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Chicago Visual Designer Joined about 7 years ago
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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!
I totally agree with your assessment. CSS has been seen in all of my jobs as an "also do this" for general backend developers and not an area of focus. But we have an agency team at our company with a specialized FED and I would pay many real gold bars to be able to pass my designs to someone like her on the product team. In addition to 'looking down', visual FED usually comes near the end of a feature's development cycle, so there's also a rush to get it done and passed on to QA. Even when I do the CSS as the designer, I get subtle time pressure cues while working on it (wait the feature is DONE why is it in this weird middle phase for so long??). For a while it was a thing at one of my jobs to make a feature look so ugly I would have to style it. That went on until a couple of those implementations made it into production.
Front-end has been a constant source of indecision for me in my career. With front-end JS app frameworks becoming more and more complex, I'm finding it harder and harder to maintain understanding in my head of how my HTML/CSS fits into an application. But I also can't just pass things off because I know there are things about my design that I'm going to want to edit once it's all in motion. Additionally, I see being able to build at least static websites as a powerful tool to help me bring ideas to life, and there continues to be exciting additions to CSS that make it easier to make those amazing experiences. I'm constantly switching between the poles of I don't want to touch code ever" and "oh my god look at that cool thing I can do with the Internet!"
One thing you could maybe experiment with to illicit conversation and critique is to have the uploader provide both the image and like a "focus" for the critique - and both are required. "How does this color scheme make you feel?" "Does this interaction make sense?" "What do see in this logo?"Stuff like that.
The downside of this is that you might lose some valuable feedback on some other part of the design that may need to be addressed, but it would give potential commenters a "jumping off" point and would break the ice, encouraging comments about improvement and removing the social barrier of not wanting to be negative toward the piece.
I agree...I have read so many articles on this topic that just feel like talking down/lectures. "I know you want to eat candy all day, tiny child, but you need to grow up and eat your vegetables. pat pat" Does this phenomenon happen in other industries the way it does design?
That's going to be a tougher nut to crack, I think. With a lot of these illustration and design tools, the final version is agnostic toward the means that were used to create it. If you're creating a graphic that will end up as a PNG, JPG, or SVG, the website/PDF file/vendor doesn't really care if you made it in Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch, or Affinity. However, especially with large-scale projects, InDesign files require a lot of different logistical points and people to touch and manipulate the documents to get them right, so more standardized software and processes are needed to support those initiatives.
I do think it would be cool if there were an "InDesign Lite." I find myself not feeling 100% comfortable in any of the tools when you start talking about mixing a lot of photos and illustration and doing layout. I love the idea of linking files and allowing the tools that most easily manipulate each of the file types edit them. I was pumped when Adobe announced Linked Smart Objects in Photoshop! But I don't feel great at doing layout stuff in Photoshop, and InDesign is really big and bulky to me, so a piece of software that is small and good at type and grids, and mixing linked objects in, would definitely be something I'd be interested in.
Thanks, Tarun and Tyrale! I've been intrigued by Framer.js, but hesitant to try it because of how heavily they marketed it as a mobile prototyping tool. I'll definitely be checking it out now.
Yeah, same here, I have an Automator job that runs at the end of the workday that zips up the files I worked on earlier that day. Very annoying.
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