There are too many designers

Actually, to be fair, there are not too many designers, but there are definitely too many designer job titles. This creates enormous confusion across the job market. There are so many labels and titles for our profession (see this hilarious UX job title generator) that even designers no longer understand what’s what. It has become near impossible to figure out what a title means, what expectations it holds for the designer, what tasks he is supposed to do and where his responsibilities lie.

Zalando held a job title survey amongst 185 of their designers from Europe and the US. A staggering one in three was unhappy with the name of their job. One of them even said:

“I just wish my field was called something different”

A few titles, we can add to this almost endlessly (and yes there is a double in there)

What defines us?

This confusion annoyed me. I was having a really hard time explaining to my peers and my non-design colleagues the difference between between UI-designer, visual designer, graphic designer, UX-designer, UX-strategist, interaction designer and whatever other names have popped up in the last decade. In my opinion, the job title itself doesn’t define anything, it only loosely implies the field in which we work. What defines us, is our skill set. And, like many other human beings, I wanted to categorize this somehow, to make things clearer.

Skills matter

What defines the responsibilities and the quality of a designer is not the job title, but a combination of skill set, experience and character. Skill sets can be placed into three categories: strategic, visual and functional. Most designers have skills in all three categories, but the number of skills and to what level they are mastered depend on background and experience. This categorisation is not set in stone, I don’t aim to be complete, it is what I have observed in my XX years as a designer. For each category I have mixed words, terms, tasks and things without considering sub-categories. See it as little association clouds.

Common Language

This categorisation into strategic, visual and functional is something I use to better explain design in the UX-field and it seems to make sense in the company I work for. It has helped me create a common language amongst my colleagues in design, development, project management, recruiting and management.

To get a better idea how this would map on the existing job titles, I made a list weighting the day-to-day work for each category per job title. Again, this is not a formal matrix but something that helps me explain my views to others.

Maybe you see your title in this overview and you do other things. In that case don’t shoot me, but let me know your thoughts. I think this idea can be build upon, changed, improved in general. In any way, I hope this article makes sense and helps you talk about our field to designers and non-designers alike.

Thank you.