The design industry is constantly evolving, but good design is timeless. Learn how to quickly develop an "eye" for UI design and improve your design skills.
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The design industry is constantly evolving, with new trends, best practices, and entirely new design tools emerging all the time. Regardless of whether you're focusing on user interface design (UI design), user experience design (UX design), product design, or web design, it can feel overwhelming trying to stay up-to-date and progress in your career.
In a growing and competitive industry, improving your user interface design and visual design skills is the key to standing out. Bad design, conversely, is easy to spot and will make you stand out in the wrong way. Design tools and trends come and go, but good design skills and learning fundamental principles — color theory, design theory, user interface design patterns, design processes, visual hierarchy, gestalt principles, user research, and negative space — are timeless and an incredibly valuable investment in your career.
But how do you get good at design, particularly user interaction design? We've written this blog post with several tips to help you improve your UI skills and get ahead in this competitive industry. Let’s get started.
Seek design inspiration from your peers
Design inspiration and learning from other designers plays a huge role in any creative niche. One of the easiest ways to get inspired is by following the design portfolios of other UI/UX designers. After all, the collective work of your peers is what drives good design — we're all just continuous learning from each other and trying to design the best solutions for each design project.
Following great designers, especially designers with different styles, will help you always stay on track with the latest innovative design approaches. Ultimately, it’ll show in your own designs as well. Even if you consider yourself a good web designer or good graphic designer, there's always someone out there for you to learn from.
Continuous learning from other designers leads to progressive enhancement — start from a rock-solid foundation with best practices and then add improvements. Approaching UI/UX design with this mentality works because you're combining the best design work from the best designers to create something new.
As you absorb and learn from great designers, you'll quickly develop an "eye" for design and will find it much easier you'll be able to improve various aspects of your UI/UX design, such as visual hierarchy and color palettes. This is the kind of intuition that can't be taught in an online course or book!
There are tons of great designers and many great websites to follow beautiful design work. These are some of the best examples and our favorite websites for inspiration at the moment:
The great thing about these websites is that they offer a huge selection of all kinds of user interface design, product design, web design, and graphic design inspiration. This makes it easier to stumble upon new things and inspiration outside of your design niche, too. Even though UI design is a specific design field, it coexists with other types of creative fields, such as UX design and graphic design.
If you're looking for the best examples of world-class UI/UX designers web designers, and product designers, these are a handful of people and design studios to follow on Dribbble that inspire Jordan Hughes (creator of Untitled UI):
James is a UI designer from the UK with incredible attention to detail. His subtle use of gradients and icon design has sparked a dozen design trends in recent years so it's no wonder Tailwind Labs snapped him up to lead their visual design!
Zhenya is an award-winning web designer and art director with an architectural background. Her work is distinctly Zhenya, with an unmistakable style and incredible visual design UI skills, images, and new techniques. Just check out her incredible portfolio site.
Not only is Hayden an incredibly talented product designer, but he's also a world-class frontend engineer. Even more amazing is that he's 100% self-taught at both. He is currently leading the product team at Corellium where he has been producing beautiful and functional design work that we're always learning from.
Balkan Brothers (BB) is a full-service design agency covering everything from brand design, web design, product design, and even illustration and logo design. Their work is consistently modern and beautiful design, with particularly great color palettes.
Fintory specializes in designing modern and functional digital products with a focus on great user experience. They're a mid-sized studio that consistently shares great UI design and are a great source of inspiration for UI design and product design. Check out their work to level-up your UI design game!
Break down how other designers have approached their designs
Ever thought about learning how successful self-taught designers approach design projects and structure their design work? A great way to go about this is by exploring and reverse-engineering how Figma files have been built.
Figma UI kits and design systems, in particular, are a fantastic way to learn and improve your design UI design skills because they contain all the design elements and other important elements that go into modern interface designs. Diving into them and exploring the many different ways they're built is often the fastest way to learn best practices and techniques straight from great UI designers around the world. Plus, you can use these files as reference points for multiple projects in the future.
Untitled UI offers a 100% free Figma UI kit and design system which is a great place to start. It's the largest UI kit and design system for Figma in the world and is packed with thousands of design elements, design patterns, and graphic elements to explore, all built with best practices. Untitled UI includes documentation exploring the fundamental principles of good UI design, color palettes, font styles, and all the important elements you need to start any new project.
Reach out and get involved in the design community
Reaching out to other designers might seem scary in the beginning, especially if you’re a newcomer. However, if you truly want to get noticed and create a career in UX or UI design, let go of your fears and become proactive! Once you start networking, you’ll realize how much you have to gain by communicating with other designers, as you can share your designs with them and ask for genuine feedback.
If you’re already working in the design field, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for comments or feedback from your working colleagues. If you’re a freelancer or a beginner, check out these design communities where you’ll find great articles, discussions, and other important information on UX and UI design:
Investing time into online courses for UI UX design is one of the most common answers to “how to improve in UI design?”, and rightfully so. No matter if you're a self-taught designer or an experienced designer, there's always more to learn and room to improve your visual UI UX design skills. Even the best UI designers with years of experience in the design industry sometimes lack specific fundamental UI UX design skills and don't venture outside of their comfort zone.
Online design courses and tutorials provide in-depth knowledge of specific aspects of the UI or UX design process and are often the easiest and most affordable way to improve quickly. Moreover, if you get stuck on a certain aspect of your design project, an online design course or a short tutorial video that elaborates on the specific issue that you’re struggling with might just do the trick.
Luckily, there’s a huge number of online design courses on UI UX design and product design these days. If you'd like to focus on specific UI UX design skills, such as visual design, typography, visual hierarchy, color theory, or how to use white space, chances are there's a design course out there for you. And many of them are free of charge!
Most employers will ask which design tools you’re proficient in and learning a wide range of design tools is an easy way to stand out from the competition. Some of the best designers in the world are self-taught designers and the only way to improve is to go outside of your comfort zone.
Learning new design tools outside of your expertise not only has a positive effect on your work and career trajectory but also opens up entirely new learning experiences to improve your visual UI UX design skills along the way. If you consider yourself a good graphic designer or web designer, you'll likely benefit from exploring Figma or UI design tools that you have less experience with.
One of the most useful design tools to master in 2023 is Webflow, an incredibly powerful visual website builder. What makes Webflow great is that you don’t need to be proficient in web design. You don’t need advanced HTML or CSS skills either since there’s a huge selection of Webflow templates available for free to kickstart projects and learn from the best.
Learning a new design tool can help you improve your knowledge of graphic elements, font styles, color schemes, UI design principles, and visual hierarchy.
Got a new idea for a project? Perhaps previous ideas for multiple projects or a mobile app? A great way to go about using a new design tool such as Webflow is to use it to design and build your own portfolio website or side project idea. A new idea and real world project is much more exciting to work on than reading design theory, and great design projects come with thousands of tiny design challenges that you can learn from along the way to improve your UI design skills.
Plus, you never know what opportunities may come up along the way. Building an online portfolio or side project helps put your work in front of the design community and potential customers, which can open all sorts of doors.
Read an ebook on UI design
One of the best investments you can make in improving your visual design skills and design theory understanding is a design ebook. Our favorite is Refactoring UI. It's packed full of thousands of actionable design tips and design principles that you can apply to new projects and improve your UI design skills.
Refactoring UI was written by Adam Wathan, a full-stack developer, and Steve Schoger, a Canadian visual designer. It’s excellent reading material for anyone who’s into UI design, especially self-taught designers, and designers that are just starting out.
The ebook is less than 220 pages long and comprises eight chapters that cover the fundamental aspects of UI design, such as typography, UI elements, layout, color palettes, visual hierarchy, etc. It's perhaps the fastest way to improve your UI design skills and is suitable for designers at all different levels of skills.
Another great ebook to check out is Adham Dannaway's Practical UI. Similar to Refactoring UI, it's a great logic-driven resource for learning to design intuitive, accessible, and beautiful designs with quick and practical design principles.
Last but not least — practice regularly
This is our most valuable tip. Unfortunately, it's the least likely to be followed!
The best thing you can do to improve your UI design skills, visual design skills, and to explore different styles is to practice as much as you can. Ideally, carve out a little time every day to focus on improving your visual design skills. Even just 15 minutes. A little design and deliberate practice everyday compounds quickly and you'll be a world-class UI designer or product designer in no time.
You’ll always be one step ahead of the crowd if you spend your free time learning new design methods and design theory. It’ll help you improve your skills, discover new techniques, and learn how to distinguish great design from bad design.
If you're just starting out in UI design, an easy way to approach this is by creating fictional projects. Find a digital product or website you like and try to redesign it. Even a simple web design project comes with it a huge number of skills you'll need to call upon, from visual design, color schemes and color theory, visual hierarchy, and even small design skills how to use images and stock photos in your designs. It might be challenging at first, but all new things take time to master and you'll find it will get easier over time as your skills improve.
A great thing about this approach is you'll have beautiful designs and prototypes to share in your portfolio, Dribbble, or Behance along the way. Stand out even further by writing a blog post on your design process and how you arrived at the final designs.
We also have a bonus tip for you — try the 100-day daily UI challenge! This is a great way for self-taught designers to practice learning UI design daily and has been used by more than 250,000 people. Share your design on social media and Dribbble using the hashtag #dailyui to connect with other designers also doing the challenge.
Just like any other profession, UI design is continuously growing and evolving, so it’s important that designers are always looking for new ways to improve their design skills.
There are endless possibilities to learn and improve your design skills, so all you need is to stay motivated and continue improving your design skill set regularly.
Check out our blog for more great articles on UI design, Figma, and design resources.