What design job titles really mean | Career | Creative Bloq
From junior designer to creative director to CSS Ninja, we demystify the most common titles in the world of design.
Job titles can be a confusing way to navigate the employment market. For example, what some employers might refer to as a front-end developer, another will call a web designer.
But while there are no hard-and-fast rules about what you have to call a particular role when advertising, there are a certain set of accepted role names that broadly share similar responsibilities. With this in mind, and in the interests of helping demystify who does what, check out some of the most common job titles below, and what they really mean.
Keep in mind that it’s all open to interpretation though, so if you’re looking for a job be sure to carefully read the job specification before applying!
We’ll start with the easy ones. As a general rule, if a job title features the word ‘designer’ within it, you can expect the role to include a degree of actual designing.
A designer will typically be using software such as Photoshopand/or Illustrator on a daily basis, alongside any additional software related to the specialism (such as a print designer usingInDesign, a cloth designer using ScotWeave and so on).
An art director sets the overall tone and timbre for a piece of work. This can be the way that a stage is dressed and lit for a theatre production, the choice of colour palette for a movie, the acquisition and theme of a photo shoot or defining the values and graphic approach to a website.
An art director is typically a fairly senior position, although at smaller firms you may find that there are elements of this included within the broader term ‘graphic designer’ when dealing with print or web. For the career-minded, art director can be a stepping stone to creative director – the top of the design tree.
As Gary Holt of branding agency SomeOne explains: “A great creative director is someone who’s able to build an environment and ethos where the very best ideas can be born and thrive. Then fills that environment with the brightest talent. If they can find and retain the brightest, then the agency shines. Harbor the dullest and the agency flame soon goes out.”
As with all the job titles we’ve listed here, it’s really important to check the job specification because sometimes this role will require a lot of experience in 3D, while other jobs with the same title require none.
Unlike a designer, a web developer role usually doesn’t involve any visual designing at all. You’ll be focused on the back end of a website, coding in languages such as PHP, Ruby, C# and VB.NET. This role is unlikely to have any direct access to or influence over the design or presentation of a website. Not to be confused with…
Unlike the web developer (see 04), a front-end developer does get involved in creating the visual presentation of a website. They will typically translate a mockup into a fully functioning website.
06. UI designer
A user interface (UI) designer gets involved in defining the way different elements of a user interface behave, provide feedback to the user and help convey meaning. This is very definitely more about designing, and less about implementing.
This is often another way of saying UI designer (see 06). If we had to define the difference between a UI designer and an interaction designer, we’d say it’s down to the areas of a website that encourage direct interaction with a user – such as forms, menus, special effects, media playback and so on.
A user experience (UX) designer focuses on understanding how a website is used, helping to define areas for improvement and conducting user testing to establish the success of any changes implemented. Sometimes this is a hands-on role that incorporates elements of the front-end developer role (see 05), but other times it’s all about analysis and less about the actual doing.
This is a term more often used in the US than in the UK. A full-stack developer typically means someone who is expected to be able to perform the roles of web designer, web developer and elements of UI and UX design too. Often this role might act as the interface between the design and development areas of a business, and as a result this might be a senior position depending upon the company.
10. IT Technician
This role is very simply network and hardware-related. If you’re expecting anything design or development related, you’ll be very disappointed. Expect to be resetting user passwords and helping to administer Exchange server instead.
11. SEO specialist
An SEO (search engine optimisation) specialist is concerned primarily with ensuring that the content of a website is optimised to achieve the best possible search engine positioning. They may also get involved in helping to run and manage pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, but their primary function is the analysis of a website’s search engine performance, and making changes to improve that performance.
Prefixes and suffixes
As well as all the titles we’ve already looked at, you’ll also come across a series of prefixes and suffixes that help to describe the responsibilities and remuneration for a particular role. Typical examples include junior, senior, manager, lead and consultant.