Take a visual comp or prototype and turn it into an interactive UI, is that what you do?

Is it your job to take visual, comps, prototypes, sketches and concepts and turn them into interactive UIs?  Are you happy doing both design and development tasks?

I’m asking because, I’m on a bit of a quest to find a happily accepted name for your role; which happens to be my favorite role as well.

I would have called this the noun project, but that names already taken. Did you already know about that project because you’re hoping to use some of those icons in future projects?  (If you didn’t know about the site, then you’re welcome for the link).

Does the speedily-drawn sketch below somewhat represent what a machine built in the 1960s might look like to replace you at work?

UI Builder Machine

If that is what you do, what title do you use to explain yourself?

Maybe something like:

  • Visual Developer (using only your eyes to program?)
  • Creative Developer (aren’t all good developers creative?)
  • Devigner (a portmanteau as disliked as Brangelina and dancercise)
  • Front-end Specialist (sounds dirty to some of use)
  • Integrator (aka – a device to perform operations in calculus)
  • Person who makes things pretty (ugh)
  • Interface Builder ( a true tool)
  • UI Builder (generic but accurate)

Please add your suggested title by commenting below.  If you know someone who does work like this, let them about this post know and ask them to comment.


37 thoughts on “Take a visual comp or prototype and turn it into an interactive UI, is that what you do?

  1. Great question. I’ve spent the last 15 years struggling with this myself. My current (self appointed) title is “Director of Design/Technology”. Which really puzzles clients and even some colleagues.

    It’s not perfect but it sure beats being called a Creative Director, which always made me uncomfortable.

    Design Technologist, or Chief Design Technologist, are other options.

  2. Ahh naming the disease is always the hard part, curing it usually follows 🙂 hehe

    thinking of new naming i’d say:

    – Visualneers (Visual Engineers).
    – Fantasy UI Designers (taking a comp and translating that into some visual art is really part UI part fantasy?)
    – Disney’s classic – Imagineers – is obvious 🙂
    – Devigners? (lol lets just leave that one alone).
    – Interactive Specialist (You’re an ex army guy Adam, i think the term specialist goes without saying :D)

  3. Adam,
    Such a timely post. I had this very discussion with our development architect last night. I currently report under the Design org and the argument was made, (correctly I believe) that I should move over to the Dev org. My current title is “Sr. User Experience Designer” but he asked me if that was accurate for what I do and if not what should my title be?
    My role is exactly what you describe; taking visual comps and making them “real”, “interactive” and “pretty” using Blend for our Silverlight application. I live in Blend 75% of the time and VS2010 the other 25%. Since I am touching the code base, making check ins the argument is that I should be on the Dev side. After some digging around I stumbled upon:
    You’ve probably seen this. If not watch the first 10 minutes or so. I think Laurent does a fantastic job of defining what my title truly should be: Senior User Experience Integrator. I look forward to hearing what other people add on this post.

  4. Depends on what you are ultimately building:

    Website > Web Developer
    Any Rich UI Platform (Silverlight, Flash, iOs, Android) > Interactive Developer

    It is arguable however that you go directly from Comps to “Developer” – in many cases you go Comps > Interactive Designer > Interactive Developer…

    If Comps are flat images then they should already have some Interaction Design considerations in it – certainly Visual Design.

    If Comps are flat images plus AfterEffects videos (or other animated/interactive UX prorotypes) then the Comps are certainly Interaction Design already.

    If Comps are extremely detailed, I can see how they could be given away to a developer for pure production. If Interaction details are missing in the Comps then the project is in danger of not going through successfuly.

  5. I’ve got to go with Interaction Designer. There are definitely interaction designers who don’t know anything about code, and won’t ever touch it, but it seems like the best interaction designers would feel comfortable in code and able to crank out the developer tasks for the UI.


  6. At IdentityMine, we call that the Integrator. I am not 100% sure (you might want to ask him) but I think it is Robby Ingebretsen who coined the term when he was director of whatchamacallit, and instantly became director of integration.

    In time, and with the team growing, we refined that a bit further. In the team, we have people who are trained designers, and learned to code (like Nathan Dunlap), and people who are trained developers but have a good “eye for design” (like me). This is why we now have UX integration designers, and UX integration developers.

    That said, all integrators (if designers or developers) work on projects almost interchangeably. We apply our design vs development skills more when we communicate with the creative team, respectively the developer team (for instance to improve the workflows, train people, etc…).

    Makes sense?

  7. Oh, that’s a good one. In my office we call that person, “Ryan or Craig” referring to my co-worker and myself. Our official titles here at PBJS are Technical Director. I don’t think that title really works for this purpose because we actually do quite a bit more than just create UIs from comps.

    For a while I was referring to myself as an Interactive Designer/Developer. I then heard John Stockton call my role Integrator (title they used at Ascentium). That seems to be the most accurate term I’ve heard beyond the obvious UI Builder.

    Person who makes things pretty doesn’t really work for me, because more often then not I’m making it actually WORK, in addition to making it, or in some cases keeping it, pretty. We’re tasked with bringing static ideas and pictures to life.

    Dr. Frankenstein comes to mind…

    How about Interface Engineer (person who puts together things) or Interface artisan or Interface Professional.

  8. On the unique skill spectrum, you have 1:Designers > 2:Interaction Designers > < 3:Interaction Developers < 4:Developers. Most companies don't hire a person per each of the 4 roles ( heck, most companies still think there are only 2 roles ( designers and developers!). Therefore, different names arise from various hybrids of the above 4 roles. Technically, 1 can hand off a PSD to 2 to further flesh out the interactions and animations yet never touch code. 2 may hand off a timeline based animation or After Effects video to 3. People who are good at 3 are often not good at 4 and vice versa. Some people use 3 as the beast of burden and call them the "integrator". But I agree with Britton, when most people fuse 2 and 3, they call them an interaction Designer or Interaction Developer, based on which end of the spectrum they company has their bias. These 4 roles are usually under the influence of a Creative Director, Experience Architect, or Chief Design Technologist. If you do all 4 of them, you are a Unicorn, so can pretty much call yourself anything you like. IMO 🙂

  9. That’s been a toughie. Inside my head, I think designer-on-steroids, but that probably doesn’t work. All I know is that I hate the term “integrator”. For reasons that aren’t clear.

  10. Well, dont know how it goes on other countries but here in Portugal every company tries to find the “Unicorn” [Rick Barraza-2010], however impossible they started to ask for a “Designer plus a little code” and a “Developer plus a litte design”.
    The perfect would be like Arturo said but, well, life isnt perfect anywhere right ?

    If you are a Designer+code I would call an “Interactive Designer”, if you are a “Developer+design” I would call a “Interactive Developer”.

    But “Interactive Specialist” [Scott Barnes – 2010] is also a good name, or “Frontend Ninja” [Elad Elrom-2010] (in creative agencies this type of things happens all the time – Ninja, Sensei, Jedi …)

  11. Here at Macaw near Amsterdam we’re called Designers, but we are expected to fullfill various roles of Visual Designer, User Interface Designer and Interaction Designer. We implement our own visual design in markup and may do databinding to existing datasources (created by a Developer) or do a little coding to start an animation for example. Recently we have a position open for a Front-end Developer (and I never considered any other connotations of this title), so where does that leave us Designers? Other titles I have seen being used before are Producer and Intergrator, but I really like Interactive Designer and Interactive Developer. The first would be the ‘Architect of Design’ (think Alan Cooper) for me though. The latter more an User Interface Developer…

  12. I don’t think there is an ultimate answer; I think it depends on circumstance. There are a lot of people who fall into the small dev/design shop category and so there’s a range of how much design and development work they get involved with and whether they have a design or dev bias. Equally there are plenty of people how cover both ends of the spectrum.
    So I think it’s one of those roles that is actually quite individual and you should use whatever title you feel comfortable with and feel describes you best. Personally, I like User Experience Integrator and may just have to talk to my boss about getting it changed 🙂

  13. At EMC Consulting, we call these wonderful people “IDevs” – “Interface Developers”
    note: this can be stated in one of two ways, “iDev” to give it that funky Apple/Web2.0 feel or “IDev” to reflect the coding practices for your interface namespaces.

  14. @Laurent: I can’t remember if integrator was a term I coined but I still like it, especially in the XAML world, because it’s managed to take on a very specific meaning with a set of well understood tasks associated with it.

    And maybe that’s the point: the thing we really want to do here is communicate a set of abilities to the people who we work and that seems nuanced enough that different companies and industries might reasonably have different names for it. For example, the web guy who does this probably needs to feel comfortable writing more code than the xaml guy who may be able to live mostly in a tool like Blend. Those two guys may not really have the same aptitude or skillset.

    Having said that, getting to some cross-industry names for this would be really great. I think I prefer to emphasize dev over design for this guy. There is some amount of aesthetic awareness that needs to happens, but these tasks are more about building something than truly design something. Theoretically, a lot of the design is already done.

    So, some names I like: Interaction Developer or Frontend Developer or maybe even Creative Developer. Someone mentioned Design Engineer. I like that one a lot too. It sneaks a little design in there but keeps you focused on the engineering.

    I really dislike Devigner. Let’s agree, as friends, to stop using that term because it makes a real job sound like a pretend one.

  15. Adam,

    I think there is another layer of distinction that we see here. You have people who “simply” (I use that term to me they only do this) cut up a PSD comp and turn it into HTML. Many of these guys also do Flash and some even do a little JavaScript (but not all).

    What I have thrown around is that they are either “Front-End Designers” or “Front-End Developers” (which is what I consider myself when I am the one taking the PSDs and making them work in Silverlight.. although here I write the entire Silverlight app).. They all want to be programming some so as they approach more and more of that I think the latter term is more precise as to what they do which is lay out the skin and throw some layer of animation on top of things (which right now would be done primarily with jQuery).

  16. Hrm. When brainstorming things that haven’t been mentioned here, I come up with a lot of dumb ideas:
    – des/devs
    – XAML jockeys
    – hybrids
    – fixers
    – UI craftspeople
    – declarative designers
    – shredders (they slice and dice oh how ninja turtle)
    – person-who-shall-not-be-named
    – experience engineers

    Ultimately, I’m a fan of “Integrator.” Maybe this sounds “math-y” (and I don’t think that’s a bad thing), but it’s an apt description of someone who takes the design and integrates it with the existing back-end, and sometimes front-end, code. It’s a job title that communicates clearly enough that it would make sense to my parents or grandparents.

    Especially under the umbrella of user experience, there are more roles than are discussed here. In addition to (visual) design, interaction design (IxD), and UI development, there’s also information architecture (IA), and user/usability research. All of these have a little bit of overlap, so that, for example, visual designers and IxDs and IAs all dabble in screen layout, which muddies the definition of the roles.

    I used to use UI dev and integrator interchangeably, but in the XAML world, I think that an integrator is a different creature, and fills a subset of UI development. UI devs / “front-end devs” who I’ve known are full-fledged developers who are generally more savvy in C# than XAML, who string together the MVVM framework, while integrators often touch only the XAML. A UI dev can explain to you the difference between MVVM and MVC and MVP; an integrator may not be able to. It’s all semantics, and maybe it’s just that I’ve worked with classically-trained developers; while I dabble in C# and jQuery and [put programming language of choice here], I wouldn’t call myself a developer because that, to me, implies my code-behind is held up to some standard for the craft. Oddly, I’d feel more comfortable being called an engineer than a developer.

    What I’m getting at is that integration is just one of the tasks that the already jack-of-all-trades user experience folks do. It might be done by people who are primarily UI developers; it’s often done by folks who are primarily interaction designers. So are we talking specifically about the role of fusing the design and the code, or about the people who easily walk between both worlds?

    I’ll agree with everyone here: kill the term “devigner.” (Try explaining that one to your grandparents.)

    I also don’t know if it’s a British/American English terminology difference, or a Microsoft/rest-of-the-world distinction, but please:
    interaction designer NOT interactive designer.
    We’re designing interaction, not interactive (and ideally, all designers are
    interactive with other people on their teams). I never encountered the term “Interactive Designer” until I started working in the Microsoft world, and even here it’s overloaded (as an early name of Expression Blend/Sparkle).

    Good post, Adam. I’m curious to see what people settle on….

  17. We have 3 groups where I work:

    – Technology (developers)
    – Creative (designers)
    – Advanced Interaction Group – AIG (developer / designer hybrids)

    But even in AIG we have some people closer to designers and some others closer to developers, so my vote is for:

    Interface Designer + Interface Developer


  18. Rick Barraza: My company has 1 role for tasks 2-4 and no real role for 1. I guess that makes me a 3 legged Unicorn!

    Robby Ingebretsen: I agree about “Devigner”, especially since there’s nothing divine about what I do. I’ve been pushing the idea of “DeXeloper” (duh-ZEL-ah-per: X stands for XAML) but that probably isn’t any better. 🙂

    Jason Alderman: I think you are on target with “Interaction Designer” (but I actually kind of like “XAML Jockeys”).

  19. If I mostly use Blend, would I be called a Blender? 🙂

    Simplifier? naah – but that is sort of the goal I have doing UX – to make the end user experience a natural process where they can do their work without complaining (or better yet make them WANT to do more work…).

    Tom Smykowski: Well look, I already told you! I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don’t have to! I have people skills! I am good at dealing with people! Can’t you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?

  20. I like many others agree with a lot of what everyone is saying here but trying to combine a couple jobs into one name may not be the solution. It is possible to be one person and have multiple jobs or positions (try getting 3 salaries).

    I’ve always felt that if you are not doing the design that Integrator is the correct term. If you are doing the design and integrating, you’re both a designer and integrator. If your doing the design, integrating and developing your projects probably look horrible or run extremely slow.

  21. +1 Design Engineer

    I have an opportunity to start a position and create the title. I’m going with Design Engineer. I like that for now. I thought about ‘UX Design Engineer’ to distinguish it from Software Design Engineer but shorter is better.

  22. In the 3 years that I’ve been doing design and development, I’ve gone by:

    Interaction Designer – A fine title on a small team. Unfortunately, on a big team (+20 people) this term can get stepped on and shoe-horned into a more “abstract usability” role. I heart me some usability, but my primary job is making the UI work.

    Integrator – I like integrator because it is a role that has had defined properties when I’ve used it. Usually as an integrator, I’m not so much a designer as I am an implementer and interpreter of designs. It is like a play. The graphic designer writes the script, but I play the part. I expand upon the words when necessary and bring much to the role that might not have originally been there. But ultimately, if the result doesn’t meet the potential of the script, it’s mostly my responsibility.

    UI Developer – This one seems more all-encompassing because it indicates that there is development work (too frequently translated by CIOs and coders as “real work”) involved in my job description. I’ve seen this one with smaller teams where I need to take more responsibility for more aspects of the design and implementation. However, I don’t quite like it as much as…

    UX Designer – I think this fits snugly where I do most of my work. The “User Experience” part of it means that I will be trusted to make recommendations on a usability scale (which also means being able to implement those recommendations on some level or another, aka: code them) as well as being part of the design process. It also means that I can make higher level design decisions (less along the line of “move this 3 pixels over” and more along the line of “we should change the navigation so the user work flow works in such-and-such a way”.

    To me, the difficulty with the UX Designer title lies not in how I use it, but in how so many others use it. “User experience” positions are too frequently filled by individuals who are lean toward abstract UX concepts and not enough experience with down-and-dirty make-it-work-on-budget sorts of projects. So maybe I need to go with something like “UX Integra-siner-veloper with cheese”.

    I’ve never used devigner and I think it’s a horrible name.

  23. I like Rick’s reply for it’s elucidation of the roles. Doesn’t help you find the ONE title that fits though.

    To those who know you, you’re Adam Kinney and enuf said. You need something that your prospects can grasp instantly and that best conveys which of Rick’s four roles you want to bring to the fore.

    Try not to worry if the one you mention neglects something that you’re also good at it. This is a classic product marketing conundrum; if you solved it you would be the first.

    For what it’s worth, a title also eludes those of us who straddle the partner / business analyst / therapist / visionary / architect / designer / developer fences.

    Need I add that having the responsiblity says little about one’s ability to fulfill it?

    Ho ho ho!


  24. This is perplexing the Sydney, Australia Silverlight Usergroup right now.
    It is called SDDN which stands for Silverlight Developer Designer Network and were going through a rename brainstorm.

    Rich Client Usergroup?
    Front-End Usergroup?
    Silverlight (not just on the web) Usergroup?
    UX Usergroup?


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