Yurou Zeng

Help, all my UI designs look the same!

I’m constantly going back to the age old question of “is design art?” In my heart, and according to my definition of “art” (which in itself is a can of worms I’m trying very hard not to open) the answer is no. I had recently listened to a podcast that said “design is business” and they really sold themselves on that point. Art is a means of self expression, it contains traces of the artist, of their intentions. But design? Design is meant to sell.

This is especially true in the realm of user interface design, where usability and trends overrule creativity on any given day. I sometimes feel trapped when designing interfaces, with much of the “design process” feeling more like “copying” with every new screen. Most companies, including my current team, create design systems for the very purpose of streamlining the design process and creating cohesiveness across a platform. What this does, however, is that my works, and really the whole of the web, start to all look the same. This makes me nervous, as someone who started her design journey in a more creative and “art”-like sphere. How can I reimagine apps, websites and digital interactions in new ways while maintaining the necessary usability? Am I allowed to have fun? To experiment and reinvent the wheel when the nuances of digital products has already been established? Should I even be trying to rise up to this occasion, or are products actually better off the way they are for our user’s sake?

Maybe this problem is something that only I, a student with the barest of experience in the matter, take issue with. There are probably designers out there who’s found their balance between aesthetic and function, being able to roll out amazingly beautiful and unique products that people love to use. But until I reach that level, help! All my UI designs look the same!

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