7 Critical Skills to Look for in a UI Designer

Outliant Editorial Team
October 28, 2022
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A man sitting on the floor with a laptop and a pen in his hand showing UI designer skills
A man sitting on the floor with a laptop and a pen in his hand showing UI designer skills

Based on their needs, companies have different criteria for what makes a great designer. Some say it's a person born with an eye for design - that it's either intrinsic or not. To some degree, maybe that's true. Still, whether or not design is an intuitive talent or a nurtured career interest, there are some specific creative UI design skills every designer has to develop and practice in order to reach an expert level.

First, what is UI design? User Interface Design is the process of creating the way users interact and communicate with software programs and the computer, focusing on aesthetics and style. As a UI designer, understanding the critical implications of this for the end-user is an essential step in building their user experience.

There are similarities between User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI), but the main difference between the two is that UX is responsible for all elements of the user's experience on the journey with a company, its products, and its services, while UI dictates how a user completes a specific task or achieves a goal - like making a purchase.

If you’re looking to hire a UI designer to join your team, the following are some of the key qualifications to keep an eye out for in each candidate:

  1. Interaction Design Principles - The first step to understanding the concept of UI Design is understanding interaction principles. Every UI designer must be versed in the fundamental principles of Emphasis, Balance & Alignment, Contrast, Repetition, Proportion, Movement, and White Space. These elements guide the designer in choosing the right focus and direction for bringing a product to life, so it’s important that they have a grasp of these components.

  1. Wireframing and Prototyping - Often referred to as the skeletal framework of designs, wireframes primarily focus on structure and functionality. Through wireframing, the designer can break the interface down into monochromatic shapes that define the structure of a product before getting into details of aesthetics and feel. Wireframing and prototyping are crucial skills for every designer, because a prototype created from a defined problem hypothesis can help test assumptions and market strategies. Lately, with different kinds of prototyping springing up, having a UI designer that can test out these designs is beneficial for providing stakeholders with a sense of what is being built.

  1. User Research and Personas - It's essential for a UI designer to carry out user research to understand their market. It's impossible to build a successful product without market research on what your audience wants and likes. By creating personas, designers can identify and define the user's perspective, providing a better and more seamless experience.

  1. Branding - How a company portrays itself and its products essentially determines how it's defined by its audience. Therefore, before a designer can start working on this visual representation, they must identify the key characteristics the company or product aims to present to its users. This knowledge helps the designer make products on-brand models for the company. Typography and color formation are critical aspects of branding; web design is approximately 95% typography, which means font type, size, and color matter when creating a design.

  1. Style Guide - This document is created during the early stages of design and updated throughout the design process. The core of a style guide involves documenting vital UX components and holding live elements and code snippets for developers to reference and use. It also includes highlighting key UI components and logging all design elements and interactions that occur within a product. A style guide serves as a brand guide for designers to interact with the client's needs when delivering a product, forming a connection from product to user experience.

  1. Design Tools - The ability to use relevant industry tools for design is a must for UI designers. Navigating tools like Sketch, Figma, and Adobe Illustrator, among others, helps the designer create a digital representation of a product that suits both the client and users' needs.

  1. Collaboration and Communication - While the design creation happens independently, designers have to be able to communicate with both teammates and clients. To effectively interpret the essence of a product, a designer needs to communicate with clients and interpret market research. A UI designer should be able to demonstrate and communicate each stage of design with the client, helping them understand areas that might need attention and blockers that may be hindering the user's experience. 

Designing requires combining both creative and practical skills; communication and research are just as important as the literal design process. Even experienced designers should exhibit a desire and initiative to continue improving their skills. Likewise, if you're considering design as a new career path, these are critical UI design skills and tools to hone, in order to succeed. 

Great designers are not always easy to come by; that’s why AirCrew by Outliant offers bolt-on recruitment services without placement fees for hiring the best creative talent in design and engineering. Schedule a call today to find out more.

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