What’s in a name? Well, a lot, when it comes to defining roles and responsibilities in job. A job title is just a bite-sized description of what an employee does, but it does a lot: it confers responsibility, seniority, and skill in those 2–3 words.
The design community — particularly the digital design community — has a lot of titles. Often, a design students asks, “What’s the difference between a product designer and a UX designer?” At a glance, the two positions seem pretty similar. But one could have you digging deep into data, while the other has you prototyping for days.
But let’s back up. I’m not here to answer the question of “What’s the difference between a UX/UI Designer and a Product Designer?” — there are plenty of wonderful, well-written articles discussing the details and nuance of individual roles and responsibilities.
What I’m curious about is this. What titles are we calling ourselves? How do those titles define what we do to others? And how does that define us as a community? How do you navigate this as a young designer?
I decided to dig into the data from Dribbble’s Job Board to see what titles we’re using in the market right now. I looked at Dribbble for a few reasons: it’s a large community with a massive job board and there’s a wide variety of work that designers in the community do.
I referenced Dribbble’s Job Board on January 17th, when it listed 110 job postings spanning back to December 18. Positions ranged from senior to junior, US-based to international, and visual to dev to anywhere inbetween. Here’s what the titles said:
The majority of the positions listed were for mid-range design experience. 36 positions referenced significant experience and leadership skills (Senior Experience Designer, Design Director, Principal Designer & Team Lead). In contrast, only two positions indicated a desire for junior level candidates (Associate Visual Designer and Junior Graphic Designer). The rest fell into some land of unspecified experience required (Product Designer, Mobile UI Designer).
Role & responsibility
First, the obvious: the majority of positions included “design” somewhere in the title. 13 positions did not include design in their titles— examples include Developer, Art Director, Project Manager, Social Media Manager, and my favorite, Photoshop Expert.
54 titles contained the words “experience”, “UX”, “interaction”, or “interactive” in the title, with UX leading with 25 titles. 11 titles specified solely UX, with no reference to visual design or development (example: UX Designer, as opposed to UX/UI Designer).
26 titles contained the keywords “visual”, “graphic”, “art”, or “communication”. 19 additional titles included “UI”.
6 positions called out development specifically in their titles.
There were 14 “Product Design” positions — the cleanest naming scheme with the least variation out of all other titles.
Dribbble’s Job Board can tell us a few things about design titles and this particular subset of the design community.
First, if you’re an experienced designer, consider Dribbble when looking for a new position. Unfortunately, if you’re just getting started in your design career, Dribbble’s job board is not a great resource. There’s a large opportunity for a job board for junior design candidates seeking entry-level positions.
Second, these job titles underscore the importance of a strong visual skill set. This is unsurprising — Dribbble in particular is a very visual community. If you’re a user experience designer with a weakness in visual communication, a large portion of positions are immediately closed off.
However, the reverse is true, too: if you have poor interaction design skills, you’re shut off from a wide range of positions. For those that argue that Dribbble is a poor community for interaction and user experience designers, it sure has a great job board for UX designers.
Last, most job titles imply that you need it all. The most popular two titles were UX/UI Designer (or some combination of those words) and Product Designer — titles that imply a dexterous toolkit including visual communication, interaction design, user research, and potentially development skills. Some titles were highly specialized — calling out development skills, for example. However, most titles were vague enough to imply a diverse role.
- How do these job titles change over time? (example: When did the design community start calling itself product designers?)
- Let’s dig into the job listings. How many have requirements that reflect or even betray what their titles imply?
- How do these titles vary based on location of posting? (Fun fact: San Francisco had the largest no. of listings. Surprise!) Do we see more art directors in New York City? More product designers in San Francisco?