A Novice’s Guide to Design: UI, UX, CX & SD (2023)

Let’s delve into the depths of confusion. You’re possibly feeling overwhelmed, bombarded by the Design team, rambling on about his latest UI designs and how they impact UX, which then influences CX, leading to a streamlined SD—hold on, what exactly does that mean?

Not long ago, I found myself in a similar whirlwind and understand the bewilderment it brings. Whether you’re seeking clarity to wield these terms accurately or just aiming to impress at the holiday gathering—this comprehensive guide aims to demystify UI, UX, CX & SD for you.

Before we venture deeper, remember: these four terms are not isolated islands. Instead, they’re intertwined, each exerting an influence on the others.

Ready, steady, let’s explore!

What exactly is UI?

UI, an acronym for User Interface Design, encompasses the digital practice overseeing the aesthetics, design, visuals, sensory elements, and interactions within a product. Let’s dissect that with an example:

Think back to when you first laid hands on an iPhone or any smartphone. Did you attend a class teaching you how to download apps, snap photos, or send messages? Chances are, you picked it up intuitively! The icons, gestures, colors, fonts—every design facet, even the phone’s vibration, falls under consciously crafted UI.

User Interface Design curates typography, visuals, sounds, and the tactile experience of a digital product, all tailored with the user in mind. UI Design aims for intuitiveness and ‘user-friendliness’ (you’ve probably heard that term); the less users need to ponder, the better!

Discover how Google Maps refined their color selection methods to offer more accessible visuals for depicting locations.


The UI of a product encapsulates the brand’s aesthetics, perception, and intention, ensuring coherence and instant identification. Imagine encountering a banking app resembling HSBC, featuring a casual, handwritten font. Would you immediately trust it as the genuine HSBC app or dismiss it as a potential scam? If you lean toward the latter, you’ve already grasped the essence of UI. However, if you lean toward the former, exercise caution; the digital realm can be treacherous.

This demonstrates the profound impact of UI—it can either seal the deal or shatter trust.

Equip yourself for UI success; here’s a curated list of the top 30 fonts anticipated to trend among designers in 2023.

Moving on to UX.

If you’re acquainted with our previous blog on “What is UX and Why Is It Important For Your Business,” you likely have a grasp of User Experience (UX) Design. Yet, if you missed it (and I understand if you’re too lazy to click that link), here’s a quick rundown right here.

UX pertains to the satisfaction or dissatisfaction experienced during interactions with a product. It encompasses every touchpoint a user encounters, extending beyond the product itself, as highlighted by Don Norman. Initially coined by Norman, a cognitive scientist at Apple in the ’90s, ‘User Experience’ referred to all interactions with a product or brand. However, the digital era has narrowed its focus primarily to interactions with digital products, as opposed to physical ones. For a more sophisticated term, think Human-Computer Interactions (HCI).

In essence, UX Design oversees the user’s journey within a digital product, ensuring they achieve their desired outcomes.

Now, onto CX.

Extending from UX Design’s focus on product experience, Customer Experience (CX) Design encompasses all encounters a customer has with a brand across multiple touchpoints, shaping their thoughts, perceptions, expectations, actions, feedback, and overall perception of the brand.

Among the terms discussed here, UX and CX often appear similar and can cause confusion. To differentiate, consider UX as the user’s experience with a specific product, while CX embodies all experiences a customer undergoes with a brand, both digitally and otherwise.


A brand establishes a Customer Experience (CX) by encompassing every interaction between the brand and its clients.

Conversely, a product caters to a User Experience (UX), focusing on the user’s engagement with a digital product.

Let’s explore CX further with an illustrative example:

We’ve all had moments of dodging language lessons in school or lacking the opportunity to learn a new language, often finding translation tools lacking. Yet, imagine the desire to master a new language—an endeavor where a green owl mascot, nudging you towards Mandarin lessons, comes to mind. Yes, it’s the iconic Duolingo, an app worth exploring if you haven’t already.

Beyond being a practical, engaging, and interactive app (thanks to its stellar UI & UX design), Duolingo leverages gamification to foster customer loyalty, inspiring users to go the extra mile. Embracing gamification has emerged as a consistent trend, offering insights in this article: “5 Ways You Can Use Gamification in Your Design.”

In addition to their seamless UI & UX Design, Duolingo strategically harnesses the virality of social media to fortify its brand image and perception. You might have encountered their assertive, large green owl on your TikTok feed—a testament to Duolingo understanding the assignment. With a robust following of 1.8 million, Duolingo has cultivated a fun, quirky, and trendy branding without overtly promoting its product. (P.S.: Their app has seen 500 million downloads!)

To validate their impact: Duolingo left a lasting impression on me, prompting this genuine recommendation—no, this isn’t an advertisement.

Steve Jobs once emphasized, “You’ve got to start with customer experience & work backward to the technology.”

In essence, when considering CX, evaluate any brand: How do they communicate? Would you utilize their product? Did their efforts influence your usage or purchase decisions? Would you endorse them? Did they meet your expectations?


The culmination of all these elements results in a tailored Customer Experience designed specifically for you. Companies employ a Customer Journey Map to pinpoint pain points and formulate the Customer Experience (CX).

Now, let’s demystify SD.

If you’ve made it this far, kudos to your eagerness to learn. To simplify, Service Design (SD) serves as the backstage orchestrating everything discussed above. In essence, SD is the strategic process of planning and organizing a company’s resources to enhance communication and harmony among the brand, employees, and customers. Each department collaborates synergistically to deliver a seamless Customer Experience (CX) rooted in engaging User Experience (UX), which, in turn, is built on effective User Interfaces (UI). Did you catch that clever maneuver? Genius, right? To grasp the full extent of SD, explore this case study on Redesigning the Future of Public Transport using Service Design.

The key term for SD is synergy. All service components and departments must synchronize to create a captivating show that wows the customer. Mere product selling is no longer sufficient in today’s landscape. We’ve transitioned from the era of product-centric processes, propelled by the influence of COVID-19 towards user experience-oriented approaches. Elevating the customer’s experience, even with something as commonplace as contactless click & collect, is now considered the bare minimum.

Consider the quintessential household name, Coca-Cola. They’re not merely selling a product; they’re selling the experience of enjoying a Coke with your meal, emphasizing the shift towards experiential marketing.

Experience takes precedence over the Product.

For instance, Coca-Cola’s present slogan, ‘Taste the Feeling,’ perfectly embodies marketing the encounter rather than the product itself. This perception evolved behind the scenes through extensive user research, competitor analysis, market research, and design workshops, crafting the brand’s image over years.

Likewise, Meta, formerly known as the Facebook Company, relies on its technical teams, developers, designers, community managers, and media managers to maintain operational efficiency, uphold brand values, and foster communication between the brand and its customers.

An effective SD prioritizes the 3P’s of Service:

People – involving customers, employees, and industry partners. Physical Evidence – encompassing digital and physical products along with service delivery props. Processes – including infrastructure, technology, information architecture, and systems.

In a nutshell, here’s a concise version if you’re overwhelmed or simply seeking brevity.

User Interface (UI) Design: Focuses on interface design elements like colors, buttons, typography, spacing, and imagery. This aspect adds aesthetic value to a digital product and should align with the brand’s identity, much like the HSBC logo presented in a handwriting font.

User Experience (UX) Design: Concentrates on a user’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction while interacting with a brand’s digital product. UX Design emphasizes the product’s functionality; for instance, while UI Design decides a button’s appearance, UX Design determines the action post-button click.

Customer Experience (CX) Design: Represents a holistic view of what a customer thinks, feels, sees, hears, and does regarding a brand. It covers the entire customer journey, from encountering a brand’s social media ad to becoming a loyal customer. A tailored CX Design ensures customer-centricity, enhancing the overall experience, as exemplified by Duolingo.

Service Design (SD): Acts as the behind-the-scenes orchestrator for every product/service. It involves collaborative efforts between the brand, employees, and customers, focusing on the 3P’s of Services. SD orchestrates policies, technology, systems, and infrastructure to present the front stage – products, interfaces, and touchpoints – to the audience.


In conclusion, understanding the intricate dynamics between UI, UX, CX, and SD is essential in today’s consumer-centric landscape. These interconnected elements redefine how businesses engage with their audience and underscore the significance of experience over mere product offerings.

UI Design brings visual appeal and brand identity to digital interfaces, while UX Design ensures functionality and user satisfaction, driving meaningful interactions. CX Design, encompassing a customer’s holistic journey, shapes perceptions and loyalty, exemplified by brands like Duolingo prioritizing tailored experiences.

Meanwhile, SD operates behind the scenes, harmonizing people, physical evidence, and processes to orchestrate seamless service delivery. This collaborative synergy between brand, employees, and customers highlights the backstage efforts that magnify the front stage – products, interfaces, and touchpoints.

Ultimately, in today’s competitive market, prioritizing experience, understanding user needs, and fostering synergy across these design realms pave the way for businesses to captivate audiences, nurture brand loyalty, and drive long-term success.

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