things that will definitely come handy

  • Understanding of color, typography, grids and spacing
  • Understanding of Gestalt principle (proximity, closure, similarly, common fate, etc.)
  • A good taste in aesthetic vector art, photography, etc.

Things that won’t help

  • Bleeds, die cuts and spreads. We don’t do that here.
  • RGB and Hexadecimal color systems are going to be your new friends. Leave CMYK outside.
  • Your itch to add drop shadows and flares to stuff.
  • Your urge to trying to fit everything on the first fold. No, don’t do that, that’s not how the web works.

As you drill down deeper, you will figure out more differences. The single biggest difference being that the web and mobile design are navigable. Not all information needs to be presented up front. That’s why the “Read more…” buttons flourish, and it’s okay. Imagine the table of contents in the magazine that you designed. The homepage is pretty similar. See, I told you, it isn’t that hard?

Next Steps

You really need to up your reading game. There are a ton of design books, podcasts and YouTube videos out there. A simple search is going to reveal a wealth of knowledge. Pursue in that direction. Ask questions without inhibitions. It’s easier to ask someone who knows than to scour the web for three hours, trust me! Once you’re ready, please go back and redo the CV that you sent me.

Fuck the CV, work on case studies

That’s what good designers do. It’s impossible to showcase a UI/UX design project without telling a good story. Every good story has an introduction, an elaboration and the change you made. Try focusing on those things and throw in some nice visuals here and there. Visuals are not the heart of the story, but a heroic saga of how you solved a problem is more compelling to employers.