Learn UI Design

A Comprehensive Guide to Start Learning UI Design

UI (User Interface) design is a field of design focused on the appearance of a digital product to its users. UI Designers ensure that mobile apps and websites look attractive and are laid out in an aesthetically pleasing way.

UI design is the art of building digital applications using text, images, graphics, and interactive elements. UI design concerns itself with the visual appearance of an application, and UI skills training will train students on how to use these visual elements to communicate with audiences effectively. If you’ve always wanted to learn UI design but can’t figure out how to get started, this guide is for you. Here, you’ll learn more about the various ways to learn UI design, free resources to take advantage of, and the types of careers that commonly use UI design.

What is UI Design?

UI design is the field of graphic design concerned with how digital applications look and how they communicate information to users. UI designers ensure that a digital application looks appealing and communicates effectively with its audience. UI Designers will create digital assets using graphic design programs and then build layouts and prototypes of those layouts to share for collaboration and testing. UI design pairs closely with UX design. UI designs concern themselves with how the digital application looks, whereas UX Designers concern themselves with how the digital application feels. These two fields work closely enough together that often, one designer will do both.

Visual and graphic design skills are vital to the field of UI design. UI Designers will need to learn how to utilize a variety of different graphic design programs, and they will need to understand theories and philosophies of composition. Images and graphics communicate a large amount of information in a small space, and it is the job of UI Designers to ensure that the information a digital application communicates aligns with the desired message that a client seeks to send. This will mean that UI design focuses heavily on any project's small details, assuring that all design elements come together to communicate ideas effectively. UI design is thus concerned with both the big picture design of a digital application and the visual design of the various individual components that are used to build the appearance of that digital application.

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What Can You Do with UI Design?

Training in UI design will help creatives build vibrant and instantly memorable web designs and user interfaces for digital applications. UI Designers can blend text, images, and graphics to create functional and evocative designs using the various design programs. Unlike traditional graphic design projects, UI design projects will let creatives maximize the affordances of the digital canvas they are given, and UI Designers will be able to create digital layouts that communicate effectively and quickly. With so much modern communication happening over the internet, learning UI design is a powerful tool for expressing the interests of oneself and one’s organization.

UI design is also a useful skill for creatives who aren’t necessarily planning to build a career out of their graphic design training but still want to optimize their digital presence or their organization. Given the number of web applications designed to ease the process of web development, individuals can start designing and building digital applications for themselves or their organizations without only a little bit of UI design training. This is a bonus for small businesses, up-and-coming charities or nonprofits, advocacy organizations, and any other interest group that may want to build a web presence but is hesitant to hire professional Web Designers.

Finally, learning UI design can give existing creatives an entirely new medium to express their ideas. While web design is concerned with the functional elements of a digital application, learning UI design will allow artists and designers to build unique installations and projects that would otherwise be impossible to construct in a physical space. While most people receiving UI design training will do so with professionalization, learning how to build assets and art pieces online can give artists a new space to experiment with their creative ideas.

Careers that Use UI Design

Since having a memorable and evocative digital presence is so important in the modern marketplace, many companies and firms are hiring professionals who can design digital applications that effectively communicate the messages a brand wants to communicate. Within the field of UI design, there are many possible career paths for skilled creatives to go down, such as:

User Interface Designer: UI Designers are tasked with building a digital application's visual look and appearance. They will be responsible for ensuring that the application communicates the messages that a client wants to be communicated memorably and effectively. They will often work alongside other designers to build parts of a larger project. Some UI Designers will be responsible for building individual assets or aspects of a bigger design. UI Designers will need to be trained in user experience and graphic design software.

Visual Designer: Visual Designers are tasked with creating the individual elements of visual language that allow other creatives to construct layouts and designs. They work across many industries, building assets for use in advertising, webpages, games, and applications. They will construct assets like banner ads, text overlays, fonts, and other individual elements of digital design. They will use many of the same tools as UI Designers, and their responsibilities and assignments may often overlap at smaller firms.

Design Director: As so many design projects involve large-scale collaboration between teams of designers and developers. Design Directors oversee this design process and help teams collaborate to deliver the best product possible. Design Directors will need both the technical skills of a UI Designer to oversee these teams' work and a Project Manager's interpersonal skills to ensure that the human element of a design project is managed effectively. Design Directors may also need to learn complementary skills to assist other elements of a project team, like web development, UX design, or market research.

Why Learn UI Design?

More so than ever, companies and organizations are investing large amounts of money and resources into their digital presence. Web design is booming; the mobile app industry has been growing for years, and building a coherent online brand identity is incredibly important to new businesses and organizations. These concerns are partly addressed by specialists working in UI design, as the look of a digital application informs and colors users’ first impressions of a product. Learning UI design skills will position students to enter the visual and graphic design field, focusing on the fast-growing digital side of the industry.

In addition, UI design training will provide students with valuable knowledge of visual design and communication theories. So much modern communication, particularly online, is done through graphic design projects, so learning the ins and outs of UI design can add another layer to a student's understanding of how to communicate ideas using only visual elements of design effectively. This training will make them better communicators and better equipped to understand the visual strategies employed by other graphic designers in different fields.

Finally, learning UI design is a great way to learn many transferable career skills applicable to creatives in most industries. UI Designers will work with specialized user experience design tools, but they will also work with more generic creative tools like Photoshop and Illustrator. This means that learning UI design will help students hone skills they can apply to any creative project, whether digital or otherwise. This makes learning UI design ideal for aspiring creatives who aren’t yet entirely sure that there is a specific medium they will be working in for the rest of their careers.

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How to Learn UI Design

Students looking to learn UI design have many options to choose from in terms of professional training options. Students can take courses either in-person or online, and they can take their courses either with live instructors or through an on-demand, self-paced learning style. Each of these course options will have certain advantages and disadvantages. Regardless of the course, Noble can help you with UI design classes through their Courses Near Me tool.

Noble can assist students in finding live in-person and online classes. These classes have the advantage of letting students interact with expert instructors who are ready to help them learn the fundamental concepts of UI design. Students can ask questions and receive feedback on their designs directly. Live in-person learning has the added advantage of providing students with access to the technology they need to practice UI design skills. Live online classes can allow students to attend coursework regardless of location.

For students whose schedule will not allow them to attend a regularly scheduled live course, on-demand course options exist to help them control the pace of their training. These courses come in several different formats, but they all aim to allow students the freedom and flexibility to practice and learn when they have the chance to do so, rather than tying them down to a specific schedule. These classes are ideal for students with work and family obligations that restrict them from spending 30 or more hours a week in a classroom. Noble can help students find online UI design options available to them.

Finally, free tutorials are available to help students learn the basics of UI design. These tutorials include video resources and free training seminars. Noble offers students several pre-recorded video training courses through the Web Design and Development playlist on their official YouTube page. Here, students can watch free videos detailing the philosophies behind UI design and the specific tools that UI Designers will be tasked with using. Additionally, interested students can find interviews, articles, and UI design resources on Noble’s Learn UI design page.

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Free Introductory UI Design Course Online

Interested in learning UI design, but don’t feel like you’re ready to take the plunge into a professional training course? You may be interested in learning some of the basic UI design skills through free online courses and resources. While these courses are unlikely to replace a student's professional training in a UI design bootcamp, they are an ideal place to start learning fundamental UI design skills.

Noble offers several free introductory courses through its website and official YouTube page. Noble offers a free Intro to UI Design course and a free Intro to Figma course. These courses will cover the basic elements of design philosophy and the basic functions of one of the market's most common UI design tools. These courses can help students become more comfortable with the ideas and programs they will practice during more advanced training courses.

In addition, Noble offers many pre-recorded courses covering web design and development concepts and graphic design concepts on their YouTube page. These video recordings will help students understand tools like Photoshop and Illustrator or design platforms like WordPress. These training options are ideal for students looking to get a taste of the various flavors of graphic design and who aren’t yet confident that UI design is right for them.

Free courses are also available through other professional training services, such as GeneralAssembly, Udemy, and Coursera. Additionally, for individual applications and tools, first-party developers like Adobe and Figma provide users with tutorials and videos instructing new users how to take advantage of their applications.

Read about more free UI design videos and online tutorials.

Level of Difficulty, Prerequisites, & Cost

UI design can be a fairly difficult skill to master at first because of the sheer number of tools users will need to learn how to use. Most UI Designers will need to know at least one user experience design tool, a photo manipulation tool, an illustration tool, a prototyping tool, and several other graphic design tools. This means that while novices can easily pick up individual skills, students may encounter more obstacles than they otherwise would, owing to the number of skills they will be trained in.

Likewise, there are no upfront costs to UI design as a skill, but new designers will need many tools to fully prepare themselves for a creative career building UIs. Licensing a web layout tool is a must; novice designers will likely need to license other graphic design software to build digital elements and construct creative and unique sample interfaces. This means that the cost of building UIs may vary from person to person, depending on the programs that they are using.

There are no formal prerequisites required to learn UI design, but there are a few skills worth brushing up on before entering a training program. Students should be familiar with and comfortable using a computer and design software. Additionally, it is worth knowing a bit about current graphic and UX design trends before setting out, as it can help students avoid common pitfalls that new designers may make.

Read about how difficult it is to learn UI design.

How Does Learning UI Design Compare to Other Fields?

UI design is most comparable to other visual design fields and its sister field, UX design. Since UI design uses many of the same tools as these other fields, the main difference is in how those tools are used and what techniques are applied.

UI Designers will use many of the same tools that Graphic Designers will use, and in many professional environments, there is a great deal of overlap between the two positions. Graphic Designers will likely learn programs like Photoshop and Illustrator and use those programs to design the digital assets that UI Designers will place into digital layouts. The primary difference between these fields is that UI Designers will learn how to use additional tools for building user experience layouts, many of which were developed to address the limitations of programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. Students interested in learning more about graphic design should consult the topics page on Noble’s website.

UI design is also closely tied to UX design. UI Designers are tasked with designing how a digital application looks, and UX Designers are tasked with designing how a digital application feels. Both professions will use user experience design tools, but UX Designers will be more concerned with using them to create prototypes of digital applications for testing. UX design primarily collects user feedback to determine how real users use an application. This makes it a significantly more analytic field, and whole UX and UI design may take the same time to learn. UX design will deal more with data collection and interpretation than UI design. Noble’s learn page provides many articles on UX design.

How to Decide the Best Way to Learn UI Design

Given the number of training opportunities available to students, it can be difficult to decide what will provide students with the best experience. Generally speaking, the most important thing to consider is how much students intend to use their UI design training and their prior experience with graphic design programs.

New students who want to learn the basics of UI design before deciding whether to enroll in a professional training program may wish to consider a free tutorial, such as Noble’s Intro to UI Design course or Intro to Figma course. These courses will give students the important background knowledge to lay the groundwork for later study, making them an ideal place to start for students who think they might wish to learn UI design but aren’t yet sure.

For students who already have a working knowledge of some basic design principles and experience with graphic design, Noble’s Figma Bootcamp and UI Design Bootcamp offer students in-depth training in the various skills that they will need to use professionally in the field of UI design. These narrowly focused courses teach students how to use specific tools, so they are intended for students with some design experience looking to plug a skill gap or grow their current role within an organization.

Students looking for a complete UI design education can look towards Noble’s UI Design Certificate. This course, designed for early-stage students looking to build a new career in the field of UI design, will teach students how to use all of the tools they will be expected to use in their regular career work. Students will receive training in the basic theories of composition and hands-on career training with Figma, Illustrator, and Photoshop.

Learn UI Design with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop

Once students have committed to learning UI design, they can receive hands-on training in one of the many UI design classes offered through Noble Desktop. These courses, available both in-person at Noble’s Manhattan campus and online, provide students with career-focused skills training in an industry-recognized educational environment. Students will benefit from working with live instructors who can answer their questions, provide feedback, and help them overcome any learning challenges they encounter. Even online, Noble’s classes boast small class sizes so that students can receive individual attention from their instructors. Plus, Noble offers free retake options, meaning that a student can re-enroll in a completed course within one year to receive additional training, review material, or just get a bit more hands-on UI design experience.

Students looking to learn the basics of UI design may wish to consider enrolling in Noble’s UI Design Bootcamp. This course will provide students with hands-on experience, using practical examples, designing the appearance of web pages and mobile applications. Students will receive training in the basic theories of composition and design and one-on-one feedback from expert instructors on the make-up of their UI design projects. This course is ideal for students hoping to learn the ins and outs of how to apply their existing knowledge of visual design tools to the process of building digital applications. Students who wish to enroll in this course should have a working knowledge of the user experience design tool Figma. Students looking for this training can enroll in Noble’s Figma Bootcamp.

Noble offers a UI Design Certificate program for students who want a more career-focused learning experience that will teach students all of the important fundamental skills they will need to enter the workforce as UI design specialists. Students will learn theories of composition and design and how to apply those theories of design to web pages and digital applications. In addition, students will learn how to use design tools like Figma, Adobe Photoshop, and Illustrator. This course caps off with a series of lessons concerning how to build a design portfolio to take onto the job market. With portfolio design training, one-on-one career mentorship, and the reception of an industry-recognized skills certificate, this course is ideal for students looking to build new careers in UI design.

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