What role does Visual Design play in UX?

Summary: What role Visual Design plays in UX is central to getting the most from your process. Visual Design is pivotal in shaping users’ interactions, perceptions, and emotional responses within digital interfaces. Beyond mere aesthetics, Visual Design orchestrates a harmonious blend of visual elements to create a cohesive and engaging user journey. Let’s delve into the profound impact of Visual Design on UX while also drawing a parallel with Interaction Design.

What color do you like? The UX of Visual Design

The question, of course, is, does color or “pretty UIs” matter for your users? Visual Design involves “look and feel” or your strategy with icons, images, and branding elements- hugely important to a UX design. So yes, studies show it positively colors user expectations and perceptions of trustworthiness in a design.

“You have 50 milliseconds (0.5 sec) to make a good impression on a website (Lindgaard et. al. 2006). Google’s research (Tuch et. al. 2012) drops it further to 17 milliseconds (0.017 sec) for certain design elements. This means feelings of trust for a design occur without conscious thought. Good visual design impacts whether users perceive it as easy to use, which has been found to impact their intention to purchase.” – Frank Spillers, CEO Experience Dynamics

The problem, however, is what happens after the “first kiss”. Can users complete their tasks with ease or is it just “pretty” but difficult? Pretty difficult?

Visual Design is important and powerful, but it is only half of the story. Good Visual Design in UX gets built on top of Interaction Design, which gets built on top of User Research.

layers of user research to interaction design then visual design


Understanding when Visual Design occurs

In one word, at the end. Just before Dev.

The objective of Visual Design in UX

Visual Design is a critical component that transforms ordinary interfaces into immersive experiences. Through the strategic use of colors, typography, imagery, and icons, Visual Design enhances the visual appeal and UX of digital products. Establishing a consistent visual language guides users through their interactions, making navigation intuitive and engaging. Visual Design can build on Interaction Design and honor the careful pathways created to support Users and Tasks in Context. This is a fundamental principle underlying Google Material Design guidelines.

See What are Tasks and Context in UX?

Of course, Visual Design provides assets, Figma files or CSS/HTML specifications with styles defined.  More ways Visual Design helps UX:

  • Eliciting emotions and connections

Colors, imagery, and layout choices evoke emotions and establish user connections. Visual Design can evoke a sense of trust, excitement, or calmness based on color psychology and visual cues. It creates an emotional resonance that amplifies the overall user experience, making it memorable and impactful.

See What emotion means for UX strategy?

  • Enhancing Readability and Accessibility

Visual Design optimizes content presentation, making it easier for users to consume information. Effective typography choices, clear hierarchy, and appropriate spacing improve readability. Moreover, Visual Design considers accessibility, ensuring that the interface is usable by individuals with diverse abilities.

Visual Design vs. Interaction Design

Both Visual Design and Interaction Design are integral to crafting a seamless user experience, yet they fulfill distinct roles.

Visual Design

Visual Design primarily focuses on the aesthetic and emotional aspects of the interface. It encompasses the selection of colors, fonts, imagery, icons, and layout that collectively create the “look and feel” of the product. Visual Design strives to evoke emotions, reinforce branding, and establish a cohesive visual identity. At school this is the area of Art and Visual Communication.

Interaction Design

Interaction Design, on the other hand, revolves around the functionality and behavior of the interface. It delineates how users interact with various elements and complete tasks within the platform. Interaction Design outlines the logical flow of actions, ensuring a seamless and intuitive user journey. At school this is Cognitive Science, where UX comes from. The focus is behavioral understanding and inflencing users.


Achieving a high-performing user experience requires an understanding of Visual Design and Interaction Design. Visual elements enhance the aesthetics and emotional resonance, while interaction components dictate how users engage with the interface. Visual Design is a cornerstone of UX, offering visual, emotional, and support to usability goals. Visual Design builds on Interaction Design that builds on User Research insights to create a distinct, memorable, and smooth customer journey.

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