Fey Vercuiel has always had a love for graphics, initially studying 3D software and character animation. Through web design work, she gained her first industry job before falling into UI Design and never looking back. Fey is now Principal UI Designer for Studio Gobo and during her career has shipped big titles including Assassin's Creed: Origins, Assassin's Creed: Rogue, Halo Wars 2, Total War: Three Kingdoms and Hyper Scape. We asked Fey, some key questions about getting into the games sector.
Explain your role like I'm 5 years old
In my role I am responsible for all the menus, buttons, icons and information you see on the screen that lets you interact with the game you're playing. We call all this stuff a user interface, abbreviated as UI. My job is to make sure that all the information is clear and that things make sense so that you get to have fun. My job is also to make sure the UI looks pretty and fits the game art style.
Take us through your average day at work
The life of a UI Designer never gets boring! I spend a lot of time speaking to different teams about what the game features need to do and I speak to programmers and technical artists on solving fun and difficult challenges putting the UI into the game. When I'm not talking to other team members I am designing mockups.
My job consists of a lot of graphic design and also making sketches and wireframes on a whiteboard and computer to explore how things are going to work before making them look pretty. I get to use the creative side and analytical side of my brain every day and this makes UI pretty unique in that sense. Once I've figured out how things work and how they should look I then animate my designs and put it inside of the game with the help of engineers.
What was your educational and career journey into your current role?
I really didn't know what I wanted to do! I knew I wanted to make fun graphics on the computer so I studied 3D software and later even character animation! None of those things are directly related to user interface design but I feel 3d software gave me a unique edge with solving and trying out unique solutions to visual problems. With animation I get to apply all the rules of character animation to my timeline animations for the menus and elements I create.
After studying 3D I made a community website for other artists to meet and through the process of that I learned how to do web design. Web design required me to learn a lot about graphic design and doing coding. Roughly 10 years ago a lot of companies were trying to hire UI designers but couldn't find many, so they'd interview people who were good at making websites. That's pretty much how I got my first job, by showing them all the website design work I did as well as the work I did with 3D and animation. It was a very unconventional start to a UI career but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
What is the most rewarding thing about your role?
I love that everything I create is front and center all the time in the games I work on. When you're let's say a prop 3D artist or vfx artist your work might only show up occasionally throughout a players experience of a game but with UI it is there all the time! I love how UI is literally the layer between the player and the game, without a UI you cannot interact with the wonderful worlds you get to experience. It is so satisfying when you get to create an experience so immersive and seamless that the player does not even realise the UI exists; the player just gets sucked in and enjoys their time. Making players happy makes me happy!
What's the hardest thing about your role?
The hardest thing I'd say is that everything is ever-changing when making a game and you have to keep on top of many different systems. Usually one change in a game feature has a cascading effect throughout the entire user interface and my job can be damage control a lot of the time making difficult choices on where we focus our energy. UI can be like a giant jigsaw puzzle and if you're not careful some pieces might get lost in the process.
What key skills should people work on to do your role one day?
I get asked this question a lot and the answer is: It depends. For many years UI Designers were responsible for both how the UI looked and how it behaved however these days you'll see people specialising in either art or UX. If you want to do UI Art then really focus on graphic design, typography, layout, colour theory, motion graphics, icon design etc. If you want to do UX design then focus on user flows, wireframes, user stories, control design, player psychology etc. I think employers don't always have the luxury of hiring both specialisations though and there is still a place for people who can do both art and UX and we fall under the general title of "UI Designer" however these titles are ever-evolving.
Some people who are UI Artists are extremely competent in UX as well even though it is not in their title. If you're just starting out pick the thing you like to do the most, try both and see which fits best. Quite often the responsibilities cross over for example many UI Artists do wireframes and flows as part of their jobs and many UX designers do layouts and are really great at typography. As you can see UI is quite a vast area of expertise so do not feel overwhelmed and just start somewhere :) One common characteristic amongst all UI folks I know is that they have a high degree of empathy and are great communicators, having these skills will set you apart from other people trying to get into the industry.
What advice would you give to your younger self looking to get started in the industry?
I kinda fell into this career by accident after passionately talking about how much I love design to a friend at a party and then getting a referral the next day for the job as a junior UI designer. My advice though would be to not try to be everything all at once and that it's ok to take things one step at a time. You'll find with a lot of UI designers we tend to be "jack of all trades master of none" types, we love jumping from one thing to another. I wish I could tell my younger self to focus more time on honing those fundamental skills in iconography and typography because they'll end up being really handy later down the line.
Do you have any links to good articles or videos that you think might give some tips or advice to someone starting in your role?
I help run an invite-only community for people passionate about UI as a career called "We can fix it in UI". Send me a dm on Twitter and I'll drop you an invite. It is a very friendly space and welcoming to students. If you're looking for inspiration for UI from games and movies I also run a website: