Design job titles: Explained

In this article, I explain how I did a data-driven analysis of four design job titles: Product Designer, UX Designer, UI Designer and Visual Designer. The analysis is based on job ads from companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Fitbit, Google, Ikea, Netflix.

The Problem

Over the last years, the design industry created many job titles. Before that, things were easier: we were called Graphic Designers, Web Designers or, simply, Designers.  

Nowadays, we are adding many different words before 'Designer': Product, UX, UI, UX/UI, Visual, Service, Web, Digital are some examples

And this is good, right? It means that Designers are expanding the work they do. For instance, not only thinking about visual aspects, but also concerned about User Experience and Business.

But at the same time, these new titles become confusing and misleading (or even a joke).

The confusing roles of UX
The roles in the design industry are deep and overlapping. It’s why new designers often struggle to understand the…

This confusion reflects a bigger problem: do companies really know what it means to be a ‘UX Designer’ or a ‘Product Designer’?

As well said by Kate Conrick, a Service Designer in 🇦🇺: 'Industry is suffering from a lack of clarity about roles, skills and methods.'

The Solution — A data-driven approach to Design Job Titles

While doing my research, I have found good articles on what it means each of the job titles for designers. I share the links at the end of this article.

All these articles cover only one side: what designers think about their profession. There is nothing wrong about that, as the years of experience from these authors are relevant and bring an excellent contribution.

How big is the intersection?
I cover the other side with a data-driven approach: what companies think about designers. As companies are the ones recruiting and managing designers, what they think about job titles and qualifications is relevant for designers who want to get a job or progress in the design career.

And the 'data' in 'data-driven' are: job advertisements.

A job advertisement is the moment of truth, when a company describes their 'ideal candidate'. For example, if a company believes that designers should code, they will ask for HTML, CSS, or any other programming languages in the requirements list.

How I did the study

  • I collected 200 job ads — 50 for Product Designer, 50 for UX Designer, 50 for UI Designer and 50 for Visual Designer in September/2020.
  • I removed job ads for 'UX/UI Designer' or 'Visual/Product Designer', as I wanted to look at positions that are focusing in only one area of expertise.
  • I found the 200 job ads on LinkedIn by searching each of the job titles, without selecting any city or country.
  • Even though LinkedIn knows I’m in Finland, it showed me positions from all over the world. These 200 job ads come from well-known companies such such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Fitbit, Google, Ikea, Netflix. The full list of companies can be found here.
  • I used a semi-random sampling strategy: Each job ad was randomly assigned and had the same chance to appear on my search. I used the word 'semi' as the selection of ads was made by LinkedIn algorithm, so one can say that it is not a completely random sampling.
  • For the analysis, I used MAXQDA 2018. I have been using this software since 2015 for qualitative research analysis. But over the years, they have been improving the quantitative analysis side as well.
A screenshot of MAXQDA, software used for data analysis
Screenshot of my analysis file on MAXQDA 2018
  • I read all the ads looking for references for 'What designers deliver?' and 'What designers need to know (skills)?'. The list was big, and you can see a part of it on the image above (left corner). I used a mixture of automatic and manual coding. Meaning that I used some keyword searches ('Figma', 'Visual design skills' and 'Communication skills', for example) and then later revised it by reading the ads. I also highlighted in yellow some interesting quotes to be used in the articles later.

The Results

After all, this is why you read all the way until here, right? 😉

I wrote a separate article for each of the four job titles. Go ahead and read one (or all) of them following the links below.

Product Designer: Explained

UI Designer: Explained

UX Designer: Explained

Visual Designer: Explained

Recommended readings

A matrix to help you self-evaluate on 18 different skills a UX designer needs

by Daniel Birch

The hardest role in tech: Product Designer

by Christie Tang

The Ultimate Guide to Understanding UX Roles and Which One You Should Go For

by IDF

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Thanks for reading.
I'm Paulo Dziobczenski, the founder of Let's connect on LinkedIn or Twitter. 😉