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What is the essential creativity part of doing UI design?

2 years ago from , UI/UX designer

Hi, I am a junior UI designer having almost 1-year working experience. Lately, I have been thinking that if UI designer job does not as creative and artistic as other kinds of designer. I have started to feel valueless about my job, as most of time I have been assigned to do minor work such as revise detail of icons, design app icons. I gradually feel that I am away from the kind of designer who designs visually nice and creative thing. I know UI design also creating visually nice thing but I feel it is not a very creative-needed work, as UI designers usually just follow a UI guideline or use sort of web template, things like Bootstrap. There seems like no much space and needs to use creativity in UI design work.

My concern is that the UI designer job seems like away from a real designer, as it all about follows rules and play with minor things like colour, font, shadow.

So what do you guys think? What is the essential creativity part of doing UI design? Is UI designer really a creative job? I would like to see the perspective from senior UI designers and other junior designers point of view.

Your thoughts will be very much appreciated. Thx.

15 comments

  • Lee Williams, 2 years ago

    I've been an Art Director at national monthly newsstand magazine and a UI / Product Designer, so I've seen both sides of this. Each had their strengths and weaknesses. In "classic" print graphic design for either client or publishing, there're plenty of constraints, like design and brand guidelines, production costs, materials limitations, time constraints, etc.

    The problem I think you're facing is being junior and not having control of the direction of your work.

    Something that often gets glossed over in design education is the importance of being able to persuade other people your ideas are better. Your boss or client may provide you with some direction and you may feel like a pencil just being pushed around without any creative input. Put in the extra time to produce your own vision as an option. Obviously create a version that faithfully follows the direction of your boss/client, but deliver 2 more options. This is how you slowly start convincing people that your ideas are valid (seeing is believing). Often you'll find that portions of your other version start getting incorporated into the final versions. Eventually you'll get a feel through this back and forth for how best to frame your work and convince others that your direction is not just valid but better.

    If you want to stay in UI/Product design I'd also encourage you to get closer to the code / learn to code. You'll have an easier time developing produceable solutions that work within the limitations of your tech stack. I also enjoy doing front end development because translating a static mock to actual code is a creative process as well. Things change when you start implementing them and then you can be in charge of ensuring your vision is translated accurately or it's pivoted gracefully to accommodate some technical challenge.

    10 points
    • Raffaello SanzioRaffaello Sanzio, 2 years ago

      If you want to stay in UI/Product design I'd also encourage you to get closer to the code / learn to code. You'll have an easier time developing produceable solutions that work within the limitations of your tech stack.

      +1000

      1 point
  • Vlad Burca, 2 years ago

    Hi Rachel. First of all, I must say that designing icons is not a minor job at all. As you'll advance in your design career, you'll see that the basic stuff is the most interesting one to design. This is where creativity play a huge role in UI design - finding new ways in solving old problems.

    Most of the time you'll probably need to design UI following guidelines - we really do not need to re-invent the wheel. But, there are some times when we feel the need to be different, to invent something - be it a dropdown menu, an interactive chart or just a shadow. I know, I know... we feel that all the time.

    My advice to you will be to just play and follow your path. :)

    3 points
  • Jan ZhengJan Zheng, 2 years ago

    I'm a UX/UI designer, and I come from a little different background (psychology and computer science) than most visual UI people on Dribbble. I work on complex interfaces and not so much gorgeous UIs and icons.

    For me, the most creative part is taking vast amounts of requirements (it needs to do A-Z!) and distill them down to the core— what helps out the most (e.g. makes people more efficient, happy, can understand a situation through a glance through complex data and filters, etc.)— that kind of stuff really gets me up in the morning.

    3 points
  • Caitlin G, 2 years ago

    For me, the creative part comes in understanding what users want and need and finding solutions for that. So say your task is to design an app icon: make a quick mockup, and test it will people! See what your friends think, see what your non-designer coworkers think, see what your mom thinks. Post it on Twitter or Reddit and get reactions. And ask the people you talk with to try and explain to you why they like it or don't like it, what it reminds them of, etc. Maybe you'll find out that it's too similar to the icons of other apps they have on their phones, and they have a hard time telling the difference. So then your task changes - you're no longer just designing an icon using already established brand guidelines, you're designing something that will stand out to people. That, to me, is where creativity really comes into play, because finding out more about what people want and need and expect gives you more interesting constraints to design around.

    Hope that helps!

    2 points
  • Chad Behnke, 2 years ago

    I definitely can relate, Rachel!

    UI design is a different set of design challenges. Your design challenges are more situational. It's about working within the framework of your development and product/project management teams, and whatever processes they use. It's about coming up with design solutions given those processes and often with limited design resources. A lot of the problems you'll solve are interaction and user experience problems. They're taking the assets you have - your styleguide, Bootstrap, whatever those may be, and mixing them together to come up with a solution that will make sense for your user and also look good.

    It's a lot of heady-type work. It's definitely still creative - trying to make something that can make sense as a UI while following all of the constraints is a challenging problem-solving exercise. You'll also get better at solving 'human' problems - you'll learn to get good at describing (and selling) your ideas, to work with other team members to refine your ideas into workable solutions, and to negotiate the often murky waters of company politics and big personalities.

    BUT...it's also okay to not like any of it! Design is a huge world with a lot of sub-roles within it. I said I can relate because I'm in the same position as you where I feel a little stifled and limited in my UI-type role and want to do more with illustration and communication design...and I'm a senior visual designer. It's funny that you talk about 'revising icon details' because if I could get away with doing that all day I'd be in heaven! However, I also work with a UX designer, and she is super passionate about her role, design, and learning about the industry we work in and making design better for it. There are also a ton of passionate product designers right here on DN who can say the same.

    Since you're a junior designer, it seems like right now it would be great for you to just experiment with a whole bunch of different aspects of the design world. You might be surprised by an aspect of it that you're really passionate about! But also trust and your intuition about what kind of work makes you really light up as a designer and creative person and continue to try to build towards that goal!

    2 points
    • Rachel Li Rachel Li , 2 years ago

      Hi Chad,

      Thanks for your long writing. This is my first post and I am surprised hahaha. You guys are so kind! Feeling so warm from the community.

      0 points
  • Dean HaydenDean Hayden, 2 years ago

    It’s a tough one; if a brand or guidelines have already been developed there can be the perception of limited creativity.

    The creativity part of UI (in my opinion) comes from defining patterns, stress testing and designing around problems. Of course this is all framed around a already defined look and feel but this doesn’t mean you can’t question decisions; if something doesn’t work flag it up and propose different solutions.

    I would suggest trying to get involved at the inception of a project. The higher level thinking of UX and branding will effect your work and you should be a part of that. Even if it’s just as an observer you’ll have better insight.

    1 point
  • Benny JienBenny Jien, 2 years ago

    First of all, we need to define what creativity is. I think creativity is about solving problem by connecting things. When your company have a UI guideline, chances are most things are already connected. But there are always things that could be better. Be able to find those things are also part of creativity. You can't solve problems that you can't see. Maybe with 1-year of working experience it might be harder for you to do that, but overtime as you evolved you will begin to see those disconnected things and find better solution. That for me is creativity.

    1 point
  • Account deleted 2 years ago

    Try graphic design, branding / identity design! I think you might feel more creative as a result. You will think a lot more conceptually about communication, the message and tone of a brand as well get to define those nitty-gritty details. You will have fun breaking rules and coming up with fresh approaches to problems. Also, when working on a identity, you get to create the guidelines that other designers can then build out from. It's less about screen design and more about creating a strong, consistent voice that works across all communication touchpoints of a brand.

    0 points
  • Chris KeithChris Keith, 2 years ago

    Visual design is only one component of product design. Just out of curiosity, what would you like to be doing as a UI Designer? What do you imagine as the perfect role?

    0 points
    • Rachel Li , 2 years ago

      Ideally, the perfect situation for me is to design a consumer app that has fresh visual elements in it. Things like micro-interaction, branding design, illustrations should be included. And, I can get feedback from the market and accordingly create interesting illustrations for the promotion or for improving the user experience. I hope that I can be part of the product owner and carefully bring it up.

      Maybe someday that could happen to me. Afterall, I am just at the very beginning of my career at the moment.

      0 points
      • cliff nowickicliff nowicki, 2 years ago

        You can make that day today, and start working on it yourself in your spare time. You'll probably learn a lot more in the process of creating it too!

        0 points
  • Nicole Chen, 2 years ago

    UI design is a broad field. It really depends on platform, target audience and industry.

    What UI designer are you? Web or mobile? In my opinion, Web has more possibilities than mobile does. Toggling between various platforms always makes me feel refreshed.

    Who is your target audience? Enterprise users or consumers? The visual variations in enterprise field are very limited. Enterprise clients usually don't want to spend money on UI enhancements such as micro-interactions, beautiful illustrations or any visual effects that are not functional and take time to implement. But you can be more creative and artistic in designing consumer apps, especially games.

    Do you work for a design agency or a certain industry? Working for design agency gives you more opportunities to learn about business rules of different industries. Visual treatments will vary a lot accordingly.

    0 points
    • Rachel Li , 2 years ago

      Hi Nicole, Your comment feels like spot on. I am working in an agency and mostly designing mobile apps for enterprises. I guess my job will be more interesting if I can work for a consumer app in someday:)

      0 points