UX/UI Design roles and terminology

Danny Ruchtie
Dec 26, 2015 · Unlisted

You can be pardoned for sometimes feeling confused about all the terminology and job titles floating around the design world. What is the difference between Interaction design, visual design, and User Interface design?

As I see it, there are three clear tasks when designing mobile and web software. Concepting (wireframing), making artwork and generating assets. These task can be divided bij four distinct roles: Interaction design, UI design, Visual design en Production design, with a side note that not alle are involved with every product and often one person can fulfill multiple roles. Obviously there can be more types of designers involved: Product designers, Sound designers, Motion designers, etc.


Interaction design

The practice of designing interactive digital products. Like many other design fields interaction design also has an interest in form but the main focus is on behaviour. What clearly marks interaction design as a design field as opposed to a science or engineering field, is that it is synthesis and imagining things as they might be. Interaction design is heavily focused on satisfying the needs and desires of the majority of people who will use the product.

UI design

User interface design (UI) is the design of user interfaces for machines and software, with the focus on maximising the user experience. The goal of user Interface design is to make the user’s interaction as simple and efficient as possible, in terms of accomplishing user goals (user-centred design).

Good user interface design facilitates finishing the task at hand without drawing unnecessary attention to itself. Graphic design and typography are utilised to support its usability, influencing how the user performs certain interactions and improving the aesthetic appeal of the design; design aesthetics may enhance or detract from the ability of users to use the functions of the interface. The design process must balance technical functionality and visual elements (e.g., mental model) to create a system that is not only operational but also usable and adaptable to changing user needs. User interface design requires a good understanding of user needs.

Visual design

Visual design focuses on the aesthetics of a site or app and its related materials by strategically implementing images, colours, fonts, and other elements. A successful visual design does not take away from the content on the page or function. Instead, it enhances it by engaging users and helping to build trust and interest in the brand.

Graphic Designers vs Visual Designers

Visual and graphic design are very closely linked and the two terms are often used interchangeably. You may come across job advertisements and degree programs described as visual/graphic design. Sometimes visual design is referred to as visual communications, and this terminology may help give you a sense of difference between the two roles — where a graphic designer uses typefaces, hierarchy, color, images, and placement to create a perfect product, a company hiring a visual designer may be interested in a candidate with an ability to come up with a holistic aesthetic that travels across all platforms. Think of graphic designers as communicating information, and visual designers as being focused on the look and feel of the product and brand.

Production design

Production designers are specialist to perform a variety of image and production tasks to help support the visual designer. He or she prepares artwork and specifications for engineering implementation. A production designer is able to command image based and typographical layouts and is advanced in knowledge of platform specifics. Experience relating to other visual arts such as texture work, photography, 3D work.

The UX designer

Nowadays there’s another title that people like to use: UX designer.
But asking to describe what a UX designer does, the answers vary:

“An UX designer is looking at the whole picture”
“Developing strategic requirements to information architecture”
“Interaction design”
“Create wireframes and mockups”
“Designing application flows”
“An UX designer is the manager of the design department”
“An UX designer decides where buttons should be with witch colour and determine the copy”

The title of UX designer is mostly confused with the roll of the Product designer. The way I see it is: User experience design is the product of the work of the four roles mentioned above. User experience is the product and not a role.

Originally published at dannyruchtie.com.


Danny Ruchtie

Written by

Design Lead at IBM iX Studio