The evolution of designer species

We are witnessing an interbreed of the different designer roles, let’s distill each of them.

“If you imagine a product as the human body, the bones represent the code which give it structure. The organs represent the UX design: measuring and optimizing against input for supporting life functions. And UI design represents the cosmetics of the body–its presentation, its senses and reactions.” (Emil Lamprecht)

designer roles

My closest friend is a designer and front-end developer and every time we catch up with some acquaintances they ask him the same boring question:

  • “So, as a designer what do you actually do day to day?” And he suddenly finds himself in the same never-ending explanatory situation, where another dozen of questions like:
  • “So it’s not only Photoshop and Sketch?”, “You have to code as well?” – pop up.

The truth is that now the umbrella term “designer” covers a broad and large number of definitions. In the past it was used for and referred to experts in both the graphic and web design field.

As the industry matured various well-defined, detached design roles sprung into existence. More and more complex tasks have been broken down into smaller parts and grew into separate professions with different duties, responsibilities and job descriptions.

Let’s see what are the differences between the following roles and distill what each of these titles really mean.

UX designers: how the product feels for the user

User experience starts with a solid understanding of the user. Creating User Personas is part of the job. Personas are detailed demographic and psychographic portraits of fictional characters created to represent the different user types and what motivates them.

Developing product flows. Conducting in-person user tests is a common task. This way he can observe user’s behavior by identifying verbal and non-verbal stumbling blocks, which helps them to craft the best user experience.

Creating simple static wireframes and interactive prototypes. Observing the customer navigating through the prototype in a test environment before launch is essential for learning.

Focusing on all things that might positively or negatively affect a person’s experience. This would extend beyond the UI (basic things like reliable content and fast load times) as well as the more interesting things like playful interactions, creating flow and arousing curiosity.

UI designers: how the product is laid out

User Interface Design is a versatile and challenging role. The designers role is to create every screen or page with which a user interacts and to ensure that the user interface visually communicates the path that a UX designer has put out.

UI represents the crossroad between programming and design. UI design is more like a craft, since UI designers are actually building something tangible using skills, talent, know-how and techniques acquired through experience.
They are also usually responsible for creating a close-knit style guide and to ensure that a logical design language is applied across the product.

Visual designers: how the product looks

If you ask a layman this is what they think a designer is: a person who pushes pixels and creates stunning logos, graphics, marketing materials, icons and other visual elements.

A visual designers tools are Photoshop and Sketch and with the help of these he adjusts every single visual element for a perfect end result. They dominate the science of typography, colors, symmetry and visual trends.

Front-End developer: code the visual interactions

Developing a functional implementation of a product’s interface is usually a front-end developers number one responsibility. A front-end web developer implements visual elements that users see and interact with in a web application. They are generally supported by back-end web developers. JavaScript, CSS, HTML, WordPress are a front-end developers tool of trade among others.

Some companies have separate job positions for every role, while other consider the boundaries between these various design roles fluid.

Design roles have a distinct cross-disciplinary character which makes it hard to come up with solid definitions for them.

Do you work in the design field? Which job description suits best your everyday work and where do you position yourself? Also, let me know if you agree with these descriptions.

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