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The Top 11 Types of Designers And Roles Explained

Anneke King
Anneke King7 min read
Design Roles Explained: Top 11 Types of Designers

Do you know the difference between graphic design and branding? UX and UI?

It’s okay if you don’t! The design world is constantly evolving and unless you’re a designer yourself, it can be tough to keep up with all the nuances and intricacies of every role. Plus, different designers can have wildly different specialties and skill sets.

Suppose you’re looking to find creative talent for a particular project, hire for a new design role or put together a design brief for an upcoming campaign. In that case, it’s good to know the different types of designers out there so you can make sure you find the best person for the job. At Superside, we have over 200 designers and counting on the team, specializing in nearly all types of design, so we’ve had to familiarize ourselves with the various types of designers and their skill sets to build the best team.

So how many types of designers are there? Here’s an overview of 11 different types of designers / design fields and their core areas of expertise, along with common titles and types of design work for each.

The Top 11 Types of Designers You Should Know About

1. Graphic Designer

Common titles:

  • Graphic Designer
  • Multimedia Designer
  • Visual Designer

Types of design work:

  • Social media ads, banners and graphics
  • Images for websites and blogs
  • Packaging design
  • Slide decks
  • Print design
  • Infographics

Commonly used software:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Typography

What does a Graphic Designer do?

Graphic designers are often responsible for creating designs for marketing and advertising materials. It’s a bit of a broad title for an often broad position. People in these roles can design for a wide range of platforms and create visual content for print, digital and mobile formats. For example, they may assist with slide decks and presentations, but that is likely only a small portion of their job. Whereas, for people who do this full time, their title may be something like “Presentation Designer.”

2. Motion Graphics Designer

Common titles:

  • Motion Designer
  • Motion Graphics Artist
  • Motion Design Specialist

Types of design work:

  • Animated social media graphics
  • Animated digital ads
  • Animated infographics
  • Animated logo builds and reveals
  • Animated explainer videos
  • Animated GIFs

Commonly used software:

  • After Effects
  • Animate
  • Premiere
  • Cinema 4D
  • Final Cut Pro

What does a Motion Graphics Designer do?

A motion designer is kind of a mix between a graphic designer and an animator. They can create animated designs for diverse media formats, from videos and Powerpoint presentations to digital ads and GIFs.

3. Animation Designer

Common titles:

  • Animator
  • 2D/3D Animator
  • Marketing Animator

Types of design work:

  • Animated videos
  • Commercials
  • Video games
  • Animated films

Commonly used software:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • After Effects
  • Cinema 4D

What does an Animation Designer do?

Animation designers, or animators, create moving images that tell stories or provide information. Most animators specialize in either hand drawing, designing 2D or 3D characters, or creating computer-generated images.

4. Brand Designer

Common titles:

  • Brand Designer
  • Creative Designer
  • Visual Designer

Types of design work:

  • Logos
  • Style guides
  • Social media design guidelines
  • Product packaging

Commonly used software:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Typography
  • SketchUp Pro
  • KeyShot
  • InVision

What does a Brand Designer do?

Brand designers define and create a company’s visual language. Using elements like typography, illustrations, colors, photography, logos and icons, they help organizations establish and maintain a clear and concise brand voice, tone and personality across digital and physical platforms.

5. Creative Director

Common titles:

  • Creative Director
  • Creative Manager
  • Associate Creative Director

Types of design work:

  • Creative team management
  • Strategic decision-making
  • Overseeing creative development

Commonly used software:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign

What is a Creative Director?

A Creative Director is typically the head of the creative team. These professionals have the final say on what goes to the client (or upper management) and make important managerial and creative direction decisions. They’re skilled design team leaders with excellent project management skills. It’s important to note that any type of designer can become a Creative Director! Whether they’re proficient in motion design or illustration, it’s more about their design leadership skills and expertise.

6. Art Director

Common titles:

  • Art Director
  • Digital Art Director
  • Senior Art Director

Types of design work:

  • Idea generation
  • Design selection
  • Ad layout creation

Commonly used software:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign

What does an Art Director do?

Art Directors are responsible for defining a design project’s overall look and managing the creative process on a more day-to-day level, such as overseeing budgets and selecting designs. Like Creative Directors, they tend to have excellent leadership skills and vast project management experience.

7. UX Designer

Common titles:

  • UX Designer
  • UX Manager
  • UI/UX Designer

Types of design work:

  • Prototyping
  • User personas
  • User flows
  • Wireframes
  • User testing

Commonly used software:

  • Sketch
  • InVision
  • Figma
  • Adobe XD

What does a UX Designer do?

UX (user experience) designers help conceptualize and optimize a user’s entire experience with your product or company.

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8. UI Designer

Common titles:

  • UI Designer
  • UI/UX Designer
  • Visual designer
  • Interaction Designer

Types of design work:

  • Customer analysis
  • Design research
  • Branding and graphic development
  • User guides and storylines
  • UI prototyping
  • Interactivity and animation

Commonly used software:

  • InVision
  • Sketch
  • Adobe Comp
  • Mockflow
  • Figma
  • Adobe XD
  • Balsamiq

What does a UI Designer do?

UI designers, or user interface designers, conceptualize and optimize all of the visual elements that a user would interact with, such as buttons, icons, typography, spacing, color schemes and responsiveness.

9. Web Designer

Common titles:

  • Web Designer
  • Front-end Designer
  • Visual Web Designer

Types of design work:

  • Website design
  • Landing pages

Commonly used software:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Dreamweaver
  • WordPress
  • Squarespace
  • HTML, CSS and Javascript

What does a Web Designer do?

Web designers are responsible for the overall look and feel of a website or webpage. Their overarching goal is to combine visual elements like the layout, colors, fonts, icons, and buttons in a functional and aesthetically appealing way while also serving the business’ needs and goals.

10. Product Designer

Common titles:

  • Product Designer
  • Digital Product Designer
  • Visual Designer

Types of design work:

  • Journey maps
  • Wireframes
  • Prototypes

Commonly used software:

  • Illustrator
  • Photoshop
  • Figma
  • InVision
  • Sketch
  • Adobe Comp
  • Mockflow
  • Adobe XD
  • Balsamiq

What does a Product Designer do?

Product designers use different facets and design tools to create and execute solutions to a user’s problems. While visual appeal is an important factor, they’re more concerned with figuring out how people will use the product. Sometimes this role may be called UX or UI Designer, depending on the company.

11. Illustrator

Common titles:

  • Illustrator
  • 2D Artist
  • 2D Designer

Types of design work:

  • Packaging design
  • Website images
  • Social media ads
  • Blog post images

Commonly used software:

  • Illustrator
  • Procreate
  • PaintTool SAI
  • Adobe Animate
  • After Effects
  • Photoshop

What does an Illustrator do?

Illustrators create designs and images for various companies and industries, from children’s books to advertising. While some illustrators use more traditional techniques like painting or sketching, others use illustration and editing software for their work.

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Final Words

It’s important to note that there are even more types of designers than the ones we’ve listed on the list. These are just the most popular roles in companies today. Besides business/marketing-related roles, like Product Packaging Designers, there are also positions like Interior Designer or Industrial Designer. There are also DesignOps Managers who help keep design teams running smoothly. It all depends on the type of design you require and how narrow that focus is.

Before you start looking for designers for your team or projects, you should have a solid understanding of the concept of design itself. Let’s face it – many people think design is synonymous with visual content and ‘making things look pretty.’ While these are major priorities for many of the design fields listed, it’s also so much more than that.

Designers can be decorators and architects, creating products and experiences that are as effective and efficient as they are delightful. Now that you have a better idea of what different designers do and the skills they possess, it’ll be a lot easier for you to find the specific talent you need.

Published: Jan 17, 2021
Anneke King
Written by
Anneke King
Anneke King is an Executive Creative Director at Superside, where she grows processes, design teams and clients in an effort to make the world a beautiful place. She lives on coffee and flowers and spends her spare time illustrating, having breakfast and going on road-trips. Find her on IG @anneke_king

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