Lately, many people often ask me the same questions about how to become a UX/UI designer – Where should I start? What should I know? Do I need studies to work as a designer? The list is endless.
So, along with my buddies from iteo, we’ve decided to write an article based on our experience. Ready? Let’s jump into it.
Choose your path.
Before you even start you must know what exactly you want to do. Many people want to start doing everything at once but trust me, this is not a good idea.
- You’re kinda into visual aspects of websites, apps, products, etc.? Go more into UI design.
- You like thinking about how everything should work, analyze, make workshops with clients? You’re definitely more of a UX designer.
- Or maybe you want to combine these two plus you like to understand the product deeply, be in charge of it, know and improve it? That’s right. A product designer.
- You like magazines, posters, flyers, other POS-materials, and enjoy working with the company’s identity — then you should be a graphic designer.
The list goes further with animations, illustrations, etc. Basically, look for something you will enjoy and devote a lot of your time, too!
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Do I need studies to get my dream job? The answer is simple – no. You don’t need to have any studies nor courses. Of course, they may help you in your future job but a really high percentage of designers never attend studies. It’s all about your hard work and determination. The next thing is your location. It’s easier to get decent design studies on the Westside than on the Eastside.
Most of the studies will teach you more theoretically, and you will have to learn all the practical skills on your own.
From my own experience, dropping studies was the best decision I’ve ever made. Three years in iteo were way more valuable than three years at school.
Know your tools.
Let’s be honest – you must know your tools to get your first job as a designer. It’s a standard. If you’re a beginner and you’re thinking about UX/UI/product design, don’t waste your time on Photoshop or Illustrator. Just jump straight into Figma and Sketch.
What software should you pick? Hard to tell, but you can read our article about Figma and Sketch and make your own decision. In my opinion, you should go for Figma because it’s free and this is a huge advantage in opposition to Sketch if you’re a beginner. The rest of programs will come naturally over time.
Below you can find a list of must-have tools of every Product Designer:
- Figma – a great tool for UI and UX design with an option to share prototypes with your client
- Sketch – an alternative for Figma but without great built-in prototyping
- Adobe Xd – another alternative for Sketch and Figma
- Principle – great and powerful tool when you want to animate your design and you don’t know After Effects
- Zeplin – a bridge connecting Designers with Developers to which you can export your designs, components, and design system
- Illustrator – sooner or later you will need Illustrator, even just to make a logo for the product you’re currently working on
Start living with design
Path chosen? Great. You’re familiar with your tools? Awesome. Now start living with and next to design. Start paying attention to small details and other obvious things. Start asking yourself the following questions: Why did they put the logo here and not there? Why is a certain button at the end and not in the beginning? Why is this font smaller and this bigger?
With overtime, you will start noticing things that you didn’t see at the beginning and evaluating things from a professional point of view. Behance and Dribbble are probably the best websites that give you a chance to look at other designers and their projects. Even 45 minutes daily can improve your design taste and thinking. Besides, you will become aware of fashion trends and you will get some inspiration.
Just do it. Open Dribbble, select a project that you liked the most, and recreate it. Button by button. Letter by letter. Try to make the exact shadow, exact effect. This is the fastest way to gain an improvement in a short amount of time. In studies, students often recreate artworks or styles of famous artists. Why? Because it’s the best way to find your style. If you don’t try someone else’s style, you will not find your own. Now the most important thing. Never share that work publicly because it’s not your work. Just use it as a way to explore new grounds, styles, and options. With overtime, you will start taking pieces from different projects, artists, and building your own products. And this is exactly what Pablo Picasso said.
“Good artists copy, great artists steal”
So, what does Picasso’s saying mean and what can we learn from it? Picasso was referring to the fact that good artists and great artists work very differently:
- A good artist will see another artist’s style and then try and emulate that style as closely as they can.
- A great artist will select elements from other artist’s work and incorporate it into their own unique mix of influences.
A good artist simply copies another person’s art. A great artist selectively takes (steals) elements from multiple sources and then creatively combines their influences to create something that is uniquely their own.
This is the way I started. For example, Daily UI Challenges. The prompts are great to test out interactions, play with visual styles, etc. I was able to practice, research, discover, improve, experiment, play, and, of course, work hard to get to the place where I am now. You can subscribe to dailyui.co and you’ll receive a unique User Interface design challenge for 100 days. There are a lot of other websites that you can look up and take the challenge. You can even create a challenge yourself. Everything will work if you benefit from it.
From A to Z
Another great way to learn the process hidden behind products is to recreate it. Make your own small process. For example, just think of an app you want to make. Build your idea. Then start asking yourself why you should make it, what are the pros and cons. What problem do you solve? What are you trying to build and why? Just define your product vision. Next, you should do research. UX research is the core of making an impactful product. In order to understand how users behave, how they think, what their mental models are, and how your product helps them in achieving their goals, you need to start digging deeper into finding those answers. The most-used and fastest method is Competitor Analysis – in marketing and strategic management it is a process of finding the strength and weaknesses of present and future competitors.
Then start making your wireframes. Take a piece of paper, forget about colors and just draw your mobile app/website like you think it should look. Paper will save you a lot of time and enable you to explore entirely different approaches. If you finally worked out your wireframes, digitize them. Make them High Fidelity. You can use Figma to connect every piece, make a prototype, and try to use it as a final product. Is everything ok with it? Something is missing? Something is in the wrong place? Change it and try again. You can look at other live products to see how they manage to solve their problem, how they made buttons, onboarding, menu, and other core functionalities. If you finally have your perfect prototype, stylize it with the help of Dribbble or Behance. Just remember to take little pieces from different projects to make your own. Don’t steal.
And you got it. Your first product. With a little process behind it. Put it in the portfolio and go for another one!
PS: This is just a really small part of the process described so that as a beginner you can try at least a part of what awaits you when you will finally work as a Product Designer. The real process is 10 to 20 times bigger and more complicated but don’t worry. Everything will come to you over time.
I am not going to talk about millions of books and articles that you need to read to become a designer, because the Internet is full of information on this topic. Just read. I’ve never liked reading books. It doesn’t matter if it was a school lecture or a fantasy book. I hated it. After 23 years I realized how wrong I was. The amount of knowledge that is hidden between pages in different books is unbelievable.
Here are some examples of books that we suggest at iteo you should read at first:
- Refactoring UI – This book contains literally everything we know about web design, distilled into short, easy to read chapters.
- Don’t make me think by Steve Krug
- Change by Design by Tim Brown
- Basically every position at e-Books on UXPin
- Logo Design Love
Create a portfolio and get a job.
Finally, we came to the end of this article. You have your own mini product with a little case study behind it. You’ve made several projects, apps, websites, brandings. Now it’s time to upload them on Behance or Dribbble. Portfolio is your business card. By looking at it, the employer will decide whether to start the interview process with you or to choose another candidate. Honestly, if your portfolio is good enough, the resume is redundant. But remember, you’re a beginner so make a good portfolio with a good resume. Got it? Now create an account on LinkedIn and start looking for your dream job!
Psst. Currently, we’re looking for a Junior Graphic Designer. Wanna give it a try?