5 Tips for Graphic Designers Switching to UX Design

Creative Cloud

Technology continues to open up exciting career paths for design professionals. One of the hottest jobs right now is user experience (UX) designer, and companies are willing to pay top salaries for people with experience: the median salary for a UX Designer in the U.S. is $70,000/year for entry-level, and $100,00/year for experienced professionals.

With demand at a high and lots of transferable skills between professions, graphic design might see UX design as a move worth making. If you’re a graphic designer looking to become a UX designer, but not sure how to start the transition, this article is for you.

Graphic Design vs. UX Design

Before we dive into details on how to make the transition to UX design, it’s essential to define what UX design is all about and how it’s different from graphic design.

While graphic design and UX design do have some commonalities (they both require creative thinking), there’s a major difference between two — responsibilities and end-goals:

  • Graphic design mostly deals with the visual aspects of design (colors, typefaces). The primary goal of a graphic designer is to create great aesthetics.

In graphic design, information is communicated to users through text and images. Image credit: Ramotion

  • User experience design is about designing the entire experience a user has with a product: not only the visuals, but the information architecture (how information is presented and organized), user interface, interaction design (how users can interact with the product or service), and many others. The primary goal of a UX designer is to create great products.

The role of UX role is complex, challenging, and multifaceted. Unlike graphic designers, who mainly focus on aesthetics and communication, user experience designers are focused on users and how they interact with a product.

Another important difference between graphic design and UX design is design process. While for a graphic designer the design process finishes once the product is launched; for a UX designer the product launch is just a step in design process. A UX design should be continually tested and adjusted based on user feedback. Thus, UX designers should be ready to rework their prototype and correct their hypothesis based on user’s needs.

Product design process. Image credit: Visual

Moving From Graphic Design To UX Design

Many people believe that UX is an exclusive club that only those with the right talent and extensive training can join. It’s not true. In fact, the career shift may come naturally to those who already possess strong design skills. Here are five things to remember when moving from graphic design to UX design:

1. Learn New Skills

One way to make sure that you’re ready to transition into a career in UX design is by investing some time and effort in learning UX skills. While graphic design is a specialized discipline, and there is a certain set of specialized skills (such as typography and color theory) required to produce great visuals, UX design is much more multi-disciplinary. UX design sits at the crossroads of a lot of fields and designers have to constantly learn about human psychology, visual design, interaction design, information architecture and user research techniques in order to create the right solutions to user problems.

Dan Willis’ UX umbrella. Image credit: Slideshare

While it’s impossible to learn all disciplines right away, it’s still possible to provide a few recommendations on how to get started:

  • Start where your strengths are and pick up bits of the surrounding areas where and when you can. If you’re good in visual design, simply start with that.
  • Look at the skills you can transfer to your new role. One of the benefit for graphic designers moving to UX design is that they can make things attractive. Good aesthetics can improve the overall user experience of a product by making users feel better about it. So don’t discard graphic design skills and bring them to the table while working on an UX project.

2. Focus on Building a UX Design Portfolio

What do employers look for when hiring UX designers? Two factors they consider are relevant professional experience and designportfolio. If you don’t have the former, focus on the latter. Career-switchers often face the same dilemma as recent graduates looking for their first jobs: to get hired for a UX design job you need UX experience. But how can you get that experience? It’s recommended to show your potential in any way that you can:

  • Participate in the Daily UI Challenge and include the favorites in your portfolio. DailyUI is especially good for beginners because it both helps you boost your skills and while also creating a social presence. Just make it clear in your portfolio that it’s academic work.
  • Participate as volunteer in nonprofit projects. You can learn from others designers while facing real-world challenges and provide outcomes that you can point to in your portfolio as positive contributions to society.

3. Pursue User-Focused Design Instead of Pixel-Focused

When you have a graphic design background, creating a pixel-perfect design is likely the aspect you enjoy most. Ensuring text has perfect kerning and colors are selected according to brand guidelines often takes up a significant portion of a graphic designer’s time. This isn’t the way things work for UX design.

UX designers are primarily focused on users and strongly concerned with whether they are able to achieve their goal. To create user-focused design you need to keep following things in mind:

  • Usability is a cornerstone of user experience. A common problem is many UX designers seem to focus more on work that looks pretty, and less on functionality and usability of the design. Stand apart from the pack by making sure that you understand and consider usability details in your design.
  • Avoid starting with visual design too early, for exactly the same reason — your attention should be focused on how things work rather than how they look. Remember, people don’t use an app or service for a pretty design. They want to solve their problem or satisfy their need by using your product.

4. Learn How To Conduct User Research and Collect Feedback On Your Work

A UX designer’s job is to create a product that provides the best possible user experience. How does that happen? It starts with a lot of research. Research is an essential part of the UX design process, as it informs the product’s design. You can’t create a valuable product for your users unless you understand the problems they face and how you can solve those problems via design. Graphic designers looking to switch career tracks will need to invest time into learning how to conduct user research.

Different user research methods summarized by NNGroup

Don’t be afraid of showing your work to others and let people test your thinking — you learn a lot from knowing what worked and what didn’t work.

UX designers work closely with users and other team members in order to ensure that the end product match user’s expectations. Image credit: General Assembly

5. Build Network And Learn As Go

Once you’ve got practical UX design skills and created your UX portfolio, you’ll need to focus on networking. Networking is essential for UX designers since the best opportunities are often found when someone already in the field recommends you for a position. One of the best places to start networking are LinkedIn and Medium. Join local UX-related groups, start asking and answering the questions, and you’ll eventually build all important network with your peers. But take it slow — don’t just show up and start asking for a job, you need to build relationships with people first.

One other useful way to start networking is to follow UX experts on Twitter. Here are just a few names: Don Norman, Luke Wroblewski, Steve Krug. Not only will you learn a lot from them, you can also interact with their followers who are mostly designers like you.


Is there a gap between graphic design skills and UX design skills? Yes, but not an insurmountable one. Graphic designers already speak the language of design. The world of user experience design is full of opportunities to expand your creative career. Good luck!

The Rubix Cube is is not the only twisty puzzle. Learn about Pyraminx, the 2×2 and 4×4 cubes, the Megaminx on Ruwix.

What’s the Difference Between UI and UX? What to Tell Your Client if They Ask You This

Creative Cloud

Whether we like it or not, “what’s the difference between UI and UX” is a very common question. I would even risk saying that it’s among the very first questions people ask when they are introduced to the terms “UX” and “UI.”

“Both start with the letter U, right? So how different can they be?”

Well, very.

But let’s dig deeper:

Read on to find out what the fundamental difference between UI and UX is, and how to talk with your client if they ask you that ever-popular question.

Defining UX and UI

Even though you most likely already know the official meanings of these terms, we should still cover them even if just for the sake of keeping the argument complete.

UX design stands for user experience design. In its current form, the term was introduced by Don Norman of Nielsen Norman Group in 1990. His original main takeaway was this:

“User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

UI design, on the other hand, stands for user interface design. There is no such handy and clear definition of it, I’m afraid. Basically, the only consensus we’ve reached here is the definition at Wikipedia:

User interface design (UI) is the design of user interfaces for machines and software, such as computers […] The goal of user interface design is to make the user’s interaction as simple and efficient as possible, in terms of accomplishing user goals.

Okay, “in English, please!” right? The above definitions, even though they are quite accurate, don’t do much in terms of helping us understand what the difference between UX and UI truly is. And they surely won’t help your client understand either. I mean, sure, you can quote that to your client, but don’t expect them to not give you weird looks if you do so.

The problem with UX and UI

We really shouldn’t be surprised that UX and UI seem very similar in principle. They both come up in basically the same places and conversations. Both are crucial for every web project, app design, product design, web service, and loads of other related projects.

Add to that, people tend to use these terms interchangeably, not even trying to distinguish them in any way (and especially in job listings).

Kind of like peanut butter and jelly. What you want is both, right? Just like UX and UI.

There’s clearly some overlap between the two, but the key question is where that overlap happens?

Unfortunately, not a black-and-white thing this. Most people have their own definitions of UX vs UI, and it’s impossible to tell anyone that theirs is wrong. Mainly because it isn’t. And, personally, I’m kind of annoyed by some designers being offended by the very nature of the question itself. “Those two are impossible to compare!” – they say – “They are two completely different things!”

Well, sorry, but the sole existence and popularity of the question – “what’s the difference between UX and UI?” – proves that it’s something that’s really on people’s minds. Even worse, it’s us – the designers – who have brought this question onto ourselves. We’ve done so by constantly using “UX” and “UI” in the same sentences next to each other. How can we expect our clients not to be confused?

But okay, I’m getting perhaps a bit too worked up. Let’s clear things out:

The difference between UI and UX in plain English

Quoting Wikipedia when talking with a client? Not great. We can do better.

The simplest definition I am able to come up with is this (you be the judge if it’s good enough):

  • UX design deals with the entire interaction that a user has with a company, its products, services, website, app, and so on. UX touches upon the entire journey a user embarks on when they decide to give “something” a chance. It covers the complete overall experience that a user has with that “something.”
  • UI design, on the other hand, deals with the specific things that the user will actually interact with while on that journey.

Or, in other words, UX deals with purpose, while UI deals with appearance and functionality.

Where UI starts, and UX ends

To say it simply, and also in a way that your client might appreciate, UX is a much bigger pie than UI.

Somewhat like this:

In short, UX is a concept that steps way outside of just computer things. It touches upon multiple disciplines. As mentioned above, those are all disciplines that contribute to the user’s overall experience with the company/brand/product/website/etc. UX is geared at accomplishing a certain goal across multiple platforms.

Whereas UI deals mostly with the appearance of what’s already been thought through during the UX design phase.

Let me give you a perhaps corny example, a metaphor, if you will, but also something that you can use when talking with a client:

Picture yourself in a cafe. Think of the cup, the table, the chair, the coffee beans as the UI of the place. Now, think of the way the coffee is made, the ambience, the service, the music as the UX aspect. UX is literally everything that has impact on your overall experience as a user of “something.”

Setting coffee shops aside, you can find your own way of understanding the core differences and explaining them to your clients. Here’s another perspective, shared by Sabina Ionescu of Revive.Social. Here’s what she said when asked, “What is the difference between UI and UX for you? Also, what to tell your client if they ask you this?”

I am more on the user side of the story here, as I am not a designer myself. But I have worked closely with both brand designers and web designers, and I think this makes a good analogy to what UX and UI stand for.

Brand designers are involved with the overall user experience, as they follow every aspect of the brand, from the identity to employee branding, and from packaging design to brand voice. The user experience manifests in every aspect of a brand and contributes to the overall perception of a company.

Web designers, if such a parallel is allowed, are closer to the user interface side of the story. They need to polish the elements users interact with, what they click and touch. Their focus here is on the bits and pieces that need to make sense in the overall picture.

But they are closely connected. Brand designers need to oversee the online expression of a brand in the same way web designers need to follow brand guidelines when they are building a website or a mobile app.

UX and UI go hand in hand.

In this light, UX starts with a problem – the problem that the user wants to have solved and everything they have to do on their way to achieving that goal.

UX is high-level thinking about how I can get the user to where they need to be. I’m doing so by understanding what’s the challenge that the user is really facing, and not necessarily what I – as the product owner – would prefer them to do.

UI design only steps in once the UX part has been ~80% done. And the term itself is often used interchangeably for web design, graphic design, interaction design, and front-end design, even.

Under the hood, UX is a much more data-driven field than UI. Making a UX decision is something that can’t (or at least shouldn’t) be done based on a hunch. UX involves research, testing, and experimenting over a longer period of time to figure out some of the more challenging aspects of the design process. It requires knowledge and skill in other areas outside of design – psychology, marketing, strategic business planning, product design.

Overall, UX is meant to figure out what is likely to work (or not work) based on the project’s goals and what we want the users to achieve/do. It’s only then when you can start wondering exactly how (through the UI) you’re going to convince users to start doing that specific thing.

Looking at all this from the client’s perspective, we have to admit that the client doesn’t necessarily care about each individual piece of the puzzle. What they do care the most about is the puzzle itself – having their goals met.

Examples of UX vs UI thinking

In case your client has a lot of follow up questions in relation to UX vs UI, here are three examples of how UX and UI design intertwine and how we can think about the differences based on actual applications:

First, a real world example.

Next time you’re in a car, pay closer attention to the button/switch that controls the hazard lights. Traditionally, in most cars, it’s the most central, best visible switch on the dashboard.

I argue that the placement of that switch is a result of a UX decision. While the look itself is a UI decision.

Here’s what I mean; the moment when you actually need this switch, you’re probably in a high stress situation and the last thing you want is to wonder where that cursed switch is. It has to be visible immediately, and for that, it needs to be in the most central location possible. Quite interestingly, that switch is there despite the fact that people hardly ever use it. It stands to reason that it could be placed in a less prominent spot, so that a more commonly used switch could take its place. However, this would be catastrophic.

That switch is good UX.

The next example comes from an app – it’s called Adobe Spark Post. And yes, as you would imagine, it’s our own app. I’m biased, perhaps, but I wanted to guide your attention to one specific feature in that app that I consider great UX.

First things first, the app is meant to help you create custom images and graphics that are optimized for social media sharing, blog posts and other web-based purposes. As part of the app, you can add text on top of images. This is where the feature I want to highlight comes into play.

There are four main text alignment options: the classic left, center, right, plus something called “smart align” (I believe).

Smart align is the response to a struggle that many users face when working with text on images. Let me just show you the final effect:

As you can see, the text is evenly spaced across the entire available canvas, yet without being artificially justified or stretched. The effect is achieved by font size and spacing manipulation.

This sort of alignment solution is not a classic formatting option that we know from traditional text processing software. Placing it there – alongside left, right, and center – was a conscious UX decision. The problem that this feature solves is letting users create professional looking images without the need to experiment with typography and pixel-perfect text alignment manually.

The third example comes from a website, or rather two websites. So I’ve been in the market for a VPN lately (Wikipedia def). I kept researching the options but couldn’t find the info that was truly important to me. You can try this yourself, just google “best VPN.” The first result is this page:

Surely a reputable source – PCMag – however, the initial table fails to point out any parameters that are actually important when choosing a VPN.

The main, everyday problem with VPNs, as I’ve found, is that they slow down your internet connection. So to some extent, the VPN that you will actually end up using every day is the one that operates fast.

That PCMag page fails to show me reliable data. It doesn’t understand what I – the user – am really looking for. The table is nice visually, it’s good UI. But it’s been built without truly understanding the UX aspect of the problem.

So I needed to continue digging to find a better resource. Here’s the comparison I found:

Much less fancy when it comes to design, but also much more factual, and gives me the exact data I need. Since I’m in the EU, I can compare the download and upload speeds of different networks, examine the price tags, and make my decision based on that.

This is good UX. This kind of a solution understands the main challenge of a real user, and only then builds the UI around it. A UI that turns out to be really simple, but it’s all warranted by the UX goals.

In summary

Back in the day, there wasn’t much to do in terms of UI- and UX-thinking when it came to software-related products. When personal computers first got popularized back in whatever year it was, all we had was a command line interface. There was very little wiggle room. Nowadays, however, the possibilities are endless. And every project goes through multiple stages of design before we can lay our hands on the final thing. UX and UI are naturally part of that.

Our clients want to be in the know of all that too. Even if not by understanding the concepts of UX and UI in detail, they still want to at least know what’s going on and what they can expect when their designer says they’re “working on the UI.”

This is where we need to step in and explain all the whys and hows.

But what do you think? What do you do when a client asks you about the difference between UX and UI?

Be Your Authentic Self: An Adobe Experience Design Manager Talks About Pride at Work

Creative Cloud

It’s pride month, and to celebrate we’re talking about what it’s like to be openly LGBT+ in UX design and work at Adobe. At work, being open about your personal life and your partner should come easily, but for many queer people that kind of honesty comes with a fear of acceptance and inequality.

Matt Aune has battled those feelings himself. Long before he joined Adobe in 2011, he worried whether his colleagues would treat him differently for being openly gay. Today he’s an experience design manager on the Adobe Experience Cloud team, and is proud to say his Adobe family has shown him love, acceptance and support. Pride Month means a lot to him, and he has some advice for the next generation of LGBT+ people getting into technology and design.

“As a very anxious youngster in high school and college, before I was out, I never thought I’d be working in an environment where it was so accepting and so normal to gay. It means a lot,” said Aune.

Being Your Authentic Self Means Showing Strength and Vulnerability

Aune says he’s always been open about his sexuality at work, but he says that hasn’t stopped him from facing one of the biggest challenges many LGBT+ people face in their professional lives.

“I think there’s always some hesitation,” he said, adding he has been nervous in the past when entering new workplaces, especially for companies located in more “conservative” parts of the country. He and his husband have faced discrimination in their personal lives.

“You’re making yourself vulnerable, but I think it’s important to be your authentic self at work and deal with any consequences that come with that.” said Aune. “If people make it about your sexuality, and not about the work you do, then there’s nothing you can do about that. It’s not worth managing multiple personas of yourself on the offhand chance that someone might not want to work with you.”

Being Your Authentic Self is the Most Important Thing You Can Do

Aune appreciates how hard being open about your sexual or gender identity can be, especially for younger designers who desperately want to succeed and make their mark in a new company. His advice is to push through, be open about your personal life, and make it about the work you do. He says the right people will notice.

“At the end of the day it’s really about creating good work with good people, and if you can focus on the designs and not make it about you, or the people around you, your work will really shine,” said Aune. “That really should be your guiding light as a designer early in your career, when you’re trying to build out a portfolio, when you’re trying to hone those design skills.”

He says younger designers, breaking into UX design, may be pleasantly surprised at how welcoming their workplaces and and co-workers may be. While he lives in San Francisco now, he’s worked in places in different parts of the US where he worried his co-workers might be uncomfortable or even homophobic. In the end, he says, he was always his own worst enemy; worrying about sharing those aspects of his personal life, and being delighted when he discovered his co-workers weren’t worried about him being LGBT at all.

“Don’t get distracted by potential negative interactions because of your sexual identity” said Aune. “I know it’s hard sometimes for younger designers and younger people in general, but oftentimes I’ve been pleasantly surprised just how welcoming people are and, if you are authentic about yourself, people pick up on that. The right people will surface to the top.”

Being Your Authentic Self Means Showing Pride at Work

Matt Aune and his husband, who also works for Adobe, have participated in Adobe’s Pride events both in San Francisco and Salt Lake City. He says the best part has been seeing how his co-workers make an effort to show their support for him and equality in general.

“I didn’t realize how invested my co-workers are in equality until I saw photos on Facebook, or see these people I work shoulder-to-shoulder with marching down the street in the parades. For Adobe to create that opportunity, either as an LGBT person or as an ally, allows you to add a new dynamic to the relationship with those people you already work with,” he said.

Beyond showing support for sexual diversity and legal equality, Aune says his co-workers have made him feel even better by simply acknowledging who he authentically is, and treating him and his husband just like others in the office.

“I feel that this should be normal, but I know that’s often not the case. When you actually experience that acceptance it it is very touching. There are many reasons why I like working at Adobe, but that’s a significantly weighted one why I would never want to leave this company, because of the way everyone treats us,” he said.

“It’s really quite a remarkable thing.”

Every June, Adobe celebrates its LGBT+ employees for being exactly as they are. Learn more about Adobe’s 2017  Pride visuals.

Working at Play: Mattel Infuses Wonder Into Design

Creative Cloud

Maybe you remember the thrill of watching a Hot Wheels car zipping and twisting on looped racetracks. Or the excitement of outfitting a Barbie in a peach gown and twirling her around. No matter the toy, the Mattel brand has been putting smiles on kids’ faces for decades.

Mattel’s Vanessa Dewey believes play and imagination doesn’t need to end with childhood. As the Lead of Development and Creative Experiences, Dewey’s on a mission to ignite creativity in her colleagues. Passionate about “connections, culture, and community,” she channels this energy through initiatives like ReFuel, a live speaker series for employees, as well as podcasts featuring stories of creatives, internal classes and workshops, and more.

“We have some of the most talented creatives that I’ve ever been exposed to,” she says. “I’m trying to inspire, connect, and elevate our community through holistic strategies so they feel empowered and grow.”

When Dewey first participated in an Adobe Creative Jam in Los Angeles a couple years ago, she knew it was something she wanted to host at Learning Lounge, Mattel’s in-house design center. As the Creative Jam is a mix of speakers, design competition, and hands-on activities, she was drawn to it for the inspiration it could provide, as well the emphasis on teaching designers hard skills with an eye toward the future.To keep up with modern trends, the company’s strategy is increasingly more consumer-centric and digital- focused. In late 2016, Adobe and Mattel entered into a new licensing agreement for Adobe’s Creative Cloud for enterprise software and services, which Dewey saw as perfect timing to host a Creative Jam event customized to Mattel and their needs.

“Tech is evolving at the fastest rate it’s ever been. Designers are always trying to keep up,” she says. “To not take advantage of the tech Adobe is providing, and infuse it in our community in a new and fun way, would have been a miss.”

For Dewey, who first started at Mattel over eight years ago in packaging and branding, lifelong learning is part of the creative game. Since co-founding ReFuel in 2014, her curation has brought into Mattel everyone from influential designer Debbie Millman to pro-bono advocate Matthew Manos to brand innovator Leland Maschmeyer.

Everything Dewey does stems from genuine curiosity and a desire to nurture it in others.

“Creativity is ongoing. There’s no beginning and end,” she says. “Bringing in diverse opinions helps plant the seeds for when the timing is right.”

So this past April, Adobe hosted a multi-faceted Creative Jam at Mattel’s Learning Lounge in El Segundo, California. The day consisted of Creative Cloud 2017 training, a graphic design challenge, and guest talks from leaders in the design community open to employees from the entire El Segundo campus. For Jerry Silverman, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Creative Cloud, the partnership between Adobe and Mattel was a natural fit.

“Mattel’s corporate purpose “to inspire wonder in the next generation to shape a brighter tomorrow” seems nicely aligned with the mission of the Creative Jam series, which is to inspire and foster creativity amongst the world’s design community,” he says. “Vanessa is already a leader in the Los Angeles design world and brought abundant energy, passion, and vision to the collaboration.”

“Another important aspect of this partnership,” continues Silverman, “has been involvement across the spectrum of Mattel, from individual contributors all the way up to top executives. Vanessa ensured that everyone had a stake in the success of the event’s outcome, including Mattel’s VPs of Marketing and Product Design, which really helped to gather the proper momentum and commitment across the enterprise.”

According to Gabriel Carlson, VP of Global Brand Marketing at Mattel, “The Creative Jam was a very effective way to get a collection of our top designers engaged and familiar with the variety of tools and resources available in Creative Cloud. The variety of solutions over such a short period of time highlight the value and importance of design diversity.”

For the company’s first Jam, 14 of Mattel’s top designers gathered in the Learning Lounge for training on various Creative Cloud services while surrounded by colorful dioramas, displays, and imagery paying homage to Mattel’s iconic heritage. The designers then broke out into teams and had three hours to design posters based on the theme of “Wonder” using a combination of Adobe Creative Cloud desktop apps, mobile apps like Adobe Capture CC, and services like Typekit, Stock, and Adobe Spark. Later they presented their creations to an audience for voting.

“Looking at the final results of the competitors, and the amazing artworks they were able to produce under the time constraints with those new tools, was exhilarating and inspirational,” says Silverman.

Guest animator, illustrator, and entrepreneur Chevon Hicks spoke about kickstarting inspiration, and technical artist Kalan Ray talked about the possibilities of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Members of the Los Angeles-based conceptual pop band YACHT reflecting on their multimedia career added another dimension―and some serious fanboying and fangirling from participants.

After the event, Dewey says many people came up to her wanting to learn more about Creative Cloud and requesting Creative Jams with other teams. Dewey would like to implement them internally on site and at other campuses, eventually creating an accompanying toolkit. Putting different people together in a room and seeing what connections happen, after all, is what drives her.

Dewey sees community and creativity as going hand-in-hand. When she’s not at work, she’s on the Steering Committee for AIGA’s inHouse Initiative, board of directors for the LA Design festival, and inaugural committee for Ladies Get Paid in Los Angeles.

Whether cultivating community externally or internally at Mattel, Dewey says her design families interconnect, something she likens to “knitting a sweater.” Together, they’re part of the reason she’s able to continually catalyze creativity at Mattel through events like ReFuel and Creative Jam―hopefully helping designers be the best they can be.

“Creativity can be very hard to quantify when it comes to the corporate world,” she says. “But in the long run it pays off.”

3D: The Power of Outdoor Light

Creative Cloud

Last month, we covered the power 3D lights have to help any designer achieve more control over an indoor scene. For part two of this series, we look at this topic from an outdoor perspective.

As photographers know, the time of day, weather conditions and the surrounding landscape impact the success or failure of any outdoor scene. Bright, mid-day sun can often result in blown out highlights and shadows with little or no detail. Cloudy days can give a flat, dull appearance. Combine this with the difficulty of capturing light at the right time of day and your control over any outdoor lighting scenario becomes a trial of errors.

With Project Felix and our 3D lights, available for licensing on Adobe Stock, designers now have the ability to control the position of sun and the tone of the light with a few easy-to-use sliders. The power is now yours.

As with our first article on this topic, we will use the same model with different lights in order to more easily identify the possibilities. Welcome to the world of 3D – where a designer can dare to dream!

Subtle, sunrise light

Sunrise offers a soft, cool light specific to that time of day. As the sun appears over the horizon, hints of orange and yellow can be seen peeking through the subdued sky. By using a 3D light like early morning rooftop, a designer can capture the minute, warm undertones found in these morning hours. In our example, by rotating the light, the hints of gold become visible in the front folds of the fabric and forehead of the model. The reflective surface captures slivers of the surrounding scenery while that cool blue is left to flow across the scene. This light would work well with shiny materials like dented copper or glossy vinyl, and if paired with luscious, green plants on the porch of a house, could give any design a welcoming, intimate feel.

Solid, midday light

In the middle of a clear day, the light is intense and bright, often enhanced by the surrounding landscape. With this natural rock formation light, the 3D model shows undulating variations of light and dark. With a little contrast added in Photoshop CC, the deep, blue light, richer than that of dawn, creates a vivid, breathtaking result. The reddish highlights help to emphasize small details that usually, may not be recognizable. Just imagine, if partnered with a realistic model, like this cow skull, a designer could create a barren, desert scene, or if used with this shattering plate glass, that of a surreal world often found in surrealist paintings.

Pastel, evening light

The color of the light at dusk is truly unique. Often rippling with soft pinks and purples, a 3D light like canyon hills adds a pleasing color combination to any design. The evening clouds help to filter what is left of the setting sun while the sky is tinged with stunningly vibrant hues and tones. When partnered with a model and rotated, the remaining light, bouncing off the cumulus clouds, creates a backlit effect while the silver of the bust is enhanced with a luminescent sheen. It is easy to imagine a beautiful landscape design using this light – an empty wooden boat sitting on a calm lake or a vintage bike parked on a long, empty dock.

Deep, night light

Night is always the most difficult time to capture. Dim lighting conditions can result in washed out scenes and poorly lit objects. As a designer, finding a way to capture those subtle tones, the purples, the blacks that border on deep grey and that dense, dark, navy blue is always a struggle. With a 3D light like this helipad at night, those late-night aesthetics that are so difficult to visualize are now within your fingertips. The deep purple in this scene enhances every edge and curve of the model while the tiny orange lights pepper the scene with warmth and realism. Imagining a late-night rooftop scene with different musical notes, a treble clef symbol and one or two bass clef symbols floating up into the open sky from a record player could inspire any designer to capture the beauty and magic of a city rooftop at night.

This ends our two-part series on the power of 3D lights. Stay tuned for more articles over the coming months on how to unleash the power of our other 3D assets with Project Felix!

UXperts Weigh In: Designs We Love, June Edition

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Whether you’re in the mood to design, play, travel, or just get more organized, our UXperts have some top recommendations for you this month. To celebrate June, we asked them to share the apps, websites, and even video games they’re loving right now, and tell us why they’re stellar examples of UX and UI design.

Michelle Cortese, Senior Design Technologist at Refinery29

Pick: Byte

Byte launched in the summer of 2015—nearly two years ago—making it ancient in world of cutting-edge apps. However, after one playthrough on the bizarre content-creation app, I knew I’d seen something special. Byte is a playful, exploratory app that allows its users to quickly and easily create/share highly expressive pieces of art. These pieces are full-bleed, portrait-scale collections of whatever media the user can drag in via the simple, pictographic interface (gifs, images, custom music). The interface, components, and general sense of whimsy were inspired by the 1990s SNES hit, Mario Paint.

What I love about Byte, from a UX perspective, is how simultaneously daring and effective its creators were at building an intuitive, fun, fluid, and nearly textfree interface. As interactive media becomes more immersive, the demand for simpler, textless UI will increase. Experiments like Byte are incredibly important in testing the boundaries of UI.

If you want to get the gist of this app’s magic, download it and head straight for the music composer. I guarantee that the app is so intuitive, you will have learned the interface and composed an enchanting piece of music in about one minute.

Nick Slough, Creative Director at BEHOLDER

Pick: Thumper

Thumper, a rhythm violence game, leaves your mind exhausted and your senses turned up. Half Guitar Hero and half simulated DMT trip into inner space, this is a game that is fully experienced with a VR Headset and a good set of headphones. It is worth noting that you can play without either, but what is the fun in that?

Having truly integrated UX requires a balance of game design and UI. Thumper marries these two aspects beautifully with audio and colors without sacrificing valuable functionality for the player.

Thumper uses on-beat audio cues to let you know when a new series of button taps are required, while visual cues are built into the 3-D environment that allow the player to understand what button to press and how much health their beetle has remaining. Other standard UI is there to inform the player of their score and level of button tap accuracy.

If you are a music fan and haven’t played Thumper, I suggest you beg, borrow, and steal to get a couple hours in this fantastic game. It’s some of the best VR on offer.

Ivan Tolmachev, Senior Product Designer at Onfleet

Pick: Things

I’ve been a longtime fan of Things. On top of delightful visuals, its design language is always consistent and its attention to detail is beyond remarkable. Designing a personal task manager is challenging. It needs to be flexible enough to work within user’s circumstances, instead of forcing the solution onto them, and must have all the features power users demand without feeling overwhelming.

The newly released Things 3 is stunningly beautiful and doesn’t feel messy or busy at all. The app is full of great features, syncs well across all of your devices, and is just an exceptional example of UX design best practices developed in the last decade.

Its onboarding flow does a great job of educating users about using the product but doesn’t throw itself at you all at once, something a lot of apps in this segment struggle with.

Cultured Code’s design team put a lot of work into the visual design and the animations, but it’s not just all eye-candy. The established visual hierarchy does a great job of separating common interactions from more complex power features, while the animations and popovers break down complex patterns into smaller, easier steps, reducing cognitive load and keeping the interface clean and accessible.

Vignesh Ramesh, Experience Design Manager at Adobe

Pick: Google Translate

My wife and I love traveling. About a year ago we visited Switzerland and Italy, and we had this obsessive need to immerse ourselves in the culture and experience life in these countries like the locals do. But how do you do that when you don’t even know the language? That’s the problem that Google Translate solved for us.

The simple and powerful app that allows you to translate text from one language from another. It’s not just that it translates text, there are plenty of services that do that, but here is why I love the experience of using this app. The user interface is simple and focused on the primary problem at hand.

Additionally, it has a few subtle gems that make it a great and useful tool. Like the live camera capture that translates text in real time on your phone screen. Or when you do type in some text to translate, the landscape view with large font allows you to easily show the translated text to a local for easy communication. The google translate app is outstanding in ease of use, at the point of need and, above all, it makes the entire experience fun!

What websites or apps are you loving right now? Let us know in the comments!

Make It Impactful: Optimizing Images with Lightroom

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Here’s how to enter the Make It Impactful Contest:

  1. You’ll need Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC—get it here (a free trial is available). You may also enter this contest with images adjusted in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for mobile.
  2. Choose your almost perfect photograph. Please use only photographs that you have taken yourself and that you have the right to use. Please do not use photographs of people unless you have their express permission. Recognizable photographs of famous people or public figures will not be eligible.
  3. Save a backup copy of the “Before” image.
  4. Perfect your photo in Lightroom to create your “After” image.
  5. Share the Before image on Twitter or Instagram with the the hashtags #makeitimpactful and #contest, and then immediately share your After image with the same hashtags. (If you prefer, you may share one side-by-side collage image.)
  6. The deadline for submissions is July 7, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. PDT. A winner will be announced by July 31, 2017.
  7. Please share each image only one time—duplicate entries will be disqualified.

From these submissions, photographers Katie Orlinsky, Gareth Pon, and Ted Chin will be selecting one contest entrant to win a one-year Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, a $1,000 Adorama Camera gift certificate, and a one-hour mentoring session. (We will be running four Make It Impactful contests in the summer and fall of 2017. One of the four winners will be randomly selected to win our grand prize: a trip to Adobe MAX in Las Vegas!)

Learn more about this contest and get inspired—read “Make It Impactful: Optimizing Images with Lightroom.”




Shooting Stock on Vacation

Creative Cloud

With the summer holidays (or winter, depending on where you are) just around the corner, many people are starting to make their vacation plans. If you are planning on traveling during your time off, there’s no better time to shoot for stock! Since you’re on holiday, you will be photographing your experiences anyway, and you can repurpose those images as stock to save for your next vacation.

Peter Hannert, CEO and co-founder of Cavan Images joined Adobe Stock on our trip to Tahiti with travel magazine Tiny Atlas Quarterly earlier this year, and he gave us a few tips on what to keep in mind when shooting stock on vacation.

When it comes to subject matter, Peter recommends photographing people and the interactions between people. Lifestyle is one of the most popular categories on stock, and while beaches and sunsets may start to look the same after a while, interactions between people are always unique.

Also keep in mind that the photos you take to share on social media and the photos that sell the best on stock are different. An image you might share to Instagram is likely to have the focus in the middle. If you want to see the photo on stock, get a variety of angle and allow for negative space, because the buyer will likely want to add graphic elements or text in the final design.

One of the most important things remember if you want to sell your images on stock is that you must have a model release for any content with recognizable people. When it’s your family members, it’s easy. But if you are photographing people outside your social circle, Peter advises getting the forms signed at the beginning, so you can focus on enjoying your time and capturing the best moments the rest of the day. You can find more legal guidelines, as well as standard templates for model and property releases on our Contributor HelpX portal.

When it comes to keywording, relevance is key. It may seem like a cumbersome task, but it can be straightforward if you just remember you’re trying to help the buyer find your content. Think of a handful of words that describes the major elements in your image – what’s happening, who is involved – as well as conceptual words that describe the scene.

If you’re not sure where to start, the auto-keywording tool on the Contributor Portal can help you out. Be sure to arrange your keywords in order of importance.

In summary:

  • Look for interactions between people – those are always unique, and oftentimes the best sellers.
  • Be mindful of the light and get creative with your angles. Try a new perspective.
  • Make sure you have a model or property release for any recognizable person or place.
  • If you’re shooting a street or a city scape, you don’t need a property release for all the buildings. It’s only if one particular place is the central subject that you need a release.
  • Keep keywords relevant and in order of importance.
  • Think like a buyer – include not just subjects in the photo, but also conceptual keywords
  • Just shoot!

See what kind of summer content our buyers are looking for on Adobe Stock, and if you’re looking for a little inspiration on where to go for your holiday, here are some recommendations from Tiny Atlas Quarterly.

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence: How AI Will Affect UX Design

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Artificial intelligence is no longer confined to the domain of developers and data scientists, says Josh Clark, founder of Big Medium, author of several design books, and the inventor of the Couch 2 5k program.

With an unprecedented amount of data being collected and algorithms driving many of our interactions, Clark says the challenge of what to with the data, how to present it, and how to use it to shape user behavior is now inherently a design question for today’s user experience designers.

“Typically digital designers have been creating interfaces for flows and for content for which we have complete control, and now we are gradually and slightly uncomfortably feeding some of the control to algorithms and digital models that we don’t quite understand—and that don’t quite understand us,” he said.

This Isn’t Skynet

AI, especially in terms of voice interaction, has skyrocketed in capability, but it has also brought with it a number of challenges for designers.

“I think there’s often an assumption or a fear about artificial intelligence and we quickly go into the Terminator mode that Skynet is becoming sentient,” Clark said. “That’s a long ways off.”

Clark says more immediate concerns for designers include:

  • Figuring out how to address user frustration when voice-enabled products like Siri, Alexa and Cortana don’t fully comprehend what the user is asking
  • Anticipating and designing for experiences that aren’t yet capable of being fully seamless
  • Dealing with the pressure of having to execute flawless, cutting-edge AI experiences at both a client and consumer level

“I think the really critical question we’re dealing with now in this early stage of artificial intelligence is how do we design the interfaces in ways that set appropriate expectations and channel user behaviors in ways that match the capabilities of the system?” Clark said. “When expectations are wrong or we ask the machines to do something they’re just not capable of, that’s frustrating, and sometimes damaging.”

The Biases of AI Must Be Challenged by User Research

The damages he is referring to are the unanticipated biases of machine learning. He points to examples like algorithms that show racial bias when they are unable to recognize or detect faces that are not Caucasian.

Clark says “UX research at an unprecedented scale” is the solution. It is the only way to begin filling in the black holes caused by all the unknowns. Just as machines can fill in gaps for humans, humans must fill in the gaps that machines aren’t able to understand.

“If we want things to work for everybody and not some narrow average then we need to open up to a volume and diversity of test cases in order to make sure these things work well,” he said. “That’s true in general, we’ve just never before had the capacity to embrace anything beyond a relatively narrow dataset. Now we can through data processing and the wealth of data that is out there literally try ideas, concepts, products and certainly data models on millions of people.”

How Human Do Users Want These Products To Be?

Another line designers must dance is down in the uncanny valley, “a concept where the more humanlike it is, the weirder and more off-putting it is until it’s exactly perfect.”

AI is bringing up a lot of questions that we’re not sure how to answer yet. How much personality are systems like Siri or Alexa supposed to have—and how much do we want them to have? Are they merely utility or is AI allowing our relationship with technology to deepen at an unfamiliar level? Do we want to connect with our computers like the lead character does in the Spike Jonze movie Her?

“I think there’s a lot of unknowns in this right now. There is an instinct that the more that we can communicate with machines on a human level rather than on a machine level, the easier and more effortless and more convenient it will be,” he said. Over time, user interfaces have evolved to take on more human qualities, including the sense of touch and now the ability for to speak verbally to one another.

“There seems to be this constant evolution towards dealing with machines on a human and even physical level as much as possible because that’s the way that we think and communicate, but it starts to become distracting when the machines don’t understand, or understand incompletely.”

Will AI Take Jobs Away From UX Designers?

Clark recently blogged about an article that ran in the Atlantic about GoogleRNN, a system that is teaching machines how to draw. These experiments, Clark says, explore the relationship between creativity and art with intelligence. He mentions to RNN’s drawing of a cat. Although the machine cannot understand what a cat is, it can still sketch it and comprehend that it is a symbol of a cat.

“At the moment, these experiments are mostly just mimicking what we do. It’s watching how we sketch and returning it back to us. What I think is interesting is we’re starting to teach these models familiar symbols,” he said.

Based on this, you could visualize these systems being trained to interpret effective user interfaces for different needs. Clark gives Pinterest-style browsing experiences, ecommerce experiences and media reading experiences as examples, and says that these systems could begin to identify common patterns for solutions that yield different goals.

“If it understands what those layouts are and it understands what symbols within those mean, you could begin to imagine systems in the relatively near future starting to essentially sketch out interfaces or wireframes for us, creating at least a first draft based on information that we feed them,” he said.

It is not impossible then that artificial intelligence will soon be capable of low-level production work that is comparable to that of a junior level designer, he said. This introduces the question of does this take away jobs or, “does that then free us in useful ways to think about our work in more creative and expansive and perhaps more strategic ways than just tactical strategic aspects?”

Rest assured, Clark doesn’t feel like designers have too much to worry about because at the end of the day machines do not think like us. He references the work of designer Matt Jones who has written on how AI should be viewed more as a companion species, and that of Kevin Kelly, the previous editor of Wired magazine, and his thinking on how AI’s true power lies in its alien intelligence that is separate from ours.

“It’s really not something that would really ever replace the way we work or think, but becomes an interesting companion to how we work,” Clark said. “I think that’s especially true in the creative industries where it can be this useful ride-along sidekick to make our work hopefully better and more insightful and let us focus on the stuff that we can uniquely do as humans.”

AI is Changing The Game

AI is asking more of designers and Clark encourages designers to begin exploring AI through the various APIs that are available for free online in order to gain a better understanding of both the potential opportunities and obstacles AI presents.

“I think part of our new role is designing not just the interface, but anticipating the weirdness and ambiguity that can come back from these systems,” Clark said.

“I’m incredibly enthusiastic about what were going to be able to accomplish and do with machine learning and artificial intelligence, but I also think we need to treat it with scepticism and critique as we begin to integrate it into some of the most fundamental parts of our society and our culture.”

A World of Creative Possibilities with Augmented Reality UX

Creative Cloud

I recently went on a trip to Isle of Wight, a beautiful island in the south of England. Unfortunately, while waiting to board the ferry, my car broke down and I had to call road assistance to check what was wrong with the car. The diagnostics took well over an hour as the mechanic they sent didn’t recognize some parts of the dashboard and couldn’t establish which sensor was affected. He had to pull each one out, check some code on it, call a more knowledgeable colleague and then try another.

I remember thinking how easy it would’ve been if he could simply recognize the sensor type just by looking at it and its position relative to others.

It made me think of Hololens, Microsoft’s holographic computer. If he used it or a similar device, he could’ve seen all the information about the sensors displayed right next to them. This alone, with no interaction whatsoever would’ve saved him a lot of time.

This augmented reality interface, where tasks could be accomplished using contextual information collected by a system, would be amazing from an UX perspective.

What augmented reality does, is connect digital and physical experiences to offer the user real-time feedback on what they are doing. With its help, instead of just seeing information on a screen, and having to provide explicit commands to act on the output, users can interact with the real world and some programmed interactive elements in order to manipulate the outcomes.

There are a lot more practical examples of how AR could help improve the user experience though. Personally I think the retail sector is the one where augmented reality will gain more traction at the beginning. AR will totally transform how people shop by bringing the online and offline shopping experiences together. Imagine going to a store and every time you see a certain product, tags appear next to it, showing the price, description, measurements and reviews. Or, for clothing we could see a real life size model with various body sizes that we can try clothes and shoes on.

But what gets me most excited about AR is not necessarily the various possible areas of implementation. The real opportunity for UX designers comes in the form of creative freedom. It’s the freedom to define UX patterns and guidelines as there is little to no design precedent for this technology. We can define best practices that evolve as augmented reality does.

Think about it. At its core, UX designers create solutions that help users do specific tasks or reach their goals in a non-distracting way. Jared Spool famously wrote “Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.”

Nowadays, we have a lot of UX patterns and best practices that influence every component library available. In the web and mobile world, components behave similarly from one app to another, they follow similar guidelines and visual languages due to years of testing and refining. In consequence, as more and more people use these apps and websites everyday, the design becomes almost invisible.

We need to create and apply similar principles to AR content as well. To create elements that will feel almost like part of the natural environment — visible, but not distracting.

In AR, we have no patterns yet, everything released is just a prototype waiting to be tested. The new ideas that big companies are playing with are just tests to see what will gain traction. For example Amazon is exploring opening AR furniture and electronics stores and Alibaba is investing in creating AR dashboards for cars. Now there are hundreds of initiatives from both large and medium-sized companies and all of them are starting from assumptions that users need a specific service that AR can improve. They invest largely in testing out these assumptions as they need to see AR’s full potential in relation to the current tech environment.

These concepts mostly use UI elements influenced by the web and mobile world. This causes a perception problem, because it’s obvious these elements are not part of the real world. And we, as designers, need to address the mismatch between them and the reality we see. As we’re not limited to screens anymore, we can design virtual images that take into account many variables such as depth, shadow, lighting etc.

So what can we use as an extra source of inspiration for creating these AR experiences? The design of video games plays a huge part in showing how elements can be placed on top of the real world. Video games have taught us how to expect items to be placed on the screen relative to the real world. This is a start, but it’s not the norm. At least not yet.

I see this in almost all the concepts that are appearing these days, including the above mentioned Alibaba investment. Wayray’s Navion displays virtual indicators right on the road ahead, and they don’t require any headgear or eyewear.

In the video game “Need for Speed” we have controls placed in the corners of the screen so that they don’t obstruct the view, but how can we know which dashboard elements are most relevant for the driver to see at all times? By showing the RPM gauge we occupy more windshield estate, but if we only show the speed, we ignore the use case when drivers want to improve the car’s performance and fuel efficiency.

So how would the process look like? The UX process is the same iterative process that we have followed up until now: define, ideate, prototype, test and refine. But this time, both the ideation and prototyping steps need to be reinvented as there are no patterns to follow. And after the concepts are created, it’s a matter of testing and refining until we get it right.

The future of design looks incredibly promising, as augmented reality is here to stay. As we learn by testing patterns, every new usability finding will contribute largely to this technology’s development.