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 kinds of designers to choose from, finding the right one for your business needs is essential. In this guide, we outline the 11 most common types of designers and what they do, and 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 our top design experts to augment your team and fulfill your needs.
11 most common types of designers
Some designers have been used in business and industry for decades. Others are a result of modern technology and digital transformation. In addition to a passion for graphic design, what today’s designers share among one another is the use of technology to create and perfect their work. Most designers, especially those who develop visual creations, also have a fundamental understanding of design’s core principles. Here we’ve compiled a list of the most common types of designers you can hire for your business needs.
User interface (UI) designer
User experience (UX) designer
UX designers shape the products and services we use. This can include physical components such as a video game device, as well as your experience using a website, a mobile application, an IoT (internet of things) interface such as one for wearable medical technology, or an e-commerce store. They regularly work with UI designers who develop the look, while UX designers are responsible for the overall experience a user has with a digital or physical product. Tools typically used by UX designers include Sketch, InVision Studio, and AdobeXD, to name a few. The average rate for UX designers ranges from $35 to $75 per hour.
Graphic designers create visual concepts such as illustrations, logos, and layouts, using computer software programs or drawing them manually. Their designs are used for websites, logos, magazines, product packaging, infographics, marketing brochures, manuals, books, billboards and signs, and more. Those that design digital images and layouts use software, such as CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, Affinity Designer, and Adobe’s Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. The average rate for graphic designers ranges from $25 to $65 per hour.
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. Tools commonly used by animation designers include Cinema 4D, Adobe InDesign, Adobe After Effects, 3D Studio Max, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, UX wireframes, and more. The average rate for animation designers ranges from $35 to $95 per hour.
Motion graphics designer
Motion designers are artists that put graphics in motion—working with films, digital advertising and commercials, website content, television, and game development. They typically use Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, Illustrator, Cinema 4D, Mocha AE, and Red Giant software to create their designs. The average rate for motion graphics designers ranges from $35 to $75 per hour.
Brand and product designer
Product designers combine product design and marketing skills, focusing on both product function and the user experience, to help your products make an impactful connection with your target audience while resonating with your brand. Creating a relationship between brand strategy and product design helps ensure products meet end-user expectations and needs while reflecting the brand image. The skills required include familiarity with UX and UI, product management tools, front-end coding, and design tools such as Sketch, Invision, Adobe XD, and Marvel POP. The average rate for product designers ranges from $40 to $85 per hour.
Interior designers create physical spaces that are both visually appealing and functional with the use of colors, lighting, furniture, artwork, and other decorative items. They cover both home and commercial building interior design that includes healthcare facilities, office spaces, restaurants and lounges, schools, lobbies, and more. The tools they typically use include a color wheel or color scheme guide, Adobe Capture, SketchUp, Autodesk 3ds Max, measuring tapes, and building code guides. The average rate for interior designers ranges from $30 to $75 per hour.
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 used include Keyshot, SolidWorks, and Autodesk 3ds Max for modeling, ideation, and communicating design intent and aesthetics. The average rate for industrial designers ranges from $40 to $90 per hour.
Art and illustration designer
Also called illustrators, these designers create visual ways to 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 inside books, posters, flyers, educational materials, magazines, ads, and infographics. Tools used include Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Vectornator (for illustrators using Apple products), ArtRage, a top-of-the-line graphics tablet, and sets of drawing pencils and pens, as well as other art supplies. The average rate for art and illustration designers ranges from $30 to $100 per hour.
How to select the best graphic 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. For example, 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 versus a front-end website designer. Below we cover ways to identify your design needs and find a designer to turn them into reality.
1. Identify your graphic design needs and medium
Start by defining what you’re trying to achieve. Do you need a complex, highly interactive website or mobile application developed, or do you need a website with basic functionality that has a fantastic look and 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 to be used as digital marketing assets, combining images, charts, text, graphs, and other elements. In most cases, you’ll be able to identify one or two types of designers that could be right for the job and eliminate those that aren’t the right fit. For instance, you wouldn’t use a web designer to create motion infographics.
2. Find a designer
Finding a designer with the skills and experience to do the job used to be an extensive process. Today, you have a host of online platforms, social media channels, and job boards available at your fingertips to help find your next hire.
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 overall higher total hiring costs.
Employers advertise job vacancies and gather applications via job boards such as Careerbuilder, Indeed, Glassdoor, and ZipRecruiter. Some job boards are general, while others cater to niches or specific industries. Advantages of using job boards include an extensive audience reach, 24/7/365 job posting viewing and application submission, and your company’s ability to create an online employer brand. Disadvantages include receiving an avalanche of applications worldwide, sifting through many applications from 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 are matched 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 5,000-plus skills available via Upwork are extensive and include designers in the 11 categories covered in this guide. You can create multiple job postings in various skill categories and filter potential candidates through pre-screening questions. If you don’t have the time, Upwork’s Talent Scout service offers hand-picked top skilled talent for you to review based on your requirements.
3. Review their work
Even though someone looks good on paper, always 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?
Offer a scenario in their line of work and ask them how they’d tackle it. Since having too many projects in a portfolio can be distracting, tell a designer you only want to see four to six projects.
There’s no substitute for a well-planned, well-organized interview, whether it’s face-to-face or via videoconferencing. 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, such as:
- 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?
- 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.
5. Hire a designer
The hiring process will depend on if you’re hiring a full-time employee or an independent professional. Let’s say you’re hiring independent talent from a work marketplace. Verify the resume and references, then agree on the start and end date, deliverables and milestones, and the pay rate, which may 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, whether it’s the independent professional or your company. Additionally, an independent professional may need to sign a confidentiality, non-compete, or non-solicitation agreement.
Once an independent professional agrees to do work for you, you’ll probably want them to get started as soon as possible. Be sure you have a contractor onboarding process in place to help get things moving quickly and ultimately contribute to the project’s overall success.
All types of designers are in demand now more than ever, and the results of their work can make or break a product or a small company. With the rapid introduction of new technologies and platforms, it makes sense to augment your team and hire top independent talent with the experience and skills needed to complete a project on time and with the level of quality you expect.