Designer Sub-roles in the Tech Industry

Nowadays, companies and people alike love to think of “designers” as an all-trade role where one can do many things: visual design, illustration, user interface design, user experience design, front end development, and some crazy requirements would love to have somebody who is adept at motion graphic and video editing.

Lo Min Ming wrote an excellent article on various designer roles existing in the tech industry now, over at FastCo Design. The article is titled “UI, UX: Who Does What? A Designer’s Guide to the Tech Industry“. Based on job roles posted at credible companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google, he managed to classify these roles like the following: User Experience Designer, User Interface Designer, Visual Designer (Graphic Designer), Interaction Designer (Motion Designer), User Experience Researcher, Front End Developer (User Interface Developer) and Product Designer.

Basically, each of these roles can be summed up like so:

User Experience Designer: “UX designers are primarily concerned with how the product feels. A given design problem has no single right answer. UX designers explore many different approaches to solving a specific user problem.”

User Interface Designer: “…user interface designers are particular about how the product is laid out. They are in charge of designing each screen or page with which a user interacts and ensuring that the UI visually communicates the path that a UX designer has laid out.”

Visual Designer (Graphic Designer): “…their focus is on crafting beautiful icons, controls, and visual elements and making use of suitable typography.”

Interaction Designer: “They deal with what the interface does after a user touches it. For example, they decide how a menu should slide in, what transition effects to use, and how a button should fan out.”

User Experience Researcher: “A UX researcher is the champion of a user’s needs. The goal of a researcher is to answer the twin questions of “Who are our users?” and “What do our users want?” Typically, this role entails interviewing users, researching market data, and gathering findings.”

Front End Developer (User Interface Developer): “Front-end developers are responsible for creating a functional implementation of a product’s interface. Usually, a UI designer hands off a static mockup to the front-end developer who then translates it into a working, interactive experience.”

Product Designer: “A product designer may do minimal front-end coding, conduct user research, design interfaces, or create visual assets. From start to finish, a product designer helps identify the initial problem, sets benchmarks to address it, and then designs, tests, and iterates on different solutions.”

It is clear that from these requirements, the needs for every company is different, and that every specific sub-role deals with a different majority (or minority) of the “designer” trade skillsets. It should be clear for designers what their skillsets are and they should start to define what they can offer. I am not saying that they should label themselves specifically “UX Designer” or “Front End Developer”, as that is the job of the companies, but as a designer, we need to identify what we excel at. It’s good to specialize, it ain’t evil. It makes everyone happier.