User experience (UX) designer

Also known as: User interface (UI) artist, User interface (UI) designer, Visual designer

User experience (UX) designer

What do UX and user interface (UI) designers do?

UX designers make sure a game is nice and easy to use (as distinct from being easy to win). They ensure the players get clear and effective feedback from the game. Their main concern is that players don’t get frustrated by a game being badly explained.

UI designers are concerned with the user interface; the point at which the game and the players interact. They create the look and feel of things like the heads-up display (HUD) showing the score, lives, and levels. They make sure that the menus and commands are clear.

In larger games companies the UX and UI roles are done by different people but in smaller studios, they are combined into one job. UX designers tend to focus more on the information a player needs for the game to flow well. UI designers tend to focus on how that information is communicated. They make it look good and sound great.

What’s a UX or UI designer good at?

  • Empathy: imagine what it’s like to be a player, think about if the game is usable, champion the players always
  • Art: create things that look good at the user interface and fit the style of the game
  • Animation: design motion to enhance the UI design
  • Communication: give very clear information to players, collaborate with the rest of the design team, understanding what game designers (or programmers) want to do, communicate how you intend to solve the presentation
  • Analytical thinking: design things that can be built, know what your engine and tools can do, assess the circumstances, find the best solution

Tools of the trade

These are some of the tools used by professionals but you can develop your skills using free software. Go to build your games portfolio for a list.

  • Scripting tools (Bash, Batch, Powershell, Perl)
  • Visual scripting tools (Bolt, Unity)
  • Animation toolsets (Jenkins, TeamCity, Chef, Puppet, Ansible)
  • Image editing software (Adobe Photoshop)

Who does a UX or UI designer work with?

UX or UI designers usually report to the game designer. They work with artists, engineers, programmers and QA technicians.

How do I become a UX or UI designer?

This can be a senior role, but many companies will take on a junior too.

At school or college:
This is a role where both art and science is useful.

If you want to go to university:

Take A-levels, Highers, Level 3 BTECs or UALs in a combination of arts and sciences from the following subjects.

  • Art
  • Art and design
  • Graphic design
  • Graphic communication
  • Computer science
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Creative digital media production

If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 qualifications will be relevant:

  • Aim Awards Diploma/Extended Diploma in Games Animation and VFX
  • BTEC Diploma in Graphics
  • BTEC Diploma in Digital Games Design and Development
  • BTEC Diploma in Computing for Creative Industries
  • UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
  • AQA Technical Level Entertainment Technology: Video Games Art & Design Production
  • OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Digital Content for Interactive Media)
  • AL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production & Technology
  • AQA Technical Level IT: Programming
  • OCR Technical Diploma in IT (Digital Software Practitioner)

Play games:
Play lots of different games. Think about how the game mechanics works.

Build a portfolio:
Create work that you can show off to employers. This is essential. Go to build your games portfolio to learn how.

Look for an apprenticeship:
You might be able to find an apprenticeship as a junior user experience designer. Even if the role isn’t in games, it might be worth taking it up. You could develop your skills and move into the games industry from there. Check out What’s an apprenticeship?  to learn more about apprenticeships and find an apprenticeship to learn how to find one in your region, or approach companies directly. Go to ScreenSkills information on games apprenticeships for the main apprenticeship schemes in games.

Start modding:
Create levels of a game using software provided by the publishers.

Get a degree:
Most people in the games industry have a degree, so you can think about getting one related to games. You could get one related to computer science, maths, physics, programming. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in games. We endorse courses when they offer training in the relevant software, dedicate time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the games industry.

Get to know people in the games industry by attending events, including games conferences and expos. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest and knowledge in the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to how to network well to learn how to do this.

Search for jobs:
Use the UK Games Map to find out if there are games companies near you. Then go to their websites directly and check out their open roles. Look for entry-level roles. 
Even if they are not advertising the right role, if you like a specific company it’s worth emailing them to let them know you are looking in case something suitable comes up in future. Some employers will take on a UX or UI designer if they have a strong portfolio, showing creativity, flair and software skills.

You might also be interested in…

It’s not just games that needs UX or UI designers. The BBC does a UX Design Trainee Scheme. UX or UI designers are needed in any kind of web design and virtual reality development. You might be interested in being a lead games designer or virtual reality (VR) programmer in the games industry. You might also be interested in being a software developer in visual effects (VFX).

Further resources