In our practice, we’ve come to recognize that visual interface design is a critical and distinct discipline that must be conducted in concert with interaction design and—when appropriate—industrial design. It has great power to influence a product’s effectiveness and appeal. But for this potential to be fully realized, visual design must not be an afterthought—it isn’t a “coat of paint.” It should be regarded as one of the essential tools for satisfying user and business needs.
Visual interface designers’ work emphasizes the organizational aspects of the design and how visual cues and affordances communicate behaviour to users. These designers work closely with interaction designers to understand the priority of information, flow, and functionality in the interface and to identify and strike the right emotive tones. Visual interface designers focus on how to match the interface’s visual structure to the logical structure of both the users’ mental models and the application’s behaviours. They are also concerned with communicating application states to users and with cognitive issues surrounding user perception of functions (layout, visual hierarchy, figure-ground issues, and so on).
Visual interface designers have command of basic visual properties—colour, typography, form, and composition—and must know how these can be used to effectively convey affordances, information hierarchy, and mood. Visual interface designers are aware of brand psychology, know the history of graphic design, and are familiar with current trends. They know accessibility principles and the science of human perception. Visual interface designers also have a fundamental understanding of interface conventions, standards, and common idioms.