Maybe its nostalgia, but I came up as a Web Designer, and I don’t see that title enough these days. Better yet, I don’t see a title that is as al-encompassing as Web Designer was. Today, many designers solely focus on very specific subsets of that all-encompassing title. UX Designer, UI Designer, UX Researcher. The list goes on (I think). I have been responsible for hiring such positions and I always find the position’s requirements limiting. The designers I hire are more than just a “UX” or “UI” person. They need to have a solid design sense and strive to create beautiful visuals to accompany their validated user solutions. I see designers who would have been a Web Designer calling themselves “hybrids” or UX/UI Designers. That sounds cumbersome and not as all encompassing as you would hope.
From Web Designer to…?
I’ve seen first hand businesses splitting the design role into a number of specialties. There is value in that from a process standpoint, but it removes a level of accountability on certain designers. If a designer chooses to narrow their focus, that closes off some creative doors and room for growth. A UX designer may become stagnant and antsy if they are unable to explore the research or visual aspects of a products development. I’ve had conversations with my designers where they felt pigeon-holed by their title and responsibilities.
Being multifaceted is important
All designers should know how to research. Every UI person should be well versed in user testing procedures. A UX Researcher should have no problem getting their hands dirty in a design system. I don’t say this to discredit or belittle a specific sect of designers. I mean to embolden every designer to be as well-rounded as possible. Design leaders in organizations are the folks who are not only able to manage a team, but know the ins-and-outs of their designer’s skillset. At some point in a Deign Director’s career, they touched every part of the design process. If that is a position you hope to attain, continue your design education and do the things you aren’t comfy doing.
Who are you to say anything?
I was a Web Designer for most of my early career. I had to take on all aspects of the design process all by my lonesome. It was the gig. When I found myself in a managerial position, the skills I cultivated over the years as a multifaceted designer came in handy every living day. I was able to relate to my designers and developers, which helped foster a strong relationship between engineering and design. I knew the process by which products had to be developed, so setting a process for how design should work with tech flowed out of me with ease. All because I made sure to try a little bit of everything.
I understand that today the title of Web Designer may be a bit limiting as well. The title “Product Designer” gives people a bit more agency and responsibility. You aren’t simply the wireframe maven, or the UI specialist. You are a creative who understands what it takes to design and develop a human-centered product.