I Taught UX Design to Graphic Design Students For 9 Years


Teaching UX Design to design students has become an important focus within the design education community. The popular buzz term “UX Design”, short for User Experience Design is being integrated more and more into an outdated design curriculum. Whether you’re a high-school educator, trade school or university instructor, you need to understand that things are shifting for designs students who are graduating.

Having been a Course Director at Full Sail University from 2009 to 2018, I worked alongside amazing faculty, that exposed our graphic design students to the value of adding UX Design as skill under their tool belt. But the study of UX Design is not a groundbreaking revolution. Despite having been around for decades and it’s theories in practice for centuries, the creative, medical, science and tech industries have recently embraced the buzz word as “the savior” to ensuring better product experiences are built for their customers.

But teaching UX Design to Graphic Design Students is not as simple as 1-2-3. Having to explain that good design in the world of UX equates to successful user research, required a shift in my teaching style and a little bit of humility on my part. To best introduce UX Design within accelerated learning period, required exploring it from a perspective of understanding who my student is and their educational path prior to my course.

The reality is 90% of the transmitted information into the human brain is visual. Overloading a creative and visual mind with usability concepts, would not be as effective so I decided on a path that would provide a “visual learning” experience.

Enter UI Design… Since UI Design is all about designing the look and feel of an interactive experience, it makes learning about UX Design less burdensome to a student that’s more visual in how they learn.

So I taught my students TWO SIMPLE truths when it comes to learning about UX Design.

UX Design =

is about understanding the user intent and implementing proven principles, that will create a safe and satisfactory user experience.

UI Design =

the process of designing the look/iconography of the user experience and incorporating design principles & traditional design fundamentals.

What Did They Do In My Course?

The course provided Graphic Design students an opportunity, to gain an understanding of usability principles, through building basic interfaces within the Adobe XD software. By utilizing a design tool with a simple learning curve, students were able to use proven and repeatable designs solutions throughout their project. Over a 4 Week process students explored the process of designing a mobile application, based on ONE MIT Media Lab Research project that solves either a personal and social need. While keeping in mind that Graphic Design Students intuitively learn differently, I tried not to overwhelm them with memorizing usability patterns. Rather I taught usability patterns through simple design exercises and projects that provided high-value learning opportunities. My primary focus was planting seeds of interest, helping students to step out of their creative comfort zones, and show examples of how usability principles are at work in everyday technology.

This was shared with the permission of Full Sail Graduate Valeria Villanueva. The video was a demonstration of the final project she presented, as she tested a mobile app prototype using Adobe Experience Design. The curriculum and assignments taught in this course are the sole property of Full Sail University, not Matthew D. Lett.

Should UX Design Matter to Graphic Design Students?

It matters because our society delivers business solutions, entertainment, and consumer products through platforms that will require “customer-centric” solutions. To create a complete and balanced Graphic Design education today students must incorporate the principles learned in Print Design, Graphic Design, Web Design, and Interactive Design to be able to successfully contribute to what’s happening out there. The way content is being delivered to users has changed. The methods by which advertising happens today has changed. Design students can no longer think only about specific outcomes and design formats but need to consider how solutions will be delivered to the people who need them.


(1) (Books) The Design of Everyday Things – https://www.nngroup.com/books/design-everyday-things-revised/

(2) Don Norman – https://www.nngroup.com/people/don-norman/

(3) User Experience Professionals Association – https://uxpa.org/

(4) Interaction Design Foundation – https://www.interaction-design.org/

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