I came to the field of UX from web development and even though I have an OK photoshop/illustrator background, I'm definitely not a graphic designer. But here the thing: I often see in job descriptions "UX/UI" or putting UX in title and describing the graphic designer position etc. And this is really confusing. Needless to say this has direct impact on job search process.

Therefore, I want to ask these below questions:

1) What probably I would need to do as the UI Designer, and what kind of knowledge/skills I'll need of Photoshop and/or Illustrator for this?

2) What probably I would need to do as the IxD or Interactive Designer, and what kind of knowledge/skills I'll need of Photoshop and/or Illustrator for this?

3) What UX/UI probably would mean? Are they looking for a unicorn or probably the one who will do the UX/IxD job?

closed as too broad by Devin, Mayo, locationunknown, Andrew Martin, Matt Obee Feb 13 '17 at 9:52

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    101 is an American term meaning 'starter or initial' as initial college courses are "101" courses. – PhillipW Feb 12 '17 at 8:08

"UX is not UI" is a widely discussed topic by those who practice UX and see visual designer / user interface designer use the term. I myself sometimes want to reach through the screen when I see someone comment "Awesome UX" on a static design on Dribbble.
UX has, to some extend, become a "hipster" term that some companies use without really knowing the extend of what UX is.

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User Experience is a very broad term. Visual Design is just a part of the entire umbrella. My experience is that companies asking for a UI/UX person, want a designer that can do a little more than just "make things pretty". A person that can take a concept, help determine the requirements and design a useful and stylish application.

But answering your questions:

  1. A UI designer is a graphical designer specialised in designing user interfaces for digital products. You're required to be creative and capable of creating the right (as in fitting) design for a product or company. What your exact tasks would be depends on the company. Is it an internet bureau that does client work? You'll probably help build concepts from the ground up. If the company has it's own product, you'll probably help improve and expand the product. In bigger companies you'll probably be a tiny spil in a bigger engine. Just designing stuff and delivering your work to the next person. In smaller companies you might have more influence on the project. But this differs from company to company.
    You'll be using visual editing software, which is anything from Adobe: Photoshop, Illustrator or the more recent Adobe XD. Sketch is also very popular.

  2. An Interaction Designer is more concerned with the flow of a product and if it's usable and accessible. They design with the user in mind (user centered design). They find out what the user wants to achieve and come up with the best solution. They substantiate this with research done by others or they even play around with user research themselves. Some interaction designers just make wireframes and turn those over to the user interface designers. Other interaction designers also know how to make something pretty and are proficient in the editing software mentioned above. For wireframes, you can also use dedicated software like Axure. I personally stick to pen and paper, at least at first.

  3. Like I mentioned, there are companies who don't know the extend of what User Experience is. I believe this is mostly a combination of UI and UxD. That is, without the user research primarily. But you could add easily add a bit of user research in your work.

With a background as a web developer you could be very valuable to a smaller company. Some might call you a unicorn. In the first stages of a project you bring technical knowledge with which you can say what is technically possible. It can boost creativity and prevent ideas that are impossible to create (at all or within the budget).

And as for not being a graphic designer, it was Picasso who said.

Good artists copy, great artists steal


1) UI designer/Graphic designer: someone working with photoshop/illustrator/sketch to produce production ready graphics for the front-end developer including typography, icons, color schemes and graphical style guides to make the surface of an interface look and feel nice.

2) Interaction designer: someone focusing on usability, doing user research, drawing mockups and wireframes that focus on the needs and behaviours of the end users. No photoshop/illustrator skill needed, perhaps working with Balsamiq Mockups, Axure and/or pen and paper.

3) UX/UI is often a fancy word for UI designer but can sometimes mean that you are also expected to do the job of an interaction designer.

  • Thanks, Filip. Are you speaking from your own experience? Frankly, I never seen job description without at least photoshop/illustrator skills for IxD. Never – hardnndy Feb 11 '17 at 20:14
  • I've been working as a IxD consultant the past five years and even though my clients often mention photoshop/illustrator in their job descriptions, I have always resorted to using simpler tools like a whiteboard. Design is all about exploring and communicating ideas. Balsamiq Mockups is fine most of the time but softwares are just tools and you should always choose the best tool for the job. Photoshop is rarely the best tool for an interaction designer. – filip Feb 11 '17 at 20:41
  • Yes, I know, Filip. It's exactly my point... The knowledge of adobe software are even required many times for a UX jobs. I mean real UX positions, without a need of visualizing the end product. – hardnndy Feb 11 '17 at 21:16
  • Yeah, it can be a bit frustrating, but you shouldn't feel discouraged to apply for a job just because of the tools requirements. Any serious employer knows that tools change, and most tools can be taught fairly quickly. There are other factors that are more important when considering applicants for a position. – filip Feb 11 '17 at 22:21

There are 4 major aspects how I generally define UX, UI, VD, IxD, IA..etc etc to people who do not speak design. This is very high-level guys, you might defer. We all know that a UXer is an umbrella term which encompasses all these, but for the non-designers, this approach works the best:

  1. UX: This is a person who understands the business requirements and makes a strategy on how to present it to the end user.

  2. IxD: This is a person who takes input from the UXer and defines the journey of how the user will interact with the application. He takes care of Gestures, Animations, layouts, etc.

  3. UI: This is a person who converts the layouts into a theme and create a visual appeal to the design. He follows brand guidelines, color theory etc.

  4. UX/UI - It is a term used by recruiters who are not aware of the UI/UX difference or, they are willing to accept candidates who have knowledge in either domain (with just one job opening.)

Regarding the tools, there is no fixed set of tools which a person must know. Photoshop is something which everyone must know.Then there are domain specific tools like Sketch (UX/IxD), Illustrator (UI), Invision(IxD) must know. No standards, just preferences.

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