In recent years, a surprising trend has emerged, where graphic and digital designers are now considered distinct entities, to the ire of professionals who have been doing both for quite some time. Now, for the most part, their questions are pretty valid. Because aren’t they both essentially the same thing, especially in today’s digital age?
Those who support the distinction have compelling arguments of their own. They claim that graphic design relates to the age of print media like magazines. While digital design today has a lot of requirements that traditional graphic design tenets are unable to fulfill.
These changing demands are what have forced many designers to learn and adopt new skills and techniques and move towards visual design and UX design.
So, let’s take a look at why graphic designers today are moving towards visual and UX design in large numbers.
UX or User Experience – What is it Exactly?
In today’s highly competitive business world, experience is everything. People today often choose brands that offer a better, more nuanced user experience compared to their competition. While it’s not that new of a concept, it’s only in recent years that the term user experience or UX has started to become popular in the design world.
The concept was given its name in the 1990s by Don Norman, co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group Design Consultancy. He believed that user experience included every form of interaction an end-user has with their company, including with its products or services. If your interactions are designed to be user-friendly and intuitive, then you can be said to have a good UX.
What is the Purpose of UX Design?
Coming to UX design, let’s take a look at what it is. UX design, as the name suggests, is the concept of designing where the purpose is to maximize user satisfaction. Now, how can you do that? Some of the most common ways to accomplish that improving the usability and accessibility, and maximizing the pleasure of using your products.
Using the above as a general definition of user experience design, we can say that it is a way of creating products that focuses on the customer or end-user aspect of that product. It is one of the biggest factors in the UX design vs. Graphic design debate and it is crucial to understand it before choosing your career. It can be used to create layouts and designs that are fun, intuitive, and easy to use from a user’s perspective. And that is usually tweaked by adjusting three factors:
- Look or visual appeal is paramount if you want to have a good user experience. It’s human nature that if something doesn’t look good, we tend to avoid it.
- Feel is about the joy and satisfaction someone feels when using your product. If using it is enjoyable for an end-user, then they are more likely to choose it over others.
- Usability is the crux of UX design. No matter how good it looks or feels to use a product if it doesn’t work like it is supposed to, then no end-user will adopt it.
While user experience is important, and useful for all kinds of products or services, in this article we will discuss the UX design basics in the context of web and app design, two of the most common users of UX.
How Did Designers Transition from Graphic Design to UX and Visual Design?
As we discussed earlier, UX design is an offshoot of graphic design. As such, there are a number of skills and techniques that are common to both. Therefore, those with an eye for seamless designs find it easy to shift over to UX and visual designs from simple graphic design.
In the years past, attractive website graphic designs were all it took to generate leads in greater numbers than websites with simpler or boring designs. That was because, in those days, few businesses preferred to use graphics-intensive websites for fear of people being unable to access them due to longer load times.
However, the popularity of high-speed internet in recent years means that you can now have beautiful layouts and designs incorporated without worrying about slow load times. And that is where UX design comes into play. Good design alone does nothing nowadays unless it’s enjoyable to use, and works as it’s supposed to.
Now, there are many similarities between UX design and graphic design. And there are a number of differences too. Today, we will discuss the similarities, and discover why top designers need to shift over to UX design.
Factor 1: Designs that evoke the right emotions
Emotional connection is something that every designer hopes to create with their viewers. Good designs speak to the viewers by evoking the desired emotions, while bad designs tend to do the opposite. But it is the way they set about doing it, that separates graphic designers from UX designers.
Graphic designers manipulate different colors, imagery, and even the typography of a design to evoke the right emotions. UX designers use these elements too. However, unlike graphic designers, they are not limited to just the visual elements.
UX design also incorporates elements like interaction design, the flow of information, and design accessibility. That makes the resultant design dynamic, which allows for the designer a better chance at evoking the desired emotions unlike the static designs used in graphic design.
Remember Orkut, the now defunct social media platform owned by Google? At its inception, it followed the Google tenet of simplicity in design. But with people having the option of choosing brighter, more elaborately designed social media platforms like Myspace or Facebook, users weren’t impressed. And it failed to get the users interested. While the design followed the brand’s style guide in this regard, its failure to offer its users the looks and feel of the competition added it to the list of bad website design examples.
Factor 2: Minute Details Matter
Attention to detail is something that is common to both graphic design, as well as UX design. From choosing the right color combinations to making sure that the fonts and typography used suit the target audience, there are a lot of major and minor details which can make or break a design.
Let’s take, for example, the case of a local law office. They have approached a designer to create a logo for their business. The designer chooses an elegant typeface, with a simple yet regal design. The color they choose for the logo is a light, dusky pink-gold, which would look great everywhere, from stationary to a monogram.
However, while the combination of design elements is great, and would have worked well with each other, the simple fact of the matter is that would not suit the perceived aesthetic of the law office. And it is often these kinds of details that can derail an otherwise perfectly good design.
Factor 3: Common Design Conventions
The field of graphic design is one that has helped ingrain many modern visual signs and conventions into our minds. Warning signs are often colored red, which automatically signals us to be attentive. Similarly, green often signals that everything is fine.
But where did these associations come from? They came from seeing them used the same way in every pertinent design, since our childhood. And these signals have now been rooted in our minds. Both graphic design and UX design use the same visual cues and design conventions because it is what the user expects of you. If you change it, it will affect the usability and feel of the product at the same time, classifying it as a bad design.
As we discussed earlier, graphic designers need to learn UX concepts today, if they want to succeed in the design world today. With automated tools and freelance designers available easily nowadays, almost every business is getting custom, attractive graphics designed today. So the only way to stand out is by offering a good user experience.