Clearleft MD Andy Budd is concerned that visual designers are having an identity crisis, feeling undervalued and wrongly convincing themselves to rebrand as UX designers. In an article for his blog, Budd argues that each area of design is important and that you don't need to become a UX designer in order to 'grow' or move to the next level.
Budd told .net that he wrote the article because he's over the past year seen an increasing number of designers calling themselves UX designers under various mistaken beliefs. "There's a lot of misunderstanding about what UX design actually is, being given by ill-informed articles and sound-bite conference talks that present a very light and fluffy version," he says.
"This has led to a lot of junior and intermediate designers latching on to the idea that UX design is the 'next big thing', and a way to make very large amounts of money." Budd adds that he sees people changing their titles to user experience designer, talking a bit about usability and thinking they're suddenly user experience designers. "I want to try and tell everyone that UX design and visual design are very separate things."
Budd is particularly keen to point out that any belief that UX is a step up the ladder is a misconception: "I've been coming across lots of designers, through job adverts and conferences, finding a frustration that they don’t know what to do next, to further their careers. And the natural assumption is they need to start working on UX design, learning how to wireframe and prototype, do usability testing and IA."
This isn't, Budd argues, the case: "I don’t think user experience is a 'higher' level of design that you can step up to. You don’t start out as a graphic designer, go ‘professional’ and become a user experience designer." He argues that graphic design is an important skill of its own that requires plenty of knowledge and dedication, and that any graphic designers thinking they're somehow lesser than UX designers have it wrong.
"Someone should never be afraid or ashamed of being a graphic designer. It’s not that they’ve failed somehow. Graphic designers are just as valuable. You shouldn’t feel diminished or inferior because you’re not a UX designer, or think that you have lower-level skills. It’s OK to want to focus on the graphic design side of things."
By way of example, Budd recounts a recent trip to a coffee shop. He was approached by a visual designer who wanted to be a UX designer, because he thought that's what you had to do to progress: "I had to talk him down off the ledge. The guy was a fantastic visual designer and so I asked if he saw himself in five years doing wireframes, user research and user testing. He said no, he loved visual design. I said, then don’t become a UX designer!"