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Dreams of becoming a UI artist

Hey everyone,

I feel like this was the appropriate place to ask for advice, but I have been wanting to look into becoming a great UI artist. Growing up, I have always loved characters and making games and designing stuff in Photoshop. Unfortunately, my school never got into UI art - something I really want to look into doing.

My question is - where do I begin? If you are a UI artist, please tell me what I should expect and know. I want to learn, practice and study to master it. So far, I study other game's UI elements and try to remake them, or throw in my own style. Just to get the hang of it.

I'm pretty sure I had more to say, but that's it for now. xD


  • swann
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    swann polycounter lvl 4
    I'm not UI guy, but lately I have become a big fan of watching videos that are not my speciality. It's a really eye opening experience.
    One of the places I found is http://push-conference.com/ and their vimeo channel with some talks, for example this one:

  • Ex-Ray
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    Ex-Ray polycounter lvl 10
    I'm also not an UI guy but I did discover this site that could be useful as reference:


    There is also the stuff on the wiki:

  • RN
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    RN sublime tool
    From time to time I visit this, very inspiring:
  • Stinger88
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    Stinger88 polycounter
    Hey Andz

    I am a UI artist, or should I say was until about 2 months ago when I switched to concept art, however part of my job is also to concept UI as well as everything else...anyhoo. I was a UI artist for 3yrs. I didnt specialise in graphic design but I work with people who did and they are very good at what they do. I dont think its neccasary to have Graphic design but it'll help.

    Things you'll need to understand as a UI artist:

    Fonts, kerning, spacing, etc. - Get to know fonts!!
    Readability - understanding of screen resolutions and how line weights and fonts translate to screen on console and PC
    Functionality and Usability - understand how the User will navigate the UI and how they will read it
    Layout hierachy - What info needs to be big and what is less important
    Colour theory, composition, etc

    you'll also need to know how to implement this stuff in engine, probably. Not as important, learning engine stuff is usually done when you start at any new studio.

    It's a great job and I enjoyed it a lot. Studios are always looking for UI artists. They are probably one of the hardest roles for studios to fill, except maybe tech artists.

    Have a look at UI job requirements at various studios. You could have my old job ;P

  • LiamWong
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    LiamWong polycounter lvl 2
    I started out doing UI work in games, have you seen this thread? http://polycount.com/discussion/104985/ui-artist-portfolio

    If you like, send me a message or mail me on LinkedIn and I'm happy to help.

  • Equanim
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    Equanim polycounter lvl 6
    +1 for everything Stinger88 said.  You'll want to stress graphic design, art, and animation.  Having some programming knowledge (which you'd probably pick up anyway) is also incredibly valuable.  I'm a UI guy and went toward the coding end.  It's really easy to switch industries (if you have to) and finding a job has never been a problem.  People with even a foundational understanding of design, animation and code are hard to come by.

    If you want to go to school for it, look for "Interactive Design" or "New Media Design".  Most people get their start in web since it's the most common form of interactive design, but game UI's tend to be more art heavy.  If you want to show off your skills, it's really easy to "art" the hell out of a javascript widget.  Make a portfolio out of widgets that look like they belong in games and that will get you started.  If you can find some people developing an app, that's even better.
  • moose
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    moose Polycount Sponsor
    while this isnt a requirement, i would advise in learning or at least understanding how some code/scripting works as Equanim mentions. There are a lot of technical things a good UI artist needs to master, but by no means need to learn it right off the bat. Knowing and understanding how stuff works will enable you to make good UI art choices. 

    I'd suggest learning 2d animation techniques while refining and polishing your art skills. What visuals provide good input response to a user? How do you make clicking a button rewarding, or getting some piece of mundane loot special? Make After Effects animations, Flash animations, etc of user interactions. Study the market. Blizzard has one of the strongest user experience/UI groups in the business imo, their work always feels right. From button clicks, layouts, to animations on elements - as a gamer I feel special and excited to see things happen in the UI.  Many games employ subtle animation to draw your eye, and make the player give emotional value to numbers or boxes - study how this is done via animation, color, etc!

    Good luck! Master it and perfect it! Good UI artists are unicorns :)
  • beefaroni
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    beefaroni sublime tool
    Oh shit! I didn't know you were on Polycount Liam. Nice GDC talk!

    I've seen a few people get hired by smaller studios as a result of UI redesigns they've done on games. I remember seeing one for Hawken awhile ago that was pretty good. Maybe you could pick a game you've invested a lot of time into with a so-so UI and focus on a re-design backed by some solid Typography / GD backgrounds?
  • blankslatejoe
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    blankslatejoe polycounter lvl 14
    Stinger88 said:
     Studios are always looking for UI artists. They are probably one of the hardest roles for studios to fill, except maybe tech artists.
    QFT - UI is one of the more painful jobs in games--usually unappreciated, usually complex/technical, and usually involves more "complete overhauls" than other disciplines, imho, so you'll need a thick skin and learn how to not be too attached to your work. A lot of artists end up getting sucked into it because the team "needs someone now" and then hate doing it. If UI is something you are passionate about AND you can get good at it, then yeah, there are absolutely jobs out there for you. Just remember: UI is as much about flow and motion as it is about static design. goodluck!
  • Shrike
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    Shrike interpolator
    "I have always loved characters and making games and designing stuff in Photoshop."
    That does not sound so much like UI to me, are you sure we are talking about the same thing ?

    There are kind of UI Artists and UI Designers and some that do it all. The UI artists focus on the art execution and the designers on the layout function and usability (and likely often also implementation), but this is often blurred in companies and a position often will include all parts. Thing is you might have a programmer working with you, but you might also be expected to implement stuff yourself, so often programming experience is asked. But its different with every job.

    Mobile and more real world detached companies might also employ UX designers, but UX should be a very core skill of every UI & game designer either way imo. I also know some companies that let the game designers do the UI design and have an UX team look over that while UI artists do the art after the template of the designers.

    Typography is important, graphic design, layouting and proportions, color theory, user experience and basic psychology also helps, but also audivisual feedback and how to make your interfaces feel great to use. I do a lot of UI, its very fun but can also be very hard getting a good design down that you are finally happy with in both visuals and function.

    Also as JOE previously said, its really underappreciated, reviewers will never mention the UI even if it looks and feels amazing, gamers will hardly appreciate it, but your colleagues may do however.
  • andz
    I forgot to mention a brief background of myself - I am currently a graphic designer at a digital advertising agency. I have been working there for over a year now so I do have graphic design background. I ALSO did go to school and got my degree in Game Art and Design. The only thing I wish they did have a class on was UI design. However, I did learn the technical side of it so I do know how to set up a GUI in Unity and the like. I have also created and released a mobile game for the iOS (nothing too crazy, it was a simple take on game development) - so I also have a little over basic understanding with code. You guys gave great answers and I thank you all for your advice! :blush: I'm going to give it a shot and see if it's something I enjoy. I have only done very basic UI and have enjoyed doing it so -- we'll see! :smiley:
  • andz

    Shrike said:
    "I have always loved characters and making games and designing stuff in Photoshop."
    That does not sound so much like UI to me, are you sure we are talking about the same thing ?
    Lol, yes! I just meant that I was always usually focused more on character design than UI. And I'd like to start a focus on UI design since getting a job in graphic design but having a passion for games.
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