My tips on how to get started as a UI/UX Designer

Written by Alex Hughes - November 10, 2020

UI/UX Design is ranked by Forbes and Glassdoor as one of the best roles for a positive work-life balance, and from personal experience I couldn’t agree more. To add to this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US projects that the employment for digital designers will grow by up to 20 percent—faster than most other career areas. As we all know, and particularly in this moment, the world is becoming increasingly digital.

I hope within this post to share some insights from my time of being a digital designer. You don’t necessarily have to be born with design prowess in order to have a successful career in it. If you have something of a designers eye and sensibility, and a desire to be a problem solver, this could be the perfect career path for you. Design is an iterative process of gradual improvement. It can be learned.

So, how does one start their career as a UI/UX Designer?

With many jobs, a degree in the field of study is essential. Whilst a degree in design would be highly beneficial, it isn’t mandatory. I didn’t complete my studies, only working towards an official qualification when I was already well into my career, working here at Wholegrain, who have supported me to do so by flexing my hours to four days a week so I have time to study.

Design roles are more about what you’re able to achieve than they are about what qualifications you hold. That said, a degree in the subject will definitely help to break into the industry.

The next step is always the hardest. How do you obtain your first client or get your first role as a Junior Designer? I’m all too aware of how hard this is. So while you’re planning your entry, this post will hopefully equip you with some basic essential tools and processes to help get you on your way.

I can assume at this point that you’ve studied UI/UX principles online, taken some courses, or at the least have done some googling around the subject.

With this in mind, and if you have limited (or no) agency or in-house experience, it will certainly be worth your time doing some self initiated projects. These can be anything you’re interested in, but for the most success, spend your time developing the skills that will be most effective in your desired role.

For a UI/UX design role, spend some time learning the basic principles, and putting them into practice within your own projects. Check out these principles of UI Design, and familiarise yourself with common laws of UX.

Use the right tools

It’s so important that you have a play around with the correct tools for the job. There’s no point in mastering Adobe Illustrator for interface design as the majority of design studios now use Sketch or Figma for the lion’s share of work. It would be worth your while also familiarising yourself with tools such as Principle, Framer, Zeplin and any plugins associated with them.

Get to know grid systems, the best free typefaces on the market, and how to effectively design for responsive and mobile devices.

Set up a great portfolio

This is your chance to shine. Don’t forget to go into details about the specifics decisions you made within your designs… This shouldn’t be a picture book, but rather a manual of the key decisions you took to make each experience as beneficial for its users as possible. I recommend looking into portfolio websites such as Cargo, Webflow (if you have development skills) Format or Squarespace.

Please do check out our portfolio of design work, and our design process for more information on our approach. If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me directly at alex(at)wholegraindigital.com.

And finally, I’ll leave you with some additional reading: