5 Tips for Graphic Designers Switching to UX Design

by Nick Babich

posted on 06-23-2017

Technology continues to open up exciting career paths for design professionals. One of the hottest jobs right now is user experience (UX) designer, and companies are willing to pay top salaries for people with experience: the median salary for a UX Designer in the U.S. is $70,000/year for entry-level, and $100,00/year for experienced professionals.

With demand at a high and lots of transferable skills between professions, graphic design might see UX design as a move worth making. If you’re a graphic designer looking to become a UX designer, but not sure how to start the transition, this article is for you.

Graphic Design vs. UX Design

Before we dive into details on how to make the transition to UX design, it’s essential to define what UX design is all about and how it’s different from graphic design.

While graphic design and UX design do have some commonalities (they both require creative thinking), there’s a major difference between two — responsibilities and end-goals:

Another important difference between graphic design and UX design is design process. While for a graphic designer the design process finishes once the product is launched; for a UX designer the product launch is just a step in design process. A UX design should be continually tested and adjusted based on user feedback. Thus, UX designers should be ready to rework their prototype and correct their hypothesis based on user’s needs.

Moving From Graphic Design To UX Design

Many people believe that UX is an exclusive club that only those with the right talent and extensive training can join. It’s not true. In fact, the career shift may come naturally to those who already possess strong design skills. Here are five things to remember when moving from graphic design to UX design:

1. Learn New Skills

One way to make sure that you’re ready to transition into a career in UX design is by investing some time and effort in learning UX skills. While graphic design is a specialized discipline, and there is a certain set of specialized skills (such as typography and color theory) required to produce great visuals, UX design is much more multi-disciplinary. UX design sits at the crossroads of a lot of fields and designers have to constantly learn about human psychology, visual design, interaction design, information architecture and user research techniques in order to create the right solutions to user problems.

While it’s impossible to learn all disciplines right away, it’s still possible to provide a few recommendations on how to get started:

2. Focus on Building a UX Design Portfolio

What do employers look for when hiring UX designers? Two factors they consider are relevant professional experience and designportfolio. If you don’t have the former, focus on the latter. Career-switchers often face the same dilemma as recent graduates looking for their first jobs: to get hired for a UX design job you need UX experience. But how can you get that experience? It’s recommended to show your potential in any way that you can:

3. Pursue User-Focused Design Instead of Pixel-Focused

When you have a graphic design background, creating a pixel-perfect design is likely the aspect you enjoy most. Ensuring text has perfect kerning and colors are selected according to brand guidelines often takes up a significant portion of a graphic designer’s time. This isn’t the way things work for UX design.

UX designers are primarily focused on users and strongly concerned with whether they are able to achieve their goal. To create user-focused design you need to keep following things in mind:

4. Learn How To Conduct User Research and Collect Feedback On Your Work

A UX designer’s job is to create a product that provides the best possible user experience. How does that happen? It starts with a lot of research. Research is an essential part of the UX design process, as it informs the product’s design. You can’t create a valuable product for your users unless you understand the problems they face and how you can solve those problems via design. Graphic designers looking to switch career tracks will need to invest time into learning how to conduct user research.

Don’t be afraid of showing your work to others and let people test your thinking — you learn a lot from knowing what worked and what didn’t work.

5. Build Network And Learn As Go

Once you’ve got practical UX design skills and created your UX portfolio, you’ll need to focus on networking. Networking is essential for UX designers since the best opportunities are often found when someone already in the field recommends you for a position. One of the best places to start networking are LinkedIn and Medium. Join local UX-related groups, start asking and answering the questions, and you’ll eventually build all important network with your peers. But take it slow — don’t just show up and start asking for a job, you need to build relationships with people first.

One other useful way to start networking is to follow UX experts on Twitter. Here are just a few names: Don Norman, Luke Wroblewski, Steve Krug. Not only will you learn a lot from them, you can also interact with their followers who are mostly designers like you.


Is there a gap between graphic design skills and UX design skills? Yes, but not an insurmountable one. Graphic designers already speak the language of design. The world of user experience design is full of opportunities to expand your creative career. Good luck!

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Topics: Creative Inspiration & Trends, Design

Products: Creative Cloud