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I know nothing of graphic design.

I've started developing for Android, and I want my interface to be beautiful, and for that I know it needs to be designed by hand, but I also know that means knowing how to do design work.

Is Illustrator the right program to start learning? Is that used for this? To my surprise I actually didn't see any information on the subject after some googling. Everything you look up about "interface design for Android" tells you how to arrange buttons and menus and things like that, but not literally how to make the visual elements.

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How to make the visual elements in UI design is the same regardless of what operating system the UI is for (one exception: not all platforms support vector graphics in native app UIs, but that just effects how you output the design: can still design in vector then output PNGs), so the best place to start is reading guides for software for UI design in general, then look at the style guidance and technical details for the OS you are targeting. –  user568458 Sep 26 '13 at 9:04
    
What kind of applications are you making? have you considered using HTML instead of graphics? –  Yisela Sep 27 '13 at 1:21
    
HTML for a native Java app? –  Aerovistae Sep 27 '13 at 2:31

2 Answers 2

Illustrator IMO is a top choice for graphic design because is great for making vector art that is scalable, and it actually contains lots of features that will allow you to achieve a 3D/artistic look with gradient mesh, blending, and various filters. It gives you a crisp clean edge to your work, which is important for UI elements like icons and buttons, especially when you need to scale everything into exact pixel sizes across multiple devices with varied screen resolutions. Another great feature is "artboards" which allows you to have multiple designs in the same file, but export them conveniently into separate PNG or PDF pages without slicing.

http://developer.android.com/design/style/iconography.html

I think your search results are returning UI/UX design tips for mobile app development. UI/UX is a very different field than graphic design (with some overlaps). You will need to search more specifically for the effects you are trying to achieve in the visual elements (i.e. grunge look, retro embossed font, gradient, fabric look, etc.).

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Welcome to Stack Exchange! Here's your carnival guide! Anyway, it's hard for me to search more specifically when I don't know what I'm searching for yet. I'm still at the "how to create a square icon" stage. –  Aerovistae Sep 26 '13 at 8:39
    
thanks! it's a great community and a great resource :) –  lovevintage Sep 26 '13 at 8:49

If you have no previous graphic design experience then I would suggest that before you go ahead and start designing for Android you have a go at mastering the basics of graphic design. Once you are comfortable with the basics then you can start to look into designing for a specific platform.
Equally by learning the basics of graphic design you will find that you see which tools and software you need to use to accomplish what. Something like this collection of graphic design tutorials should help you to learn the basics which you can then build on.
Once you have mastered that then casting an eye over the Android Guidelines can provide invaluable insight into how to create designs for Android apps.

As far as whether Illustrator is the best platform to learn on then it's a bit of a subjective question, so long as you are producing vectors or rasters (vector is preferable though) of the correct sizes (ldpi to xxhdpi) and which follow the guidelines then you shouldn't run into too many problems as far as Android is concerned.
Illustrator has a lot to recommend it to an Android designer such as the very sharp lines it produces. It's main feature is that it produces vectors as standard allowing for very clean scaling which is imperative as devices get higher resolutions. It also has the incredibly useful "Save for Web and Devices" feature which reduces the size of an image without losing quality. This article explains what Illustrator has to offer the web designer, the majority of which is transferable to an Android designer, especially the bit about 9-patches. That said any Adobe product is potentially a steep learning curve and may cause serious headaches before you manage to master it.

I know a lot of mobile designers that use Photoshop to design in, it's still capable of providing vectors and can produce some very nice effects too. If you're on a Mac then Sketch is a great little app for designers as well. It's worth playing about with a few of the industry leading programs to find the one that suits you.

If you decide that Illustrator is the way to go then there are plenty of tutorials to help you learn how to create great designs such as this one, which is aimed at web design but shares many of the principles of mobile design. You can also download the Android stencil pack from Google to help you get started.

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