UX, UI and Interactive Media Design

Written by: Milena Jackson

UX is an acronym for user experience. UI is an acronym for user interface. In interactive media terms the user experience (UX) refers to the experience that a person has with a specific interactive digital product. The user interface (UI) refers to the actual graphic design of the interface of the digital product. As a point of reference a "digital product" could be a mobile app, a website, or any interactive interface that is powered by a computer and displayed for a user on digital screen or rather substrate. I am borrowing the term "substrate" from the printing industry, because as the world of augmented reality is evolving and perfecting its technology, interactive media will no longer be limited to a physical digital screen through a piece of hardware like a computer or mobile phone. Literally, the very atmosphere around us could become our next interactive "substrate".


Substrate (sub·strate) = a material which provides the surface on which something is deposited or inscribed, for example the silicon wafer used to manufacture integrated circuits.

As a UX design professional you can expect to be in all stages of the design process. From the initial stages of user research and app development to the final stages of implementation and user testing and final role out.

As a UI professional you can expect to be conceptualizing and designing initial wireframes, interface graphics like buttons, icons, navigation systems and the overall layout and composition of the graphics, images, and text on the screen.


To recap UX = User Experience UI = User Interface

Interactive media design then, is the product of these 2 aforementioned disciplines.

The digital substrate or medium in which an individual interactive experience exists has rapidly been changing. What we are limited to now, screens, in which our digital content is contained to the physical limitations of the screen we won’t be limited to in the future. For any seasoned design professional it begs the question… does that mean it will be a better experience? From what the history of modern graphics design tells us, the advent of new technology does not always mean great design or user experience.

So, this is the art of design in the realm of UX, UI and interactive media design follows the general formula of:

  • Research and know your user AND product (UX)

  • Design and Prototype based off research (UI)

  • User Testing (UX)

  • Analyze results and current design (UX & UI)

  • Re-design to perfect and re-test until satisfied (UI)


If this read was interesting to you, then you may have a future in interactive design.

I find that in conducting my own research, a little less than a quarter of undergraduate graphic design students interviewed have no idea what UX and UI is or what interactive media means. About half the students have heard the terminology and can make a educated guess as to what these terms mean and lastly the final quarter of the students are well versed and fluent in the subject of interactive design and can define UX and UI in their own words.






Interactive Media Design & Usability

So, if you are going to have a conversation about UX and UI then the subject of usability follows shortly or at times precedes the discussion. Design for usability is the discipline of employing usability standards to the execution of UI graphics. A very practical resource for usability testing of your UI graphics is webaim.com