UX, Visual, or Product: Which Type of Design Is Right for You?

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Design plays a crucial role in the success of any company’s marketing and sales strategies. People spend a significant amount of time online, around six hours and 57 minutes per day, consuming online content. To capture their attention, companies must create visually appealing and user-friendly websites and products.

Due to this demand, there is a high need for UX, Visual, and Product designers. These creative tech careers have been consistently named as some of the most sought-after jobs in the tech industry by renowned companies like Forbes and Medium.

This article aims to explain the differences between UX, Visual, and Product Design to help you choose the right design career.

Understanding the differences: UX, Visual, and Product Design

If you’re thinking about pursuing a tech design role, it’s essential to understand the distinctions between UX, Visual, and Product Design. These paths differ in terms of the technology used, responsibilities, and salaries. Here’s a breakdown to help you make an informed decision.

UX (user experience) Design

What is UX design? 

UX design is about creating digital products or services that are easy, efficient, and enjoyable to use. It involves understanding user needs, designing interfaces, and testing to meet those needs. The aim is to make the product both functional and delightful. This is done by considering user expectations and pain points while designing intuitive interfaces.

Main responsibilities of a UX designer

  • User research: A UX designer deeply understands users’ needs, goals, and behavior by conducting research, gathering data, and designing products accordingly.
  • User personas: These fictional characters, created based on user research, guide the design process and ensure the product meets various user group needs.
  • Wireframes and prototypes: Wireframes outline product structure and layout, while prototypes enable user interaction and feedback.

Key tools 

  • Wireframing and prototyping tools: Designers use tools like Figma, Sketch, and Adobe XD to create wireframes and interactive prototypes to test and refine their designs.
  • User research and testing tools: There are several user research and testing tools available, such as UserTesting, Optimal Workshop, and Hotjar, that designers use to gather data and feedback from users.
  • Design systems and style guides: Designers use tools like InVision Design System Manager, Abstract, and Zeplin to create and manage design systems and style guides, which ensure consistency and efficiency in the design process.

Salary

According to Glassdoor: 

  • USA: The average salary for a UX designer in the United States ranges from $65,000 to $125,000 per year, with a median salary of around $90,000.
  • Canada: The average salary for a UX designer in Canada ranges from $55,000 to $95,000 per year, with a median salary of around $75,000.
  • Singapore: The average salary for a UX designer in Singapore ranges from $30,000 to $120,000 per year, with a median salary of around $60,000.
  • UK: The average salary for a UX designer in the United Kingdom ranges from £25,000 to £65,000 per year, with a median salary of around £40,000.
  • Australia: The average salary for a UX designer in Australia ranges from AUD $60,000 to AUD $110,000 per year, with a median salary of around AUD $85,000.

Visual Design

What is visual design? 

Visual design is versatile, finding application in advertising, marketing, user interface, web, and print design. Its purpose is to create engaging and informative visual languages, which conveys ideas effectively through clear, concise, and visually appealing means. Key elements include color theory, typography, layout, visual hierarchy, and the use of imagery.

Main responsibilities of a visual designer 

  • Conceptualizing and creating visual designs: Visual designers are responsible for creating designs that communicate a specific message or idea in a visually appealing and effective way. They may work on a wide range of design projects, such as logos, websites, marketing materials, and product packaging.
  • Selecting and using appropriate design elements: Visual designers must have a good understanding of design principles such as color theory, typography, layout, and composition and use these elements to create effective designs that convey the desired message.
  • Collaborating with clients and team members: Visual designers often work as part of a team, and they may need to collaborate with clients, art directors, writers, and other designers to ensure that the design meets the client’s needs and is aligned with the overall project goals.

Key tools 

  • Graphic design software: Visual designers use graphic design software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign, to create and manipulate digital images, illustrations, and layouts.
  • Prototyping and wireframing tools: Visual designers use prototyping and wireframing tools, such as Sketch or Adobe XD, to create interactive mockups of websites, mobile apps, and other digital products.
  • Color and typography tools: Visual designers use color and typography tools, such as Adobe Color or Google Fonts, to select and experiment with different color palettes and fonts.

Salary

According to Glassdoor: 

  • USA: The average base salary for a visual designer in the United States is $68,725 per year.
  • Canada: The average salary for a visual designer in Canada is around C$49,000 per year.
  • Singapore: The average base salary for a visual designer in Singapore is SGD 46,280 per year.
  • UK: The average base salary for a visual designer in the United Kingdom is £31,023 per year.
  • Australia: The average salary for a visual designer in Australia is around AU$60,000 per year.

Product Design

What is product design? 

Product design involves creating functional and visually appealing products. It encompasses the entire process, from concept to final production, while considering user needs, preferences, and the product’s context. Product designers must account for factors like functionality, usability, manufacturability, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness.

Main responsibilities of a product designer

  • Research and analysis: Product designers must conduct research to identify the needs and preferences of the target audience and analyze market trends to inform the design process.
  • Ideation and concept development: Based on research findings, product designers are responsible for generating ideas and developing concepts for new products that meet the target audience’s needs.
  • Prototyping and testing: Once a concept is developed, product designers create prototypes to test and refine the design. They may conduct usability testing, focus groups, or other forms of feedback to identify areas for improvement.

Key tools 

  • Sketching and ideation tools: Product designers often begin the design process by sketching ideas on paper or using digital tools to create sketches and concepts. Common sketching and ideation tools include pen and paper, sketchbooks, and digital software such as Sketch or Figma.
  • Prototyping tools: Once a design concept is developed, product designers create prototypes to test and refine the design. Common prototyping tools include 3D printing software and hardware, laser cutters, and woodworking tools.
  • Computer-aided design (CAD) software: Product designers use CAD software to create detailed 3D models of their designs. These models can be used to test the functionality of the product and to create detailed specifications for manufacturing. Common CAD software includes SolidWorks, AutoCAD, and Fusion 360.

Salary

According to Glassdoor: 

  • USA: The average salary for a product designer is around $76,000 to $100,000 per year. 
  • Canada: The average salary for a product designer is around CAD 55,000 to CAD 85,000 per year.
  • Singapore: The average salary for a product designer is around SGD 41,000 to SGD 72,000 per year.
  • UK: The average salary for a product designer is around £25,000 to £45,000 per year for junior designers and £50,000 to £75,000 per year for senior designers.
  • Australia: The average salary for a product designer is around AUD 50,000 to AUD 85,000 per year. 

How to Choose the Right Design Career

Choosing the right design job can be daunting. But you can do a few things to help make the process easier. Here are some tips:

  1. Identify your strengths and interests: List your top skills and areas of technology you’re passionate about. This will help narrow your job search to roles that match your strengths and interests.
  2. Review job descriptions: Carefully examine job descriptions to ensure they align with your skill set and career goals. Pay attention to qualifications, responsibilities, and job expectations.
  3. Network with industry professionals: Connect with professionals in your desired industry and seek their advice on finding the right tech design job. They may provide referrals to suitable companies or roles.
  4. Trust your instincts: If you have a positive impression of a company or role, it’s likely a good fit. Conversely, if something feels off, trust your intuition and continue your search.

Other careers in tech design (2023 edition)

The design field is quite broad and includes various roles requiring different skill sets. In addition to UX, Visual, and Product Design, there are other design roles to consider:

  • User Interface (UI) Designer: Focusing on the visual design of digital products, UI designers work closely with UX designers to ensure the design supports the user experience.
  • Interaction Designer: Responsible for designing how users interact with products or services, including user flows, wireframes, and prototypes.
  • Graphic Designer: Creating visual concepts using computer software or by hand to communicate ideas effectively.
  • User Researcher: Investigating and understanding user behaviors, needs, and preferences to inform product design.

Overall, the goal of a user researcher is to ensure that products and services are designed with the user’s in mind. Which can lead to a better user experience and more successful products. 

No design experience, no problem

Are you trying to break into the design world with no prior experience? You can still pursue the career of your dreams. To all the career changers out there, General Assembly is here to help. 

At GA, our mission is to help career changers like you get the job of their dreams. We provide the resources and tools you need to build a thriving career in tech. Our full-time, flex and part-time immersives offer hands-on projects, expert instructors, and a supportive community of mentors and students. 

To kick-start your design career today, take a look at some of the design courses GA has got to offer: 

Are you interested in learning more? Then, explore a design workshop today to see which route is best for you.

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Disclaimer: General Assembly referred to their Bootcamps and Short Courses as “Immersive” and “Part-time” courses respectfully and you may see that reference in posts prior to 2023.