James Bates
James Bates
1st May 2015

I recently offered a client some advice about what to look for when recruiting a UI designer. I thought it might be useful for others, so have captured it here too. I’m sure there are things I’ve overlooked, but here’s what first came to mind:

1. They’re more than a stylist.

Whilst being able to make something look ‘good’ is a key skill, it’s crucial that they’re not just reproducing a trend or ‘expressing’ too much of themselves. I’m cautious of designers that primarily have their portfolio’s on sites like dribbble.com as in my experience they seem to encourage an appreciation of purely surface-level aesthetics. When evaluating their portfolio ask them to explain the different elements on the screen, they should be able to express why every one is the way it is.

2. They understand the medium

Whether they’re designing for the web or native apps, I would expect them to have a good understanding of how their respective medium works. That means both the platforms and channels they work within and the technologies that underpin them. I would expect them to have at least a basic level of coding skills. I’m less interested in their expertise with particular tools (which designers are often keen to demonstrate), as these can be picked up quickly and change often.

3. They’re ’T’ shaped

I know this has been much discussed, but I look for people that have both a broad range of skills but are specialist in just a few. In the case of a UI designer, I would also expect them to also have a user-centered approach, understand design research methods, information architecture, usability & accessibility, the challenges of responsive design, along with basic prototyping & testing techniques. I’d also expect them to show a passion for some of the wider fields of design such as; graphic design, typography, photography etc.

4. They’re a team player

The way we work is highly collaborative, so I look for people that are good team players. Designers are often portrayed an introspective, emotionally fragile artists toiling away at their craft, but I look for people that are happy to get stuck in, can collaborate well with others and able to take onboard and evaluate many differing opinions. They should be able to defend their work without being precious about it, and enjoy (often robust) discussion around the work without taking it personally. It’s also crucial —within a small team like ours—that they fit culturally with the rest of the team.

5. They’re a facilitator

The work we do is often intense and highly collaborative and can sometimes be quite alien to our clients. So I expect any designer to be able to help and guide people though the process. They should be able to setup and run collaborative design workshops, lead discussions around design, run effective critique sessions. And most importantly they should be able to present the work effectively.

6. They have interaction skills

Designing for screens has moved beyond a series of static pages all linked together. A good UI designer now needs an understanding of both interaction design and animation techniques. Understanding how this impacts the way users wayfind, navigate and move between different screens and states is crucial.

7. They’re happy sharing

One of our core values is around sharing what we do, so I look for people who actively want to share with others what they’re doing, what they know or have learnt along the way. That could be through informal discussion, writing or presenting; to your colleagues, peers or the even wider community.

8. Love what they do

Finally I look for someone who’s genuinely passionate —and often geeky— about what they do. They live and breath design and are probably practicing some aspect of it in their own time.