Why Visual Design Skills are a Must-Have for Good UX

Why aesthetic craft is a vital skill for UX designers looking to produce the best possible work.

Sean Dexter
6 min readApr 5, 2020


It’s not all that hard to come across these ideas in the UX industry:

UX and visual/UI design are mutually exclusive skill-sets best handled by entirely different types of practitioners.

A good UX designer doesn’t need to be skilled in visual design.

Companies looking for “hybrid” UI/UX designers have unrealistic expectations and should give up on finding such “unicorns”.

But this sort of thinking seems to be on the decline. Seeing as it isn’t entirely gone, I think it’s still worth laying out a few counterpoints.

So where did these beliefs come from?

IIt’s no secret that user experience design has historically struggled to avoid being seen as focused only on “look and feel”. This makes sense, and unfortunately there are plenty of practicing interface designers out there who optimize only for their own visual preferences.

To avoid this, the industry has explained emphatically (and reasonably successfully) that UX is more than just visuals — it extends into information architecture, usability, psychology and all sorts of other great stuff as well.

But in the zeal to make this clarification, UX practitioners may have sometimes overly distanced themselves from the craft of visual design.

Without getting too deep into definitions (these terms are slippery!) I’d argue that UX and visual/UI design are nowhere near mutually exclusive. In many cases they’re not even different at all.

It’s more accurate — or at least more useful — to think of visual design as a subset of the broader field of UX design. But just because something is a subset, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

In Nielsen Norman Group’s latest industry research on UX design roles they found:

• 79% of designers reported having visual design skill

• 90% of designers report doing visual design at least sometimes.



Sean Dexter

Sr Product Designer @ Meta. Prev: HubSpot & Cigna. I write about UX, agile, & product. Not speaking for any employer/s. linkedin.com/in/seandexter1/