Master-Apprentice Exercises

You can learn a great deal by looking at others’ work and analysing it. Breaking down existing user interfaces and rebuilding them in XD will teach you how to ‘see through the eyes of others’.

I’ve included some ‘Master-Apprentice’ exercises where I’ve analysed a variety of interfaces in different contexts:

I use this Master-Apprentice approach in my teaching at Belfast School of Art, and the students who undertake the exercises invariably end up learning much faster and producing more refined work as a consequence. I hope you find the examples useful.

Looking at these interfaces and how they are structured will teach you about user interface design and information architecture in different contexts: from the relative space of a desktop to the tighter confines of a wrist.

I’ve undertaken a few exercises that I’ve included to demonstrate how I learn about user interface design by analysing, deconstructing and reconstructing others’ work.

Where possible I’ve sought the permission of those whose work I’ve deconstructed and I’m thankful that the majority of the designers I’ve contacted have been happy to share my analysis of their work.

If your work is included here and you’d like me to remove it, please do drop me a line, and I will – of course – replace the example with a different one. Rest assured, I did contact everyone.


The desktop examples I’ve included are browser-focused, but the principles apply equally to desktop software.

Mobile (Smartphone, Tablet)

The mobile examples I’ve included are for iOS (because I have an iPhone), but – broadly – the principles of information architecture and user interface design map over to other mobile platforms.


The wrist examples I’ve included are for Apple’s watchOS (because I have an Apple Watch). If possible – and of course affording every single device is an issue! – it helps to own the devices you’re designing for so you can truly understand them by using them regularly.

Christopher Murphy

Christopher Murphy


A designer, writer and speaker based in Belfast, Christopher mentors purpose-driven businesses, helping them to launch and thrive. He encourages small businesses to think big and he enables big businesses to think small.

As a design strategist he has worked with companies, large and small, to help drive innovation, drawing on his 25+ years of experience working with clients including: Adobe, EA and the BBC.

The author of numerous books, he is currently hard at work on his eighth, ‘Designing Delightful Experiences’, for Smashing Magazine and ninth, ‘Building Beautiful UIs’, for Adobe. Both are accompanied by a wealth of digital resources, and are drawn from Christopher’s 15+ years of experience as a design educator.

I hope you find this resource useful. I’m also currently working on a book for the fine folks at Smashing Magazine – ‘Designing Delightful Experiences’ – which focuses on the user experience design process from start to finish. It will be published in late 2019.

You might like to follow me on Twitter for updates on this book, that book and other projects I’m working on.