The age-old idea of a traditional designer is vastly outdated; today there are numerous experts in the field, each focusing on different aspects of design: visual layout, user’s point of view, or with the product in mind. With different modes of thinking, the idea of a traditional designer began to evolve into several species of design-folk. Graphic, visual, web, print, UX, UI, usability… the list of types itself is forever expanding. To choose the designer for a project can be tricky, however, with the end-goals in mind and some insight into the design-world, we can make it that much easier.

UX Design (User Experience)

There is one designer-type: User Experience, that has similar responsibilities associated with it no matter the industry. UX designs are created with the end-user in mind. Targeting the audience from who they are, what habits and expectations they have as an end-user, and how they operate outside the web are some of the questions that are most often researched in UX. Because of the range of responsibilities associated with their work, many have called UX the overarching umbrella of all design. User Experience Design is an umbrella term that encompasses:

  • Interactive design
  • Information architecture
  • Usability
  • Accessibility
  • Human computer interaction
  • Human factors engineering
  • User interface design as components of the holistic user experience.

At times, UX design is more about working with people and researching behaviors than it is about designing an interface. There is an emphasis on designing with the final product’s feel as priority versus the traditional design that is based on look and branding alone; and often the broad responsibility of ensuring that the product logically flows from one step to the next falls on a UX designer. First comes the function, and then comes the form and visual aspect of design.

UX roundup

  • Responsibilities: research to make the product fit the target audience
  • Deliverables to client: wireframes, storyboards, sitemap
  • Tools of the trade: Photoshop, illustrator, sketch,
  • Typical phrase: “We should show users a new page to confirm they’ve registered for that download”

Usability Design

Usability design takes into account the general knowledge of how users interact with the web and designs with those guidelines as the basis of their design. There is no specific user group or target audience, but the experience is still guided through differentiated design elements and/or a hierarchy of elements. For example, to convey a navigation or workflow of the product, usability design would use a bigger button to emphasis the desired action for a user to continue. This takes into consideration the general fact that almost all web-users scan for information rather than read every word. Users are more prone to click a button than plain linked text; the desired action would then have a more pronounced style.

Usability roundup

  • Responsibilities: how the product feels
  • Deliverables to client: style guides, adhere strictly to the branding and marketing standards, user interface layouts
  • Tools of the trade: Photoshop, illustrator, sketch,
  • Typical phrase: “The login button should always be clearly visible to the user, let’s put it in utilities in the top right corner of the page”

Graphics & UI Design (User Interface)

Graphic designers (as many designers are often referred to as) are the pixel-pushers of the design umbrella. In recent years, the design world has tried to deflect the traditional idea that designers are there to ensure something looks pretty. Many times when asking a non-designer what a designer does, this is the idea that first comes to mind. The UI expert’s primary focus is on how the product is laid out. Their main focus tends to weigh heavily on the minor details of a final product that may have been overlooked in research or initial layouts. Because of this, the focus of a UI designer is not the path it took a user to get to a destination or the link structure of a website, but on all of the details that make up the look that users see. This ranges from the typography to the style of icons used throughout a project.

Visual Roundup

  • Responsibilities: how the product looks
  • Deliverables to client: pixel-perfect designs
  • Tools of the trade: Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator
  • Typical phrase: “The leading is off, boost the line height about 5px”

The Bottom Line: A New Breed of Hybrid Designers

Because they go handinhand, the UX/UI designer has evolved into a hybrid role with an equal focus on the interface’s look and feel. In many cases, designers are expected to wear multiple hats and some might say there are designers out there that sport the entire design umbrella. But the hybrid role of designers takes all of the research and development from UX to create wireframes that later are adjusted until a new pixel-perfect interface is born. At emagine, we’ve believed in taking a hybrid approach for the duration of our 17 years experience in the web-industry.