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Chapter 3
Learning design fundamentals
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Chapter 3

Learning UX design fundamentals

“Do I need a college degree to be a designer?” is likely one of the most popular questions of people looking to get started in UX/UI design. The shortest answer is “no, you don’t.”

You can come into the field with a related degree in psychology, human-computer interaction, graphic design, visual design, UI design, or interaction design. Or, you may not have a degree at all but be passionate about UX design and have other traits that make an excellent UX professional. There’s no single path to becoming a UX designer. However, no matter your background, there are concepts you’ll need to learn before you start searching for an internship or your first job.


What to Learn

UX and UI design fundamentals course is a good place to begin. The order of learning topics doesn’t matter — just pick a place to start. It’s a good idea to set a schedule for yourself for learning if you’re serious about starting a design career. Otherwise, it can be easy to spend too much time learning a single topic, delaying the start of your career.

Once you've completed a course or a few UX design courses, take a UX design certification to demonstrate your skills and distinguish you from other designers.

Remember: you can always keep learning even after you’ve started your career. In fact, you should keep learning!

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Principles of Design

If you search for “principles of design” you’ll find lists for anywhere from 7 to 13 principles. That can be confusing as a new designer. How many are there really? The answer is that no one can seem to agree! But you’ll find a few principles (balance, contrast, hierarchy, repetition, and white space, for example) that repeat regardless of the source. In any case, reading about the principles of design and understanding how they’re applied to digital design is a good first step.

Uxcel’s Design Composition course is a great introduction to the Principles of Design!

History of Design

Understanding the history of design and how established design patterns came to be is an important bit of background for any designer. The field of design dates back centuries, to the early days of the printing press. Through trial and error, designers have figured out what works best for different use cases and what works best for users. Understanding that background can save you time and effort in your own UX design work.


The way the text content within a digital product is arranged and formatted is key to the product’s usability. A thorough understanding of at least the basics of typographic design is vital for designers to learn. Good typography makes a product a pleasure to use, while bad typography can render it entirely unusable. Studying typographic principles and how to use them in your designs is important for designers at all levels.

Take Uxcel’s Typography in UX/UI Design course for a solid foundation in typographic design.

Color Theory

Color theory is all about how to use color to influence user psychology and behavior. Color is generally the first thing users notice when visiting a website or app. The wrong color palette can turn off users, while the right one will help build trust and reinforce the brand. While color theory is a complex subject, mastering the basics doesn’t have to be complicated. And there are plenty of resources online that can teach you those basics, as well as give you example color palettes to use in your own work.

For a thorough understanding of color theory, take Uxcel’s Color Psychology for Designers online course.


Composition refers to the way elements are arranged on the page within a digital design. Proper composition helps organize information and makes it easy for users to find what they’re looking for. Basic composition patterns have been established for years, so start with learning those and then try out your own variations.

Uxcel’s Design Composition course will teach you all the basics!

Design Terminology

Learning to talk the talk is important for designers and anyone working with designers. If you’re working as part of a design team, you’ll need to understand what your teammates mean when they use terms like “microcopy” or “white space.”

Uxcel’s Intro to Design Terminology course will teach you all of the basic terms you’ll need to know in your design career.

Where to Learn

You don’t need a degree for UX design in order to become a successful designer. Some of the best designers in the world are largely self-taught! The internet offers a wealth of resources for learning design, many of them free or low-cost.


Taking courses in specific design topics is a great way to orient yourself in the world of design. There are free and low-cost online UX design courses for virtually every topic. Read reviews for any courses you might want to pay for to make sure they’re worth the money!

Don’t forget to check out all of Uxcel’s UX courses!


If you’ve got the time (and money) available and want a really structured way to learn UX design, check out best UX design bootcamps. Bootcamps generally run for anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months and can give you a solid foundation in UX design. The downside is that they generally require a lot of commitment in terms of time and money. Make sure you have enough of both before signing up for one.

Tutorials and articles

There are literally hundreds of thousands of articles and tutorials about various design topics available online, for free. Pick a topic, do a search on Google or YouTube, and start learning! For best results, look at articles and tutorials from multiple sources for each topic to make sure you’re learning best practices and not a random individual’s opinion about a design topic they aren’t really familiar with.

Find a mentor

Finding a mentor who already has a successful design career is another excellent way to learn. Having someone to bounce questions off of or ask for advice is invaluable. At the very least, find designers whose work you respect on a site like Twitter and follow them, or join design-specific communities. You may find that many are more than willing to answer questions posed by their followers, which can be an excellent way to start building a relationship. The design community is generally very helpful and someone is almost always willing to lend their knowledge to someone new to design.

Learning UX design doesn’t have to be complicated. Create a list of the topics you want to learn, make a plan to learn them, and get started! There are plenty of success stories of people who have started a new career in design in as little as six months to a year. It just takes discipline and practice.

Frequently Asked Questions

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