Graphic Design Was Not A Mistake!

Niamh McGuinness

UI Designer

Is it possible for a Graphic Designer to become an Interaction Designer? Can they successfully transition from print to digital? Do the skills used in one area apply to the other and what does a designer need to do to change métier? After working in graphic Design for the last 7 years I have recently made the move to Interaction Design. Here I discuss some of the lessons I learned on my journey, and a few tips I picked up along the way.

Illustration showing mobile screen design from paper to digital.

Diving In

Before putting down the pencil and putting away the paper, a fundamental question has to be answered: “What type of digital designer do you want to be?” There are many different types out there: User Experience, User Interface, Interaction, Visual, etc.  Within these categories there are many more subcategories. Research is critical at this point. Read up on how others in the same position started out and what they recommend to do. I decided to focus on Interaction Design and up-skilled by going back to college. There are many avenues available in order to do this. You can sign up to Springboard or do shorter 10-12 week evening courses.

Choosing an area and a course is the first important step on this journey. The next critical step is doing the studying and analysis. Interaction Design has many different facets and touches on so many areas. I had to understand areas like Design thinking, material Design, user analysis, personas and context scenarios. It is also fundamentally important to get to know the different terms used in the Interaction Design industry.

This is the type of knowledge employers are looking for and should appear in examples of your work. They can even be included in graphic Design work you do while up-skilling.

The Dead Tree Lives On

As a print designer one tool or medium I used a lot was paper. My final Designs were predominately rendered on it rather than a screen. I always found it useful to print out works in progress to see how it may appear in its final form. It was also useful to spot mistakes and typos. One thing I was glad to find when I moved to digital was that there was still a role for paper.

Interaction Designers create paper prototypes at an early stage in their Design process. These paper prototypes help you to see the flow of the design and interactions with screens side by side. You can easily start to rearrange pages and get a better overview of how the Design works before any solid Design decisions are made. Being able to communicate these ideas as well as visualising them will bring you another step closer to getting up to speed on Interaction Design.

Diagram showing the differences between Graphic Designer and Interaction Designer

Building Up Work

Building up a portfolio while learning about Interaction Design is essential. You might be able to talk about the various areas of Interaction Design, but you will need something to show to back this up. If you are unsure of what to create, try out websites like Daily UI. There you can experiment with ideas and interact with other Interaction Designers. Even designing those ideas you always talked about but never did anything with is a great way to get your creative brain working. It also helps to ease the transition from graphic Design to digital. These ideas create great talking points for interviews and meetings, showing how you can take a concept from an idea to a final Design.

Keeping Fresh

Once you have become an Interaction Designer, it is always good to keep up to date on what is going on in the industry. One way of doing this is to attend workshops and talks. The IxDA Dublin put on monthly events which cover all areas of Interaction Design. Many companies and organisations put on workshops and talks on UI and UX, discussing best practices and the emerging trends digital design. Going to these will help you network and meet people who may also be making the same move.

Graphic Design to Interaction Design

If moving into digital Design has been something you have thought about for a while, now is the time to do it. Digital design is becoming more and more prevalent within the design industry, with many companies moving into digital or adding it to their services. I am so glad I have made the transition from Graphic Design into Interaction Design. If I can do it, so can you!