I need to know graphic design to be considered a UX designer?

I came across a blog post by General Assembly the other day that highlighted the “Top 5 Highest Paying Careers in Tech”. Awesome, the role of User Experience Design made it!

Good job, General Assembly, this has been a pretty useful article. So why am I writing a rant post about it? Well, I’ll start off with excerpt from the User Experience Design description that says:

“Great designers are able to anticipate a user’s needs and expectations, making the experience simple and intuitive and have skills in user research, information architecture, prototyping , wireframing and of course, graphic design.”

Overall, it’s a good snapshot of what us UX’ers do. It didn’t tick me off until I read the last four words of the sentence: “of course, graphic design.

What?

Since when was graphic design an “of course” requirement? Sure, I can work in the Creative Suite programs and sure, I guess I have some level of visual/graphic design understanding (thank you, college) to create products that are aesthetically-pleasing to the user.

I guess this bothers me because often times, we UX’ers anticipate leveraging research (interviewing, contextual inquiries, competitive analyses etc. etc. etc. <insert more research method name-dropping here>) that drive designs for testing, including information architecture and wireframing as part of the design process (as the article mentions). Graphic design is not the main priority here. It is often times the reason why muted or black/white prototypes are used so that users can focus on the content rather than being distracted by different color schemes and “pretty” images. To be fair, these usually occur for low to mid-fidelity prototypes; if the article was assuming high-fidelity prototypes, then yes, graphics and visuals may be important key drivers on making design decisions.

However, to say that graphic design skills are required makes me question the validity of the overall understanding of what a UX designer does versus an actual graphic designer. Did the graphic design industry simply decide to change their titles to sound fancier? Are graphic designers now required to learn UX methodologies? To what extent must a UX professional must be competent in graphic design? Does that include physical materials as well?

Well, either that was a good marketing ploy by GA for me to go sign up for some visual/graphic/communication design courses now, or I’m just trying to defend myself because I can’t whip up designs that I’m sure my actual graphic designer friends can do.

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