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How to become better at visual design

There are lots of ways to learn about the early stages of software and website design - what people sometimes think of as "UX" work. There are relatively few ways to learn about the later stages - The "UI" work.

Here are some methods/resources you can use to get better at UI/visual design.

Daily UI

Take a look at Daily UI. They send you a prompt every week day by email, and each prompt is some part of an interface you can design, such as a checkout form.

Regular practice is important to try new things and build up your mental toolkit of techniques. If you need help understanding a prompt, Collect UI is a website that shows Daily UI submissions organised by the prompt.

Study how others do it

There are lots of places you look at for inspiration, whether you just want to study what people are doing out of interest, or because you're working on something specific and need some ideas to play with.

Dribbble is where most of the UI work is happening. Unfortunately the focus on UI work means there's less focus on designs that could actually be built in the real world, and there's almost no thought put into usability. Use with caution.

Over the years I've put together a long list of websites that collect together examples of good design. Here they are:

Copy how others do it

If you see something you like the look of, or something that's popular, try to recreate it in your design software of choice. You'll learn more than you think just by taking the same steps that the designer did.

For an introduction, read "Copy If You Can" by Erik Kennedy (More on him later).

Also read "Reverse Engineering The Invision Interface" by Jose Bento, and watch the video at the end.

Follow Erik Kennedy

Erik Kennedy is one of the only people on the planet trying to teach visual design techniques in a practical way. His blog is here.

He also offers an expensive-but-probably-worth-it course at the address above, called Learn UI Design. If you've got the money, you'll learn a lot.

Follow Steve Schoger

Steve Schoger also likes to share lots about designing user interfaces, but his approach is more "little and often". He posts many practical tips to his Twitter account. Someone helpfully collected most of them up in one place, which you can see here.

He's also got a series of videos called Refactoring UI, where he redesigns a page and explains why he's doing what he's doing. They're very good, and you can get updates here.

They're also currently planning to release a book, as of writing this sentence.

Some other articles

Here are some articles that don't fit in the other sections. They're good.

Read some books

"Designing Visual Interfaces", by Kevin Mullet and Darrell Sano, goes through graphic design principles and how they apply to software interfaces. The examples are from the last century, but the principles are still relevant today.

Steven Bradley at Vanseo Design has written a book called "Design Fundamentals". It covers graphic design principles in general, and not always in the context of software interfaces. The sections on "Volumes and Mass" and "Patterns and Textures" are rarely covered elsewhere, though.

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