When a company is hiring a designer, what do they look for? What do they expect a designer will do? What skills a designer should have?
Those are exactly the questions I will answer now, based on a data-driven analysis of job advertisements. If you want to know more about the method and what I mean by data-driven analysis, I wrote a separate article explaining it.
Design job titles: Explained
A data-driven approach to understand four design job titles: Product, UX, UI and Visual Designer. by Paulo Dziobczenski. Founder of designcareer.co
In short: Much has been said about what it means to be a Product/UX/UI/Visual designer. Many designers have written wonderful articles before. I am taking a different approach: I look at what companies say in their job advertisements.
Visual Designers are specialists.
Visual Designers translate concepts, ideas and businesses into visual outcomes: interfaces, websites, etc.
At the same time, to be able to design the 'pixel-perfect' outcomes, Visual Designers need to have a good understanding about the UX and the User.
Moving to more specifics, I started counting how many times each request showed up in the data set. Here are the top 5 requests:
User Interface (UI)
Visual Designers, nowadays, are mainly Digital Visual Designers, which means that they design interfaces, websites and any other digital outcome.
User Experience (UX)
Visual Designers also work in building the User Experience, mainly through the deliver of Interfaces.
Visual Designers do not only are involved in design activities, but also in conducting and analyzing user research. It is a clear expansion of the role of Visual Designers: from simply designing interfaces to designing interfaces based on knowledge about the user.
Visual Designers build early-phase prototypes to test their ideas before moving towards more 'polished' versions.
As an important aspect in digital design and design for screens, Visual Designers also deliver motion design work, such as animations and videos.
What a Visual Designer needs to know?
Visual Designers need to have a varied range of skills to do their jobs. For example, Visual Designers need to have ‘communication’ to conduct research.
Think about these skills as some necessary layers (or mindsets) for designers to do their work. As you can see on the Top 5 below, not only design skills:
Perhaps the most obvious, as Visual Designers are all about how the project will look like. Here companies emphasize how Visual Designers need to have 'an eye for design', in terms of knowing about color, composition, typography, etc.
Visual Designers interact with other professionals and users constantly. By working in teams, having communication skills are key for doing the job.
Visual Designers need to know about business goals and how their work affects their clients’ businesses.
Visual Designers are busy. Being able to manage the workload and timelines is key to the job.
Visual Designers are advocate for the users. User-centered design is a method/skill to help designers put their users at the center.
What else is in the skillset of a Visual Designer?
Visual Designers also work with illustrations and design systems, while having skills in data-driven design and branding, for example.
What software Visual Designers use?
Visual Designers mainly use Adobe Creative Cloud, while Sketch and Figma are less frequent in the job ads.
Where do these answers come from?
I analyzed 50 job advertisements for Visual Designers found on LinkedIn. These job ads came from 24 countries in the Americas (North and South, Asia and Europe. Some companies are very well-known (Accenture, Amazon, Google, Frog, Motorola) while some others were new (at least to me). The full list of companies can be found here.
Visual Designers are concerned with delivering (mainly) digital outcomes: interfaces, websites, etc. But still, data shows that they still get their hands dirty in 'old-school' activities such as Illustration, Motion Design and Branding.
As with the other design professions, Visual Designers need to see the overall picture. Yes, Visual Designers care about the visual aspect, but functionality and how their work affects the User Experience, the business are becoming more evident.
Each company is different. A company hiring their first Visual Designer have very different needs than one looking to hire their 100th Visual Designer.
In this article, I have mentioned over 10 different skills/activities/software. But do not panic, not all companies will ask you to know it all.
To illustrate how companies might differ in their requirements, here is a comparison between some of the requests made by Accenture, Amazon, Frog, Google and Motorola in a Visual Design position.
As you can see, companies might emphasize some skills more than others when hiring. The recommendation here is to spend some time researching the companies you are interested and what they are looking for. Which skills do they look for? Then make sure to build those skills and not all the possible skills :)
If you liked this article, I recommend to check the other guides I wrote looking at the Product, UI and UX Design careers.