What Type of Designer Do You Need?
Upwork Staff
May 13, 2015
8 Min

What Type of Designer Do You Need?

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The design world is always changing. Roles, mediums, trends, and technology continue to evolve. The word “design” itself is a pretty broadly used term and can apply to everything from fashion and tech to manufacturing and architecture.

Finding the right person for any role can be a challenge. With a better understanding of the types of designers in today’s workforce and their roles, it’ll be that much easier to find the right designer for your project.

Here are general guidelines on designers: who they are and what they do. In general, designers are creative, spatially inclined thinkers with a great eye. As you read this, keep in mind that some designers may have expertise in more than one of these areas.

Types of designers

Graphic Designer

Graphic design is a form of visual communication and leverages images and other visual elements to convey ideas. It has become an umbrella term for various types of design work.

From logos to billboards to packaging for products, graphic designers bring concepts, ideas, and stories to life using typography, shapes, color, and images. They educate and inspire customers to learn more about something, to make a purchase, or to sign up. They use software such as Photoshop and InDesign to create static images and lay out pages. Designers who focus on printed materials like magazines or brochures are also known as print designers.

Graphic designers create:

  • Visual identity: logos, letterhead, business cards
  • Marketing materials: brochures, flyers, postcards, posters
  • Magazines, books, catalogs
  • Product packaging
  • Presentations
  • T-shirt designs
  • Annual reports
  • Illustrations

Skills: Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator

Interactive/Web Designer

From landing pages and blog templates to entire websites and mobile apps, the digital space is an interactive designer’s domain.

Creating a beautiful design is only part of the job. Interactive or web designers also need to understand the technology used to build websites and turn their designs into actual online experiences. As a result, some designers may have an understanding of front-end web development and might know programming languages such as JavaScript. That said, content management systems or CMS, such as WordPress and Drupal, are widely used for many websites today. They make it easier for designers to customize premade templates and themes without needing to work with a developer or know programming languages.

In general, web designers will know Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) and some may also know CSS and HTML.

Because of the complexity of the web, there are many relatively new (and in-demand) skills designers may specialize in:

User experience (UX): explores the experience people have using a site, app, or tool to ensure it’s easy to use and not confusing.

User interface (UI): involves how people navigate through a site, app, or tool, using elements such as buttons, menus, color, and images.

Many designers may be skilled at both UX and UI.

Interaction design: focuses on how people are involved with the experience of the product, for example, a progress bar that shows where you are while signing up for a site or an icon that changes color to signal you’ve turned on a setting.

Information architecture (IA): involves creating the blueprint for a website by making sure it’s organized in an understandable way. Information architects come from a variety of backgrounds, including design, writing, library science, and psychology.

Interactive designers create:

  • Websites, landing pages, microsites, web pages
  • Blog templates and themes
  • Mobile apps
  • Banner ads
  • Social media assets
  • Email marketing assets

Skills: Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, CSS, HTML, wireframing, prototyping

Motion Graphics Designer

The world of the motion graphics designer evolves frame by frame. Whether they’re creating an explainer video or the opening title sequence of a movie, motion graphics designers bring movement to otherwise static images, text, illustrations, and more. For instance, to develop an online video, they typically will start by creating storyboards that map out each scene based on a script. From there, they put the scenes and images together, adding motion and graphical elements to ensure it moves seamlessly from frame to frame. They also sync up the action in each scene with a voiceover or music.

Motion graphics designers create:

  • Explainer videos
  • Storyboards
  • Promotional videos
  • Animated graphics (for TV shows, for example)
  • Movie title sequences
  • Product demos
  • Animated presentations

Skills: Illustrator, Photoshop, After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Cinema 4D, Maya


Without animators, we wouldn’t have been enchanted by Elsa in Frozen, hooked on Halo, or transported to Middle-Earth in The Lord of the Rings. From animated films to special effects to video games, animators bring stories, characters, and entire other worlds to life through software such as 3ds Max, Maya, Cinema 4D, After Effects, and Blender. Designs can be two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D).

Animators create:

  • Movie special effects
  • Animated films
  • Video games

Skills: 3ds Max, Maya, Cinema 4D, Blender, After Effects, Flash, Photoshop

Architectural Designer

Drafting plans for houses, buildings, and outdoor spaces is all in a day’s work for an architectural designer. They translate concepts from engineers, architects, and clients into drawings and 3D models. They use software such as AutoCAD and Revit and are familiar with building codes and construction materials.

Architectural designers create:

  • Technical drawings
  • Building plans
  • Documentation
  • Renderings

Skills: AutoCAD, 3ds Max Design, Rhino, Grasshopper, V-Ray, SketchUp, Revit, ArchiCAD, Photoshop, Illustrator

Interior Designer

Color swatches, furniture, fixtures, and measuring tape are a few of the tools of the trade for interior designers. They transform spaces to make them more functional, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing. They select furniture, accessories, paint, lighting, fabrics, and other elements based on the space and their client’s needs and style preferences. Many designers create drawings or diagrams of the layout or floor plan of the space with programs such as AutoCAD or Revit.

Interior designers create:

  • Floor plans
  • Diagrams
  • Layouts
  • Functional spaces
  • Visually appealing spaces

Skills: AutoCAD, Revit, SketchUp, Photoshop

Industrial Designer/Product Designer

Consumer electronics, cars, construction equipment. Industrial designers, also known as product designers, develop every kind of product imaginable for a wide variety of industries and purposes. Through prototyping, testing, and iterating, they bring products to life. They also consider the function, form, and ergonomics of a product when designing. They use computer-aided design (CAD) programs such as AutoCAD or SolidWorks to create and manipulate 3D models of a product. Renowned designers like Apple’s Jony Ive, as well as Philippe Starck, and Charles and Ray Eames, have created iconic—and extremely popular—products.

Industrial designers create:

  • Consumer and household items
  • Cars, bikes, planes
  • Consumer hardware and electronics
  • Appliances
  • Medical devices
  • Machinery

Skills: 3ds Max Design, AutoCAD, SolidWorks, AcceliCAD, MathCAD, Catia, Ansys

Instructional Designer

Within a company, instructional designers create learning experiences for a wide range of subjects such as new hire onboarding, product tutorials, legal and compliance protocols, and management development. Whether they’re in a virtual classroom or a conference room, they understand how people learn and create experiences that will be effective for diverse audiences.

Instructional designers create:

  • Training videos
  • Instructional materials
  • Courses and workshops

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