UX designer vs. graphic designer: What’s the difference?

One of the biggest differences between graphic and UX design is the scope. Graphic designers focus on
visual elements. UX designers take a broader perspective by focusing on the interaction between a user
and a product. Graphic design is often just one part of the bigger user experience.
There are other differences as well. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Graphic designerUX designer
Designs visual elementsDesigns interactions
Specialized roleMultidisciplinary role
Skills include creativity, typography,
colour theory, computer-aided design
Skills include empathy, user research, wireframing,
prototyping, information architecture
Popular tools include Adobe
Photoshop, Illustrator, Procreate, Pixar
Popular tools include Balsamiq, Adobe XD, Figma,
May have a bachelor’s degree in
graphic design
May have a bachelor’s degree in human-computer
interaction, computer science, psychology, or design
$50,172 average salary (US) [1]$77,200 average salary (US) [2]
Graphic Designer vs UX Designer

Type and focus of design

Graphic designers design visual elements. UX designers design interactions. The former might involve a
specialized set of design-related skills, like colour theory, typography, and computer-aided design. The
latter involves a multidisciplinary set of skills that includes design, user research, information
architecture, wireframing, and prototyping.
Graphic designers use visual elements to communicate a brand message. Therefore, their focus will
often be on staying true to their brand identity. UX designers advocate for the user, making sure a
product meets user needs in a way that is accessible, intuitive, and enjoyable.

Which type of design is right for me?

If you have a passion for creativity and technology, a design career could be a good fit. The type of
design will depend on your unique skills and interests. If you’re visually oriented and could spend hours
manipulating colour palettes and fonts to make a graphic look just right, graphic design work might be
for you. If you’re interested in human psychology and love investigating a problem through research and
data, consider moving to UX.

From graphic designer to UX designer: Making the transition

If you have some experience in graphic design, there are some compelling reasons to consider shifting
to UX. Demand for graphic designers is projected to decline by four percent over the next decade
according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. The demand for UX designers is slated to grow by eight
percent—that’s much faster than average. UX designers also draw a larger salary on average.
So how do you make the transition? Luckily, many of the visual design skills you’ve developed in graphic
design will transfer into UX. Good aesthetics have an impact on UX. An Open University study in 2005
found that we perceive visually pleasing things as more usable, even when there is no correlation
between attractiveness and performance
That means you can focus on building out your skills in some other areas of UX design, including:
• User research: A big part of the UX designer’s job is understanding what users need and how a product
can best meet those needs. This requires user research.
• Information architecture: In UX, function often trumps form. It’s great if something looks good, but that
means little if it doesn’t work. Learning best practices for information architecture can empower you to
structure content on websites and apps that is intuitive to the user and makes every click count.
• Testing and iteration: In graphic design, once something looks right, your job is likely done. UX involves a
more iterative process, where you design something, build it, test it with real users, then return to the
design process to revise.

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