From Graphic Design to UI, part 2: de-prioritize 'originality'.


This article is part of a series of tips for Graphic Designers who want to move to UI. You can read the first part here.

Hi! I'm Nico Lozada and I know you didn't ask me, but I've been a UI Designer for about 6 years.

Besides, I'm a UI teacher and most of my students come from the Graphic Design world, so I often -during the exercises to build interfaces- observe how my students recycle some old practices and attitudes from their design career.

I don't blame them: whenever we face a new world, we always use previous knowledge so that the shock is not so drastic. And that's fine, there are many advantages of bringing knowledge from Graphic Design to UI (especially visual fundamentals like hierarchy, spacing, or color theory), but there is other ' knowledge' that I recommend my students to leave behind.

One of those skills has to do with -perhaps- the most valued idea in the world of creative industries. In that context comes the central sentence of this article, with every intention of going in with your head up high: If you want to dedicate yourself to UI...

...stop prioritizing originality.

Artist profile or organizer profile?

There are two reasons why people study Graphic Design:

And none of them is "my parents told me to study Graphic Design or they would disinherit me".

  1. You want to explore your creativity, create new and high-impact pieces. This is the profile of the "artist", the concept that design institutes want to sell you any way they can in their advertisements.
  2. You want to bring some order to this dirty world. You know, you like to organize objects by color, align the papers on your desk, give a little balance to everything around you.

Experience tells me that this second profile is the one that shines the most when we do UI. In the end, any interface is just a bunch of information arranged in one way or another, so designing interfaces is to organize that information, to make it more usable, accessible, scannable, and meet certain business objectives.

By this, I do not mean that there is no room for the artist profile, but I do mean that it must go hand in hand with these objectives (usability, accessibility, readability). I tell you from experience: sometimes I have wanted to innovate visually, giving new shapes to the buttons, and placing elements in completely new places. In the end, what I got was a unique interface... so unique that nobody understood it, and therefore, nobody could use it.

We must understand that the primary role of any interface is to solve a task, not to show off our creative skills. Think about the last time you entered an app for a specific purpose (ordering a cab, getting food delivered to your door, buying movie tickets), and contrast that with the times you entered an app just to appreciate how original it was.

Where do I start?

The main thing is to realize that, in reality, rules are not a new element for us. In Graphic Design we also have to follow rules and meet objectives (nobody wants a poster where you can't read the name of the artist or the place of the presentation); it is just that in UI –due to the interaction factor– the rules are a bit stricter.

The second thing is to do some self-exploration and define: do I really like working under these rules? If the answer is no, I recommend you to explore other alternatives, such as creative coding, or interactive art.

If the answer is yes, I have a simple formula for you:

Let go of the creator's ego, and think more like a solver.

Believe me. Making that mindset change is going to help you a lot in your career.

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