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Career Path: How to Become a Visual/UI Designer

So you want to become a Visual/UI Designer. That’s a good pick. A career in this direction offers strong job satisfaction and the opportunity to work on interesting projects. But that’s not all. Working as a UI designer provides many opportunities for job growth. With more small and medium businesses looking to increase their digital footprint with web and mobile applications, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 20-percent growth for job opportunities of visual designers working in the computer design and related services industry.

Getting Started

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Career Path: How to Become a Visual/UI Designer

So you want to become a Visual/UI Designer. That’s a good pick. A career in this direction offers strong job satisfaction and the opportunity to work on interesting projects. But that’s not all. Working as a UI designer provides many opportunities for job growth. With more small and medium businesses looking to increase their digital footprint with web and mobile applications, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 20-percent growth for job opportunities of visual designers working in the computer design and related services industry.

Getting Started

It never hurts to start your career early. If you’re in still in high-school, you can begin enrolling for classes in core subjects like website design, graphics arts and drawing. You can also build your early experience by getting involved in design projects in school, such as producing the yearbook or redesigning the school’s website.

Consider Getting a Degree

It’s possible to get a job without a degree, but stiff market competition means that you’re likely to face a harder time getting an entry-level position (especially without experience). Most recruiters prefer candidates with an associate or bachelor’s degree in graphic design, digital arts or a related field because this guarantees that the designer has a more complete education covering a range of subjects including the principles of design.

Build your Portfolio

A solid resume is a crucial part of any job search. Employers need a demonstration of your graphical skill and abilities. Create a solid portfolio that effectively reflects all your strengths and skills. If you don’t already have one, volunteer for different projects or take up pet projects. The best portfolios offer varied content, with an emphasis on quality over quantity.

Working as an Intern or Junior Visual/UI Designer

Once hired, you’ll work alongside a team of designers and developers, combining technology and art to create visual components and product illustrations. Some of your duties may include presenting design concepts to clients, designing layouts, reviewing designs and creating visual elements such as illustrations and logos. As your skill improves and your advance to mid-level positions your job duties may be expanded to include creating reports for senior execs, mentoring junior level designers and taking the lead on UI projects. In addition to your hard skill, some of the minimum requirements you’ll need to succeed in your job include:

  • Good creativity
  • Artistic ability
  • Good analytical skills
  • Effective time management
  • Strong communication skills

Advance Your Career: How to Become a Senior Visual/UI Designer

Depending on the size of the company, the duties of a Visual/UI designer may include a broad spectrum of tasks—starting with product research and ending with product testing. One way of preparing your rise to this position is by expanding your knowledge of some of the industrial tools. In addition to imaging applications like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, you’ll need to expand your digital toolbox to include useful applications that can help when mind mapping, prototyping, flow-charting and more. Some of the common tools valued by professional UX designers include:

  • Prototyping and Wire-framing tools: Pidoco, Sketch, Figma and Gliffy
  • UX Analytics Tools: AppSee, Keen, Google Analytics and Clicky
  • A/B Testing: Convert, VW), Unbounce and AB Tasty
  • Session recording and Heat-mapping tools: Clicktale, Sitemap and Mouseflow,
  • Visual Feedback Tools: Trackduck, Usersnap, Helio and bugherd

Improve your Technical Skills

A lovely website layout design contains a mix of elements, including a striking logo, beautiful typography and the right color scheme. It also requires the right balance of CSS, JavaScript and HTML. You can improve your rise through the ranks by improving your skill and knowledge in all these areas. Take courses in print design to learn how to work with applications like Photoshop and Illustrator and consider a foundation course in web development to get a good grasp of CSS, HTML and even jQuery. Read books on typography or color theory.

Study other Websites and Apps

Improve your skills by studying web applications showcasing effective UX designs. Trying to replicate great sites is an effective way to identify and appreciate design decisions. Creating mockups also gives you more options for your portfolio when it’s time to move to a higher position.

Work on your Delivery

Having solid communication skills is a key part of being a senior designer. At some point, clients or board execs will want an explanation of why you chose a particular color scheme, font, typeface or texture with your mockup. You’ll need to justify your decisions to them in easy-to-understand terms. Always rehearse on your presentation before delivering it.

Stay Proactive

As a junior designer, the bulk of your responsibilities will likely revolve around providing support for lead designers, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be limited to only those duties. Seize the initiative and volunteer to work on assignments even if they aren’t part of your responsibilities. Make suggestions on fresh designs and try to think of creative ways of improving existing projects.

Get a Mentor

Having someone who can give an honest critique of your work will make a lot of difference during the earlier years. If you can’t find a mentor within the workplace, look beyond to other companies or even art schools. Above all, never stop learning or practicing. Do not be afraid to fail. The only way you’ll be able to expand your skill is by working on different projects until the whole process becomes a second language.

Learn more about Marketing and Contracts

Finally, don’t just focus on the technical skill. UX design doesn’t occur in isolation. Companies rely on effective UX designs to help boost their business. Understanding how companies work and leaders think will make it easier for you to create a winning strategy that they can appreciate.

Visual/UI Designer Job Description

We’ve done the research for you. After evaluating numerous job descriptions, we’ve written our own representative job description for a mid-level Visual/UI Designer with between 2 and 5 years of relevant experience.

We’re looking for creative Visual/UI Designer to shape the design and user interface of our product. You’ll be responsible for creating and designing digital elements that optimize user experience and interaction. As our senior UI designer, you’ll collaborate with a team of copywriters, product managers, developers, researchers and digital artists. If you enjoy creating aesthetically pleasing designs then this job is for you.

What We Need Your Help With

  • Using visual design tools to create and refine illustration
  • Building storyboards and wireframes
  • Creating and implementing interaction models
  • Collaborating with the team in creating new layout, designs and ideas
  • Collaborating on end-to-end experience and scenarios
  • Developing models and prototypes for a range of projects
  • Combining typography, shapes and colors to enhance the user experience
  • Conducting user testing of websites or application
  • Maintaining best practices and standards

We Look For

  • 3+ years of proven experience working as a UI designer or visual designer
  • Extensive experience with Adobe Products including Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop
  • Extensive portfolio covering a range of related works
  • Bachelor’s degree in Design, Visual Arts, Graphic arts or any related qualification
  • Effective communication, good time management and problem-solving skills
  • A willingness to stay updated on industry trends and emerging technology
  • An ability to present and defend design decisions
  • An artistic eye for design and readability
  • Ability to work without supervision

These Would Also Be Nice

  • Knowledge of HTML, CSS and JavaScript
  • Knowledge of SCRUM and AGIE

Senior Visual/UI Designer Career Paths: Where to Go from Here

After more than 10 years in the field, most UX professionals find that they have enough technical skills to advance to a new job or position. To make the most of your career growth, you should consider the part of your job that you’re good at and the parts that you enjoy. Do you launch your own studio or move into management? Figuring out your strengths will also reveal your best transferable skills. If you’re not sure, ask a colleague or close friend for advice.

Technical Path

If you love designing layouts and you have a solid grasp of HTML, CSS and JavaScript, you could combine both and make the move to becoming a frontend engineer. You could expand this even further and become a full-stack web developer by learning some of the programs used in back-end engineering, like PHP, Python or Ruby. You’ll find lots of useful sites that offer easy foundation courses for designers.

Going Digital

If you still love the process of design but want a fresh change, you could switch from 2D design to 3D and work as an industrial designer or interior designer, where your duties may include developing product concepts or creating safe, functional designs for interior spaces. You could also parlay your graphic design skills for a career in the gaming industry working as a modeler, gaming visual designer, gaming UI designer or UI artist.

Venturing into Management

If your strength lies in organization and leading projects, you could go behind the scenes to work as a project manager or IT manager, supervising teams or multiple departments. Working in this position may require an MBA or a graduate degree, especially if you’re looking to progress to top-level positions like Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or senior exec.

Multimedia, Animation and Arts

Yet another option is working as an animator or multimedia artists, where you’ll be tasked with designing models and visual effects for different forms of media. Your duties may include developing storyboards for keys scenes or creating scenery or backdrop. You could also work as an art director, tasked supervising the visual style of products, magazines and even movies. You’ll talk with clients to develop an artistic style and manage a team of graphic designers. Most of these positions require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in fine art (or a related field) to get an entry-level position, but a graduate degree will likely take your further.

Adobe Photoshop is the mode widely used photo editing and image manipulation application in the world. It is used by designers and hobbyists worldwide to design products, advertising, applications, websites, art, and more.

PHP

PHP is a widely-used open-source scripting language that has seen wide use in web application development. PHP code must be processed by an interpreter like the Zend Engine. With a strong open-source community and large adoption world-wide, PHP ...

JavaScript is a scripting language, originally implemented in web browsers, but now widely used server-side via the Node.js platform. It supports a runtime system based on numerical, Boolean and string values, with built-in, first-class support f...

HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, is a markup language derived from SGML, used to describe web sites and applications to be run in a common web browser. Invented in 1993 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, HTML documents are broken up into HTML elements, w...

CSS

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) describes how HTML elements are displayed. Along with JavaScript and HTML, CSS is one of the cornerstones of front-end web development. CSS separates presentation and content, allowing styles to be defined and used t...

Python is an object-oriented programming language notable for its clarity, power and flexibility. Python is an interpreted language, meaning that an interpreter reads and runs the code directly, rather than compiling down into static lower level c...

Java is a statically-typed, cross-platform language. It is concurrent, class-based, and object-oriented. It has minimal implementation dependencies and compiled Java code can run on all platforms that support Java without the need for recompilat...

C++

C++ is an object-oriented language derived from C, and invented by Bjarne Stroustrup, while working at AT&T's Bell Labs. It is widely used for systems-level programming, and building applications on Windows and various Unix operating systems (Lin...

C

C is a widely used low-level, static-typed, compiled computer language known for its efficiency. Developed in the late sixties, C has become one of the most widely used languages of all time. It provides direct access to memory and due to its de...

Top industries hiring Visual/UI Designers

Electronics

The Electronics Industry has grown into a global industry with a value of billions of dollars. Most commonly when referring to the electronics industry it is understood the industry is consumer electronics which produces items used in everyday lif...

Marketplace

The marketplace industry is made up of digital platform companies that exist to connect business owners with consumers and facilitate trade. It is an ever-growing sector, with marketplace businesses like Lyft, GrubHub, Etsy and UpWork replacing...

eCommerce

The retail landscape has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Retail was once a brick-and-mortar industry, comprised of small, independently owned-and-operated businesses and large chain stores with multiple outposts throughout the c...

Education

The education industry involves working in an environment that implements and teaches various skills and applicable material. Formal education typically involves various levels of education, including preschool, primary, secondary, tertiary, vo...

Analytics

Analytics and Business Intelligence roles are often confused but are also directly linked. Data that is collected when a user interacts with a system is then cleaned and stored. That data is then accessed using reports and graphical dashboards. Th...

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