Design Job Titles: Do They Mean What They Say?

The role of the designer is evolving at such a fast pace that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of which creative person oversees what. In terms of design job titles, is there a difference between an interface and interaction designer, or a graphic designer and a visual designer? The answer seems to lie in the details…

Until recently, I figured that most design job titles meant fairly similar things. If someone called me a product designer instead of an industrial designer, I would go with the flow because they’re probably similar in function, right? Wrong! Some design job titles relate to others; while certain design roles are worlds apart. I recently moved in with an interaction designer and I realized we have very different strengths. I peeked over her shoulder to see what she was designing last week and I was met with a screen full of words and symbols I didn’t understand. That was the moment I knew that all designers’ positions cannot be lumped into the same category. Although we might be taught similar fundamentals, each designer gathers very specific strengths unique to their industry.


An Interactive and All-Too-Long List of Design Job Titles

Web Designer- the we-mean-business designers. To speak curtly, web designers do the stuff that visually-based designers can’t do. Their role ranges from graphics to coding — usually including some proficiency in HTML and CSS. Web design also overlaps with web engineering in the broader scope of web development.

User Interface designer- the designers of the future. User interface designers can be considered a subcategory of web design. Most interface designers work exclusively in web and app design, or in other words, digital platforms. Interface designers are still in charge of putting together colors and typefaces that are visually pleasing, but more than that, they work behind the scenes to understand how their designs will look on actual apps and websites. To do this, interface designers are commonly proficient in HTML and CSS , sometimes even JavaScript. These designers speak the language of wireframes which is quite complex.

User Interaction designer- the smartie-pants. Interaction design is about shaping digital interfaces for use that is engaging and well-thought out. How consumers behave informs this design process. Most day-to-day tasks include crafting layouts and interactive digital prototypes. And, they spend some time on research and establishing a visual design language. The main platforms interaction designers use are Axure, Sketch, and Invision.

Industrial designer- the designers of physical things. A derivative of the name, one could assume that these kinds of designers should be found in an industrial warehouse soldering metal piping. Or, at an industrial work site, constructing a massive bridge with complicated geometry. Funnily enough, this is not the case! Industrial designers actually design a wide range of consumer products and equipment, from big to small. They start at the beginning of the design process with design research, then sketch-up concepts, build prototypes, and use CAD modeling to bring their inventions or innovations to life. Some industrial designers work closely with manufacturing and engineering, while others are looser and more conceptual with their work. Overall, this field incorporates designers who visualize a product and help it become a reality.

Service designer- the thinkers. Service designers or designers who think like service designers are the individuals responsible for car-sharing apps and grubhub-style food delivery systems and programs. While taught the same design thinking as other designers, their curriculum diverges and focuses on navigating the complex and intangible future of design. How can we provide experiences that center around a user? These are the designers who use ample amounts of sticky notes. Sticky notes, journey mapping, surveys, oh and blueprinting. Lots and lots of blueprinting. Journey mapping refers to how the customer interacts with a service, and how this action is perceived by others. Blueprinting encompasses all the business functions such as deliveries and operations, ‘core to surface’. If you like research, then you’ll like this field.

Graphic Designer- old school new school. These designers were once the pioneers of visual communications. Graphic designers are first taught the fundamentals of design: color theory and typography. Graphic designer’s projects generally include a variety of logo design, branding design, layouts, infographics, digital lettering, and occasionally hand-lettering. They are known to create brand logos consistent with a brand language. They also know the Adobe Suite like no other. Typically, they are found hammering away in Illustrator or Photoshop on their massive desktop display with a Mac interface. The mediums they usually design include banners, magazines, and other physical deliverables.

Visual Designer- the jack of all trades. Visual designers are a fairly new occurrence around the design world, usually wearing many hats and playing different roles. They are often found in a boardroom with executives debating over marketing layouts or brand aesthetics. Beyond the digital world, sometimes visual designers work with displays and interiors, as well. Most importantly, visual designers help brands find their voice and unique perspective.

In summation, there are many types of designers who shape the world around us; and this list of design job titles merely breaks the surface! Since the majority of this posting is opinion-based, we at Outerspace would love to hear your thoughts! If you have expertise in a specific category, let us know what it means to you.

Subscribe to Receive Updates

Allie Agrella
About the Author
Allie Agrella
Industrial Designer

Learn More About Allie