There was a time not too long ago when marketing agencies seeking out designers would look exclusively for a graphic designer. He or she would likely be an artist who used to work in the traditional medium of pen and paper before moving to a stylus and computer keyboard. However, with the advent of dynamic and responsive websites and mobile apps, the demand for graphic designers has recently given way to more nuanced specialists. Enter UX/UI designers.
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase bandied about the industry, but if you’re suddenly in the position to hire someone in this field, you may be wondering what the actual differences are between these designers. More importantly, which is right for your business?
UI/UX Designer: It’s All About the Interface and Experience
The User Experience (UX) designer is all about how the product or interface makes the consumer feel. There is no cut-and-dry definition of what this is, however; rather, it all depends on what service the client is providing and what sort of consumer they’re targeting.
When it comes to digital applications, like websites and apps, UX designers are generally concerned with the flow of the product. Can the consumer move smoothly from one area or section to the next? Is using the product a natural and easy process or is it overwhelming and complicated? UX designers may utilize user acceptance testing (UAT) and compile both verbal and non-verbal feedback to refine the product and create the best possible user experience. They tend to be hands-on in the research and development process to produce a product that is best-suited to consumer use.
The User Interface (UI) designer (if acting separately from a UX designer) is less concerned with how the customer feels and more concerned with how the product is laid out. They are responsible for conceptualizing and creating the actual product. Part of this responsibility is deciding where content should reside and how the consumer can interact with the product in an intuitive manner. UI designers are also typically accountable for creating a unified and consistent style or design for the entire product. They are responsible for visually translating the client’s requests into the desired result.
The caveat here is that most UX designers are also UI designers and vice versa. In the digital age, the user interface influences the user experience.
Graphic Designer: It’s All About Pixel Perfection
Imagine that, instead of marketing a product to the consumer, we’re throwing a party. A graphic designer would be caught up in the particulars of the party: the colors of the decorations, the font used on the invitations, and the styling of the cake we all get to enjoy. Graphic designers tend not to be concerned with user experience or the flow of a product; rather, their focus is on the visuals themselves. They create attractive icons, select the most desirable fonts, and craft the striking visuals that physically reflect (and represent) a brand or product. Think of Nike’s swoosh or Coca-Cola’s dynamic ribbon. Graphic designers instill beauty and soul into a product.
Graphic designers focus on pixel perfection – they work at a high-resolution level of detail and are far more concerned with colors and feeling than analytics. It’s all about the details that create the larger finished product. Whether you’re seeking help with branding initiatives, marketing collateral, advertisements, business cards, or aesthetics, a graphic designer will be your go-to individual.
Which Designer Should You Hire?
If you’re in marketing, you will at some point find yourself in need of a designer. But which role is right for your department? Is it possible to hire one applicant that will fill all of these roles? Possible, yes, though not necessarily desirable. This is one field where specialization is advantageous.
To determine which type of designer is right for your team, first determine what you want to provide your client or customer. If you are working in a purely visual medium, say printing or advertising, then having a graphic designer on staff may be just what you need to translate your idea to the page. The graphic designer can ensure consistency and aesthetic appeal for the overall interpretation of your ideas. Whether you work for a brand or marketing agency, you’ll likely find the need for a full-time graphic designer somewhere within your ranks. It just makes sense.
A UI/UX designer is more crucial to your business if you are creating a Web system or app. If you are not consistently creating new interfaces or applications, this designer could be contracted to complete assignments as needed. However, if you’re continually creating new systems, then having UI/UX designers on staff may be your best bet. For brands, UX/UI designers aren’t as crucial because they concern themselves less with branding and marketing and focus more on problem-solving. A marketing agency, though, is only as good as the resources it has at its disposal, and a UX/UI designer is a tremendous tool to have handy.
Ask yourself: what are the needs of your department? Do you need ongoing design services or are you seeking assistance on a one-time project? Do you work on behalf of others or your own company? These questions will inform your answer to the question of “so which designer do I need?”