About The UI Lab ⚡

Demystifying the magic of UI design one pixel at a time.

When you see a design that wows you, it may make the person who made it seem a bit like a magician. In reality, they're more like mad scientists.

UI design, like art, or science, or spreadsheets (for me) is one of those things that can seem like dark magic to those who feel they can't do it well. We commonly call people that have these skills "______ wizards" for a reason. 🧙‍♂️

And for those of us on the outside (also called muggles, in some cases): you know a good design when you see it. You recognize when something looks good or feels "right". And, perhaps more frustratingly: when it doesn't. But it comes down to making something of your own, the end result either comes out looking more like what you finger-painted on paper plates with your class in 2nd grade, or like your old geocities website, except not in like that ironic cool way.

This is actually pretty cool, though. (Image cred: Stryve Digital Marketing)

I didn't go to school for UI design, but I did go to school for graphic design. And knowing as much, it might surprise you to learn that I still felt the same way when I was trying to figure out UI design.

At this point, I've spent the greater part of a decade learning what makes great designs great, and I've learned that what looks like magic, really comes down to a handful of key principles that skilled UI designers use to create designs that our brains interpret in a comfortable (and dare I say... delightful) way.

Once you learn to apply those principles well, you'll be lightyears beyond any other random aspiring magician. But with limited time and an overwhelming amount of information available on the internet, where do you even get started?

I don't take many selfies, but I took this one in a car wash!

I'm Gareth Johnson, and it's my mission to teach you what I've learned about making UI designs that sparkle, in a fraction of the time it took me to get there.

Now that I'm a successful UI designer myself, I often hear something along the lines of this when working on projects for clients... "then we'll hand it off to Gareth so he can work his magic on it." Suddenly, I was the design wizard.

So what do I do now? Well, I head to my office, call on the spirits of the great Dumbledore and Gandalf the White, recite the incantations, and then... BOOM! Just like that, out comes a shiny, sparkly design.

Typical UI designer at work

... but, I'm a good Midwest boy, and like a good Midwest boy, I'm not a very good liar. Where others might willingly accept their newly-accredited Magic Castle membership, and maybe even lean into it a bit (hey, everyone's got an ego,) it's always made me uncomfortable because I know the magic can be learned. I did it, after all. As Arthur C. Clarke famously implied through his third law, magic is just science we don't understand yet. Like anything else in life, UI design is a skill that I've developed over time.

"Magic is just science we don't understand yet." -Famously implied by Arthur C. Clarke

Selfishly, I want to live in a world where all things are designed well. And that doesn't mean a world where everything looks like dribbble, or everything shares the same overall aesthetic — far from it. Good design is so much more than making things pretty or using the softest most interestingly-colored shadow. And it's also something just about anyone can learn. Even better, UI designers get paid well. Especially good ones, and especially freelancers.

So how did I get here?

That question is why I started The UI Lab. It took me way longer than it should have to learn what I needed to become a successful UX/UI designer.

To be frank, it's because there's a ton of filler articles out there, and a lot of big-brain ego-padding designer navel-gazing. (I have opinions.)

That always frustrated me because I just wanted to learn how to do the thing. So now that I am where I am, I can share what's actually been important in my career, and what hasn't, and hopefully save you some time going through the haystack of the internet.

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