For brand new startup founders and small business owners the whole terminology around different types of designers may get confusing. UI, UX, product, interface, interaction, motion, graphic, print, front-end designers, and we could keep listing the different types.
As someone who never went to a design college (I’m self-taught) it has been almost hard to find my place within the different definitions of design. I did my share of research about it and got even more confused. In this post, I’ll present 5 different types of designers which in my opinion cover all you’ll typically encounter in a startup or a small business.
One more thing: Many of the designers jobs overlap depending on each person’s interests and training. Don’t discard someone simply because their title on the CV doesn’t say specifically what you want.
Here we go.
User Experience (UX) Designer
UX designer makes sure your product actually solves a problem and that it’s easy to use. The work of UX designers is more strategic compared to UI designers who are more hands-on in their approach.
A UX designer doesn’t necessary posses the skills to make your interface pretty. Their job is not to apply nice drop shadows or find a good colour scale.
UX designer’s tasks include usability testing, creating user flows, validating business ideas, creating prototypes, and so on. Here’s a handy guide to what UX designers do.
The term is sometimes used interchangeable with information architect, experience architect, usability expert, UX researcher, usability analyst, product designer, or product manager.
In tiny businesses, the founders often take charge of this important job. If you’re one of them, read this guide on user testing.
User Interface (UI) Designer
User interface: the means by which the user and a computer system interact, in particular the use of input devices and software.
UI designers these days almost exclusively design graphical user interfaces (GUIs). If you need to design a non-graphical interface (for example voice-controlled), then UI designer isn’t the right call.
UI designers’ job is to create pretty and usable interface. They work closely with the UX designers and build on top of their deliverables. They’ll dive deeper on how an interface behaves on a micro-level; they’ll pay attention to how the interface is laid out, create feedback animations (e.g. loading screens), making things look “clickable”, and keeping the styles consistent.
Here’s a post on crucial guidelines for designing great UIs with real-life examples.
Other terms: product designer, interaction designer, creative architecht, web designer (website is a UI), mobile designer. The jobs of UX and UI designers overlap a lot and are sometimes combined in the same person.
Front-end designer is a variation of UI designer who can also code. In some regards, front-end designers can produce better and more streamlined deliverables because they understand the process better.
For cash-strapped startups, hiring a single designer to cover both UI design and front-end development is a very good idea. Finding such a unicorn designer however is another topic completely.
This title differs from front-end developers who will take the finished designs and write the code.
Other terms: web designer
If the previous jobs were about user experience, graphic designer isn’t concerned so much with that. Their job is to create consistent branding, making everything look perfect, and obsessing over fonts. They pay close attention to the smallest, pixel-level details that most people tend to overlook.
Their deliverables include branding guidelines, logos, brochures, blog graphics, sometimes even custom typefaces. In my experience, graphic designers are more familiar with print and its specifics and not so much focused on designing for screens.
Other terms: visual designer, brand designer, print designer, typographer (when focused on fonts), art director (typically in agencies).
If you are developing a physical product, you’ll need someone who specialises in the area of industry design. Even more so that in the more virtual types of design, you’ll want to hire someone with a lot of experience. Once that product mould is signed off, there are no more tweaks and A/B testing to be done: this is it. So be careful with picking the right industrial designer.
Industrial designer’s job description will include sketching, 3D modeling, prototyping, work with 3D printer, and communication with manufacturer.
Once again this job is so closely connected with the product development the founders need to follow the process closely.
Other terms: 3D product designer, CAD sculptor, CAD designer, physical product designer, furniture / automotive / … designer
Here are the types of designers your startup will need at some point. In the initial stages, the task of developing a product should be covered by the founders or the person behind an idea — don’t expect an employee to do the work for you.
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