I used to design UI in pretty disorganized way, starting with page mockups right away, detailing them, and then wondering why my designs are mostly crappy. Having read Alan Cooper's ‘About Face’, I plan to put an end to this, starting with the current project.


(And quick sanity check for me.)

  • Visual language is ‘style’ of interface. It includes such properties as color, type, and I think also what is often called ‘overall look&feel’.
  • Interaction design describes interface behavior. What happens when you press this or that button, what actions you need to undertake to do something, etc.

It seems like a good practice to develop visual language independently of the interaction design. This way you get flexibility (so that change in behavior won't break your style), and fully concentrate on each of these tasks to achieve better results. If there're two teams, they work concurrently. Later, close to the end of interaction design process, visual language is ‘merged’ with the sketches.

The problem

As I understand, result of interaction design is usually a bunch of sketches.

But how visual language can be represented? How can it be abstracted and made independent of interaction design? It can't say something like ‘menus should look like this, breadcrumbs chain should look like that, …’, since style should remain generic, not tied to particular functional or data elements of the interface; and at the same time provide enough ‘look&feel’, say, to be discussed with stakeholders. What practices / workflows exist, what are recommended reads?

Domain here is mostly web sites and applications, if it matters.

PS. Correct me if I'm getting wrong something fundamental here. I'm pretty new to this.

PPS. Also posted on ux.se.

1 Answer 1


One way of doing it would be to have mood boards (more info here: http://www.viget.com/inspire/getting-moody/), showing color palettes, typography, imagery, basically anything related to the site.

  • That looks very close, thanks! I have no idea why isn't this approach more popular. It has never mentioned on ui.stackexchange or uxexchange. But it seems to really abstract the process, and mood board templates can formalize it a bit. Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 5:22

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