The Most Common Types of Designers and What They Do

The Most Common Types of Designers and What They Do

Many of the products and services we see, use, and experience are the work of different types of designers who create their look, feel, and usability. Whether you want to design a visually engaging, easy-to-use website or a new kind of performance bicycle, a designer is waiting to help you achieve your business goals.

With so many different designers to choose from, you might need advice to find the right one for your business needs. In this guide, we outline 12 types of designers and what they do. We also review how you can find the designer to best meet your goals.

If you’re looking for a designer to tackle a project, consider using top design experts on Upwork to augment your team and fulfill your needs.

  • Web designer
  • Front-end designer
  • User interface (UI) designer
  • User experience (UX) designer
  • Graphic designer
  • Animation designer
  • Motion graphics designer
  • Brand and product designer
  • Interior designer
  • Industrial designer
  • Art and illustration designer
  • Fashion designer
  • Web designer

    Web designers are responsible for website usability and visual aesthetics, including images, color schemes, typography, information flow, and layout. Many websites are created with website builders like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace using premade but customizable templates.

    Web designers also use design software like Adobe Creative Cloud and are well-versed in website wireframes, color palettes, branding, and button design and placement. Some may have expertise in user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). Web designers don’t necessarily need to know how to code a website (this is web developer domain), but they might be familiar with HTML, CSS, or JavaScript.

    The median rate for web designers is $15 to $30 per hour.

    Related: The Best Ways To Get Web Design Clients in 2023

    Front-end designer

    Also called front-end developers, front-end designers are responsible for coding the front end of a website, the part that users see and interact with. They blend design and technology using coding languages like HTML, CSS, C++, and JavaScript and frameworks like JQuery to implement web designs.

    Typical functions include creating website navigation, internal links, multimedia tools, and buttons and incorporating audio and video files. Front-end developers also test websites for functionality and develop fixes for problems and bugs.

    The median rate for front-end designers or developers is $15 to $35 per hour.

    User interface (UI) designer

    UI designers are responsible for the end user’s visual experience using websites, mobile applications, and e-commerce stores for practically any market. They often work closely with user experience (UX) designers.

    The tools UI designers commonly use included wireframes, Affinity Designer, Sketch, and Adobe products like XD, Photoshop, and Illustrator. They may also use front-end languages like HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript.

    The median rate for UI designers is $20 to $40 per hour.

    User experience (UX) designer

    UX designers shape the products and services we use. This can include physical components, such as a video game device, and the experience of using a website, mobile application, or an e-commerce store.

    While UI designers develop the look, UX designers are responsible for the user’s overall experience with a digital or physical product. Tools UX designers typically use include Sketch and AdobeXD.

    The median rate for UX designers is $25 to $39 per hour.

    Related: How To Design a Mobile App

    Graphic designer

    Graphic designers create visual concepts, such as illustrations, logos, and layouts, using computer software programs or manual drawings. Their designs are used for websites, logos, magazines, product packaging, infographics, marketing brochures, manuals, books, billboards and signs, and more.

    Those who design digital images and layouts use software like CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, Affinity Designer, and Adobe’s Creative Cloud, which includes Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator.

    The median rate for graphic designers is $15 to $35 per hour.

    Related: Illustration vs. Graphic Design

    Animation designer

    Animators use computer technology to create 2D and 3D images and effects for video games, websites, mobile applications, television, movies, commercials, and even digital billboards. Animation designers commonly use tools like Cinema 4D, Adobe After Effects, Autodesk 3ds Max, and more.

    The median rate for animation designers is $20 to $38 per hour.

    Related: How To Use AI (Artificial Intelligence) Images for Creative Inspiration

    Motion graphics designer

    Motion graphics designers are artists who put graphics in motion—working with films, digital advertising and commercials, website content, television, and game development. They typically use Adobe After Effects, Mocha AE, and Red Giant software to create their designs.

    The median rate for motion graphics designers is $18 to $35 per hour.

    Related: How To Make AI-Generated Art

    Brand and product designer

    Product designers combine product design and marketing skills to focus on both product function and the user experience. Their work helps products make an impactful connection with the target audience while resonating with the brand. Creating a relationship between brand strategy and product design helps ensure products meet user expectations and needs while reflecting the brand’s image.

    Skills include familiarity with UX and UI, product management tools, front-end coding, and design tools like InVision, Adobe XD, and Marvel POP. The median rate for product designers is $20 to $50 per hour.

    Related: 10 Branded Merchandise Ideas for Added Income

    Interior designer

    Interior designers use colors, lighting, furniture, artwork, and other decorative items to create physical spaces that are visually appealing and functional. They cover both home and commercial interior design, including health care facilities, office spaces, restaurants and lounges, schools, lobbies, and more.

    Tools typically include a color wheel or color scheme guide, Adobe Capture, SketchUp, Autodesk 3ds Max, measuring tapes, and building code guides.

    The median rate for interior designers is $15 to $28 per hour.

    Related: How To Start an Interior Design Business in 7 Steps

    Industrial designer

    Industrial designers combine art, engineering, and business to develop concepts for a wide range of manufactured devices, objects, and products, such as automobiles, toys, boats, housewares, sports equipment, computer hardware, medical devices, and more.

    Tools include KeyShot, SolidWorks, and Autodesk 3ds Max for modeling, ideation, and communicating design intent and aesthetics.

    The median rate for industrial designers is $20 to $50 per hour.

    Related: Packaging Design Guide

    Art and illustration designer

    Also called illustrators, these designers convey or portray written text with visual elements using traditional mediums, such as pencil sketches and ink drawings or digital tools. Illustrations appear on book covers and pages, posters, flyers, educational materials, magazines, ads, and infographics.

    Tools include Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Vectornator, ArtRage, a top-of-the-line graphics tablet, sets of drawing pencils and pens, and other art supplies.

    The median rate for art and illustration designers is $15 to $30 per hour.

    Related: How To Design an Infographic

    Fashion designer

    Fashion designers are creative professionals who design clothing and accessories, combining artistic skills with industry knowledge. They create visually appealing designs that reflect current fashion trends and resonate with the target audience.

    Besides having a strong sense of style, fashion designers need proficiency in sketching and pattern making and a knowledge of fabrics and materials. They stay updated with fashion trends, conduct research, and collaborate with team members and clients.

    The median rate for fashion designers is $20 to $50 per hour.

    What are the different levels of designers?

    Design is diverse and offers different design career paths. Designers fall into various levels based on skills, experience, and project complexity. Their levels dictate their skill sets, importance within a design team, and relevance for specific projects.

    Junior designer

    Junior designers are typically fresh out of school or a few years into their design careers. They work under the supervision of more senior staff, honing their design skills while assisting in the design process.

    Their responsibilities often include executing elements of larger projects, refining designs, and creating prototypes. A junior designer might be tasked with creating individual elements for a webpage, for instance.

    Senior designers

    With substantial experience under their belts, senior designers are responsible for crafting high-level strategic designs. They take on more complex projects, often leading a team of junior designers and serving as the main point of contact with clients or stakeholders.

    For example, a senior designer might oversee the entire visual design of a digital product project—from logo creation to the design of promotional materials.

    Design managers

    Design managers oversee and guide the design team’s workflow, ensuring the team is aligned and meets project objectives and timelines. They bring a mix of design expertise and strong leadership skills, coordinating resources, setting design standards, and fostering a creative environment.

    Think of design managers as the link between the design team and other departments in a company, such as marketing or product development.

    Directors of design

    Directors of design hold the highest level of responsibility in the design department. They set a company’s overall strategic design direction and make high-level decisions about the design and user experience of its products or services.

    They often set long-term goals, coordinate with top-level management, and establish a cohesive design vision across multiple departments or teams. For example, a director of design may spearhead a company’s efforts to integrate its branding across all customer-facing platforms.

    How to select the best designer for your needs

    Your selection criteria depend on the goals you’re trying to accomplish and the type of design work required to meet your objectives. Suppose you need someone to design a new ergonomic bicycle saddle and grips using a material you’ve patented. In that case, you’d look for an industrial designer, preferably someone with experience working with rigid materials and ergonomics.

    We cover ways to identify your design needs and find a designer to turn them into reality.

    1. Identify your design needs and medium

    Start by defining what you’re trying to achieve. Do you need a complex, highly interactive website or mobile application, or do you need a website with basic functionality, a fantastic look, and an easy-to-follow flow?

    Think about the kind of assets you’ll need, such as images and videos for a website. Or perhaps you want to develop animated infographics for digital marketing assets, combining images, charts, text, graphs, and other elements.

    2. Find a designer

    Finding a designer with the skills and experience to do the job used to be an extensive process. Today, a host of online platforms, social media channels, and job boards are available at your fingertips to help you find your next talented resource.

    Social media

    Social media recruiting is becoming a go-to for finding potential recruits. Businesses use Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to search for people with all types of skill sets, including designers.

    Advantages include the ability to potentially rule out candidates based on their social media posts. Social media may also reveal discrepancies. For example, if an applicant’s resume and Facebook profile indicate a different education and work background, this could be a red flag. Disadvantages include out-of-date profile information, and since viable candidates might not use social media to look for jobs, you could be missing out on finding top talent.

    Since social media isn’t streamlined for hiring, another slight disadvantage could be the increased time and effort to find the right person for the job. This might lead to delays in the hiring process and higher overall hiring costs.

    Job boards

    Employers advertise job vacancies and gather applications on job boards like CareerBuilder, Indeed, Glassdoor, and ZipRecruiter. Some job boards are general, while others cater to niches or specific industries.

    The advantages of using job boards include an extensive audience reach, 24/7/365 job posting viewing and application submission, and the ability to create an online employer brand. Disadvantages include receiving an avalanche of applications worldwide, sifting through unqualified candidates, and missing ideal candidates who aren’t actively applying for jobs but would be open to working for your company.

    Online hiring platforms

    Online hiring platforms connect independent talent to business clients actively looking to fill positions. Independent talent and job postings match based on a set of criteria.

    Once matched with open freelance jobs, independent professionals can choose to submit proposals to companies for evaluation. For example, Upwork is a widely used work marketplace that connects independent talent and businesses. The breadth and depth of the 10,000-plus skills available via Upwork are extensive and include designers in the 12 categories covered in this guide.

    You can create multiple job postings in various skill categories and filter potential candidates through prescreening questions. And if you don’t have the time, our Hire  service offers hand-picked, skilled talent for you to review based on your requirements.

    3. Review their work

    Even though someone looks good on paper, take the time to review their resume in detail, looking for years of experience, any formal education they may have in the field, and the companies they’ve worked for. If they pass the resume review, the next step is to review their portfolio. Look at each piece of work and ask questions.

    • Was their contribution part of a team? If so, how did collaboration occur, and what kinds of hurdles did they meet and address?
    • Was their solution successful, and if so, why?
    • What software and tools did they use to create the design?

    Since having too many projects in a portfolio can be distracting, tell a designer you only want to see four to six relevant projects they’ve completed.

    Offer a scenario in their line of work and ask them how they’d tackle it. Note that you’re not actually asking them to do any work at this point, just describe their process.

    4. Interview

    There’s no substitute for a well-planned, well-organized interview, whether face-to-face or through video conferencing. Allot 30 to 60 minutes for each interview and give the interviewee your undivided attention.

    In addition to the usual “tell me about yourself,” prepare and ask questions like:

    • How did you get into your chosen field?
    • What do you think makes someone a good designer?
    • What is your preferred design style?
    • What is the average cost of your design services?
    • How would you approach our design project and why?
    • What is the value of the design work you perform?
    • Are you using AI to support your design work? If so, how?
    • Do you consider yourself a team player, or do you prefer to work solo?
    • Tell me about a project in your portfolio that you’re most proud of, and walk me through the process you went through to create it.

    Many designers are now starting to use AI (artificial intelligence) to help in the ideation, creation, and execution steps of their work. Generative AI can provide help to streamline workflows, especially in repetitive processes. As a client, you can benefit from these actions while still maintaining control of creativity and decision-making.

    5. Hire a designer

    The hiring process will depend on whether you’re hiring a full-time employee or an independent professional. Let’s say you’re hiring independent talent from a work marketplace.

    Verify their resume and references, then agree on the start and end date, deliverables and milestones, and the pay rate, which could be hourly, per milestone or deliverable, or per project. Discuss and agree on specific terms, then put them in writing.

    Create a contract that spells out the agreement details, including work scope and ownership of the work (the independent professional or your company). Additionally, an independent professional may need to sign a confidentiality, nondisclosure, noncompete, or nonsolicitation agreement.

    Once the independent professional agrees to work for you, you’ll probably want them to start as soon as possible. Be sure you have a contractor onboarding process to help move things along quickly and contribute to the project’s overall success.

    Boost your business with top design pros

    All types of designers are in demand, and the results of their work can make or break a product or a small company. With this in mind, it’s time to elevate your project with high-quality design professionals.

    Hire the right designer for your specific needs on Upwork.

    If you are a talented designer, check out these tips on how to improve your designer profile on Upwork. Then search through the many design jobs in Talent Marketplace to find your next assignment.

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    The Most Common Types of Designers and What They Do
    The Upwork Team

    Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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