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Chapter 2
How to decide what kind of designer you need
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Chapter 2

How to decide what kind of designer you need

Let's say you've already finished the hiring process and a designer has joined your team. Now, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Why did you hire them?
  • What outcomes do you expect them to accomplish?
  • Do they fit your company's culture?

Unfortunately, one of the most common hiring mistakes is losing sight of your company's goals and values and hiring people who don't have relevant expertise, experience, or what it takes to be a good fit for your team. The financial costs of hiring the wrong candidate are tremendous, not to mention the time and effort that go to waste. Sometimes, companies just need to evaluate the skill sets of existing designers, spot knowledge gaps, and upskill their design teams.

How can hiring professionals and CEOs prevent such hiring failures and find the best UX design candidate without a fuss?


Assess your company's needs

Consider the question of why your company needs a designer in the first place. Sometimes, teams see that every company has a dedicated designer on their team and decide without due research that their product also needs one. While the vast majority of products will eventually benefit from a dedicated designer, not every company needs to hire a full-time, in-house designer right away.

Drew Hamlin, Senior Director, Product Design at Slack compares the design stages of a product with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When basic needs for food, water, and shelter are satisfied, people can build friendship, health, achievement, self-esteem, and desire to become a better version of themselves on top of this core.

We might look at the design process as a pyramid too.

“The core of this pyramid is the product's ability to solve a problem. Then, as a product gets mature, it goes up the ladder.”
Drew Hamlin, Senior Director, Product Design at Slack

When should you start thinking more seriously about your first design hire?

  • When should you start thinking more seriously about your first design hire? When your team has a lack of design expertise that prevents your business from getting to the market or engaging with the audience.
  • When aesthetic, user-friendly, and functional designs will give you a competitive advantage over other products with poorly designed interfaces.

Different types of designers carry out different roles — they may work on the user experience, evaluate usability, conduct user research, or take care of the visual parts of your product. To understand what type of designer you should hire, you should first assess your company's needs. Does your team require a specialist for a one-time task? An in-house designer available full-time? Or maybe you need to hire several people for multiple roles?

Assess the design team's performance to identify the most time-consuming tasks or tasks that no one seems to complete correctly. For example, you might realize that you don't know your users well, and the product lacks data about users' needs. Or you might have received feedback that your interfaces aren't appealing or are confusing to users. Depending on your problems, you can decide what design specialist will help you most.

Determine the type of designer you need

Think of your new designer as a solution to a specific problem. Knowing what gaps you have will help you define the type of designer and what skills they should have to solve these problems.

UX Designers

UX designers are responsible for establishing a positive interaction between users and the interface. They also aim to make products efficient, delightful, and accessible to everyone. UX designers advocate for users' needs and balance them with their company's business goals. Their responsibilities include:Applying the findings of user research,Creating user personas,Outlining the information architecture,Designing user flows, wireframes, and prototypes,Conducting usability testing and other user-focused tasks.

  • Applying the findings of user research,
  • Creating user personas,
  • Outlining the information architecture,
  • Designing user flows, wireframes, and prototypes,
  • Conducting usability testing and other user-focused tasks.

UI Designers

Understanding the difference between the responsibilities of a UI vs. UX designer can help you make the right choice and even reduce expenses. Some professionals underestimate UI designers, assuming they're only responsible for the visual aesthetics of a website or an application. In reality, UI designers also keep user experience in mind and are primarily focused on implementing designs that meet UX needs. They're highly knowledgeable of design principles and theories of composition, color, and typography and use their mastery to create aesthetically pleasing designs.

Product Designers

Product designers are high-level product managers of the design process. Like UX designers, they ensure the product's user experience meets the needs and expectations of end-users. However, they're also responsible for collaboration between departments, making sure teams meet deadlines, solve problems at various levels, and lead multiple UX and UI activities to ensure that the final product is consistent, user-friendly, and functional.

Visual Designers

Visual designers (also sometimes called "graphic designers") create eye-catching, sleek designs and deal with typefaces, colors, imagery, and other visual elements to properly represent a product.

UX Researchers

UX researchers do all of the fieldwork related to providing a great user experience. They plan and organize user testing and surveys, moderate user interviews, and analyze and articulate user data.

It’s common for many designers to possess diverse UX skills and some can combine the duties of a UX researcher and UI/UX designer, for example. This type of designer is called a generalist.

“Generalists are a great choice for companies that are just starting out in their journey with design.”
Drew Hamlin, Senior Director, Product Design at Slack

At first sight, generalists may seem perfect as they have proficiency in multiple disciplines. However, be cautious when hiring generalists as they may lack the required level of expertise to solve your more complex design challenges.

Conversely, design specialists have deep domain expertise and are more likely to produce best-in-class work.

Decide what skills you’re looking for

When you know the outcomes you want a designer to accomplish, you can specify the desired skills and competencies. For example, if you want a new hire to investigate the needs of your target audience, you should look for qualitative and quantitative research skills in addition to strong communication skills. Critical competencies for a UX designer role may also include attention to detail, integrity, proactivity, persistence, creativity, and openness to criticism.

Give your Designers a Competitive Edge

Investing in employee education is key to building a high-performance design team. With Uxcel, you can provide your team with top-notch learning materials and skill testing tools to build a culture of learning.
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Collaboration form and budget

Financial constraints may require you to adjust your expectations about the type of designer you can afford for your needs. However, keep in mind that you cannot hire a design professional with little experience or a new graduate and expect them to work as efficiently as senior designers.


Freelancers are the best fit for small and specific tasks and might charge you from $10 to $100 per hour or more, depending on experience and location. Unfortunately, freelancers usually work on multiple projects and won't always be available to reply to your messages instantly. Plus, sometimes, the quality of designs might suffer.

In-house designers

In-house designers represent the most expensive group. The average designer salary across 102 countries is $54,588, with the highest average of $102,614 in Switzerland. However, having an in-house designer means having a full-time high-end specialist with skills tailored to your product needs. Ideally, they're dedicated to your project alone and become experts of your brand and style.

“Having in-house designers increase your chances on the market, but it's also perhaps a luxury, or at least a goal you may need to work toward over time.”
Drew Hamlin, Senior Director, Product Design at Slack

He compares having your own team of designers and working with agencies/freelancers with owning your own house and renting one. The benefits are great, but it'll cost you more.

Design agencies

Netflix’s Principal Product Design Recruiter Carrie Cardona shares that design agencies are a safe bet for small companies and startups. They have experience working with various industries and offer various design services, including research and analysis. One of the most significant pros of engaging with agencies is having a complete design and operations team at your disposal (so-called "DesignOps"). Additionally, agencies that care about their reputation deliver high-quality work, conduct in-depth design processes, and maintain tight deadlines.

On the flip side, agencies will cost you more than hiring a freelancer, as many of them charge by the hour for any activity (e.g., a phone call) associated with the work.

Sadly, there's no one-fit-all solution when hiring a designer. You should estimate your budget, communicate with your team, understand the core objectives of hiring a new team member, and consider many other aspects (like the level of expertise, skills, and competencies) vital for your team and your business.

Be specific when defining the goals, needs, and deal-breakers when hiring a designer. You're more likely to find a candidate perfect for your company if you know what gaps you need to fill and what qualities and skills you're looking for. Learn more how to understand your team skill set with Uxcel's Teams.

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