Types of “Graphic” Designers 2018
Graphic design has always had divisions and specialties, but with the revolution in computer software the industry has expanded into new fields. Not with distinct categories of people and projects, but by considerations and creative output. Job searching has shown me that many companies have not kept up with the fracturing job titles. I’ll try and breakdown what I see as the current nomenclature of design roles, what work they specialize in, and argue that knowing the balance of depth and breadth of a role is critical to finding a great candidate.
While Graphic Design is often used as an overarching term, it is currently used more specifically as a label for the type of work that involves corporate identity and the creation of related marketing materials. From the brand systems (including logos and colors and typefaces) to their applications, Graphic Designers use visual elements to communicate through print and digital mediums.
A Print Designer is a true a subcategory of Graphic Design focusing within the printed medium. While more traditional than many of the following roles, Print Designers require knowledge of inks and substrates, as well as the physical final products. Many of the pieces traditionally thought of as Graphic Design like business cards, brochures, magazines are made by Print Designers. People have claimed that “print is dead” for many years, but it continues to be an in-demand part of the industry.
A Motion Designer’s defining characteristic is creating how and why elements move. Whether an animated video explaining a concept (with illustration and be classified as animation) or a UI animation to transition between app content, this role can work in different parts of a company depending on the intended use cases.
While Web Design would often fall under Graphic Design in purpose of output, it is a specialized role with technical skills including knowledge of markup and coding. This type of designer designs websites of all types, now requiring optimization for the various screen types and sizes used. A modern web designer may also have skills in UX and interaction design (see following sections).
Product Design used to mainly refer to Industrial Design or the creation of physical products that people use. With the development of computers and software, it has become a dedicated field to design the flow of web and mobile applications. Product Designer is an umbrella term itself to UX, UI, Interaction, and Prototyping.
User Experience Design or UX, has come into its own in the past decade. Part user research, a UX Designer creates not the visual assets and styles of an application, but instead defines the user journey and designs the product flow to be usable. By considering the needs of stakeholders, users, and technical limitations, these designers help products to do the tasks needed in a way users can figure out.
Interaction Design is another subset of Product Design. This role focuses on the elements that make up the interaction between a digital interface and its human user. These designers blend UI, motion, navigation, human factors, and others to bring the experience into reality. This role can sometimes be considered a part of UX or working adjacently with it.
Visual design is a bit of a bucket term, and there is quite a bit of variation in the skillsets of these designers. Visual design is a hybrid role often bridging the gap between different fields in order to develop a visual system and continuity across multiple touchpoints. Those applications can vary from user interface (UI) elements and icons in a software to marketing collateral, websites, and videos. A person in this role can have varied experience in individual areas of design, but should be focused on how elements work across them all.
There are plenty of titles and even fields I entirely or partially left out. However, those listed above make up the bulk of roles companies are hiring for in 2018, and there is plenty of confusion within this subset.
Companies need to determine what skillsets they require in a role and recruit appropriately. Do you need someone with deep expertise in a single area like a user researcher or presentation designer, or do you need a versatile designer with a bit of experience in a variety of things? This may depend on a company size and existing skillset, or on what initiatives are prioritized. There do exist rare individuals that have both experience and talent in many categories, but does your role fit their capabilities and needs?
Me? I’m a Visual Designer with a background in branding, web design, and events, but some experience (and a lot of interest) in UX, Interaction and Motion Design.