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UX vs Visual Design

Should UX design and visual design be the same or separate disciplines?

The Summary:

In the design field, UX and Visual design serve distinct purposes. UX designers tackle problem-solving, while Visual designers focus on aesthetics. I advocate for keeping these roles separate, even though there is value in UX designers understanding Visual design.

February 6, 2023
UI/UX & Visual Design
10 Minute Read

Today’s climate has many different hats and roles for designers, each with their own specific workflows that may intersect at times. UX design is one of the most popular terms nowadays that I feel is starting to lose its core meaning. Visual design on the other hand has a clearer meaning but is less popular than the other roles such as UX, UI, Graphic, and recently Product design. Although the waters are getting muddied now, I am a firm believer that UX and Visual design should be separate disciplines overall.

In order to deep dive into why I believe this, it is important to outline what exactly each role does to clearly illustrate my point. For the sake of this comparison, I am going to combine the roles of UX and UI designers as this seems to be the current trend in today’s climate.

UX Designers

UX Designers deal with problems and solutions. If you present them with a problem space - say food scarcity - they will do a deep dive into why this problem exists, the current results of this problem, and the best ways to solve it. A UX designer is not doing design work in a traditional sense that most people would assume by the name, but instead are looking at design at its core as an avenue to generate results.  

Visual Designers

Visual designers are the ones that make things look pretty in the way that most people expect of a designer. They take a product and bring it to life using color palettes, manipulation of white-space, creation of style guides, etc. A visual designer is very similar to a graphic designer in the way that a UX designer is like a UI designer, but they work more with the actual product while the graphic designer may work more with the marketing deliverables.

In a perfect world or a well-oiled machine of a company, a UX designer will outline how the design will work then hand it off to the visual designers so they can determine how it looks. It is common knowledge that a great visual design cannot make up for a poor user experience. For this sole reason, UX designers are often paid more as their work is usually what really determines if a product will fail or succeed.

Why Keep them Separate?

After seeing how different each role is overall, the answer to why they should be separate is clear – they operate almost totally different avenues. A UX Designer would greatly benefit from understanding visual design as it will aid them in the research and architecture process, but a visual designer does not necessarily need to understand the ins and outs of UX design. I believe UX design is a natural evolution of visual design that many people – including myself – go through when they try to figure out the best ways to make their design work more effective.

A company that wants to produce the most effective solutions should understand the vital parts UX designers and Visual designers play. Every person on this Earth has a story to tell, when looking at the law of attraction, you will see that people are attracted to things that resonate with them. A product is a story that starts with a vision to change or improve a certain aspect of our daily lives, the users of our products are the ones that bought into that story and believe in what it tells.

When looking at the most globally famous brands you will quickly notice many of their most hardcore followers share similar backgrounds or mindsets. For example, Apple diehards are often designers that believe in a clean and cohesive experiences. Nike fans are mostly athletes, Audiophiles love companies like Sennheiser that specializes in the best audio quality, and hardcore gamers often still live with their mother (joking). Understanding what you want your product to accomplish heavily relies on understanding the audience that you will be selling to.

The UX designers will work towards learning as much about the audience as possible to produce deliverables that ensure the product aligns with their expectations. The visual designer will then work closely with creating a visual style that tells your products story in a way that will hold the users’ attention and make them want to buy into your solution. Each role has a long enough list of deliverables needed that it will be incredibly difficult to do with just one person or team. The bigger the product, the more necessary it would be to have multiple teams working towards each goal. Having too much interlap of roles and hats would mean many steps can be lost in translation that may lead to huge oversights in the final design.


While it is possible for one person or team to handle both the UX and Visual design of a product, it is not nearly as effective as having them be separate roles. Both positions are incredibly important parts of the design process that requires a lot of research and skill to do properly. However, a new role has recently become popular that serves to bridge the gap between each position. These are called Product designers, who handle the products design throughout every step of the process from beginning to end. These are mainly managerial positions that oversee the UX, Visual, and even Marketing design of the final products to ensure everything stays consistent with the brands story and vision. These are the unicorns that have experience in all aspects of design that can truly make a stellar product.






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