What Am I? UX, UI, Designer, Creative? How Does One Define Themselves In The Age Of Multi-discipline?

Alex Cowles
3 min readApr 17, 2017

When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I’m a designer.

Nine times out of ten they follow up with “what do you design?” and I sort of struggle through an explanation about how it’s mostly websites, but then it could be anything with regard to digital marketing and it’s sort of interfaces but I also do some coding, and I cover a multitude of user testing and marketing bases and oh well, it’s it really just an experience that I’m designing and maybe I’m just designing an interaction, or perhaps it’s a story that I’m trying to create and blah blah blah.

My job title says “designer” but that isn’t very specific, and what happens when I want to explain to someone my breadth of knowledge or understanding of processes from coming up with initial ideas, research, user-testing, wireframes, prototypes and design concepts and development right through to testing final designs and being able to build my creations and see them come to life?

How do I tell them that I’ve run persona workshops that have changed company direction, that I’ve hosted on-boarding training sessions for multi-million-dollar corporations or that I’ve completely re-branded companies, defined internal processes and allowed them to grow and expand more efficiently. Without writing a novel, that is.

I don’t have hours to explain to people all of the work I’ve done, I don’t have tangible enough examples of case studies that I can call upon, and there isn’t a job title that fits everything I do (not without getting daft anyway).

I have a portfolio, but I’m judged on design alone, and people can’t see any process in a screenshot. Nor do they wish to read a book about the project, I imagine. Do I need to start writing more? Is that really the answer?

For those designers, creatives, coders, marketeers and related employees: How do you define yourself, while making sure you can at least go some way to communicating the breadth of your ability in a clear but concise way?

How would I demonstrate to someone that my abilities lie across multiple disciplines and when they say “oh so you’re a UX designer?” I have to reply with “I am a designer who does UX, but also UI, and many, many other things”.

I don’t want to have to specialise or focus on one thing — I want to have the freedom to work on a number of creative projects that involve UX, UI, design, ideation, creation, front-end coding, conceptualisation, strategy and everything else that comes with the process.

Why is it that we have built companies around a strict set of abilities for our staff, when some may be able to cover many bases across a number of projects? Are there companies or agencies who allow this, or encourage it or is it just down to the freelancing business to accommodate?

I’ve never seen a design-based role which says:

“We need someone who can research, test, conceptualise, design, build, iterate and also do a bunch of SEO work, speak with the client, discuss opportunities for more projects and then some more other stuff.”

Normally it’s “we need a senior UX designer to fill our incredibly specific role requirement” basically.

It worries me that outside of being a freelancer, there is no room at product-side or agency-side companies for someone with a range of abilities across a number of disciplines to exercise the freedom and variation that they may want from their employment.

The concern that someone with a wider range of skills might fall short in all areas (“master of none” syndrome) is probably what’s stopping us entertaining the idea that these people might exist.

So, to those who find themselves in a similar position: How do you describe and sell yourself? What’s the best approach for showing yourself as an asset, rather than a recruitment problem needing solved?



Alex Cowles

Bewildered ramblings from a full-stack designer floundering at the deep end of the creative pool. More info at http://alexcowles.com