Types of designers
Gone are the days where we simply had “web designer” or “graphic designer” positions. Search for “designer” these days and you’ll find mentions of UX designers, UI designers, mobile designers, motion designers, and more. So what do the different designer roles actually mean and what do they entail?
(Note: salary ranges for each position are from Glassdoor.com and are in US dollars.)
UX designers focus on creating user-friendly experiences in digital products. They’re responsible for making sure that a product meets user needs and wants. Beyond that, they aim to create products that are more than adequate; they focus on creating products that delight users.
Their main focus is on user research and how to translate that research into product functions and features. They work closely with UI designers, UX researchers, and other stakeholders to create digital products that exceed user expectations and beat their competition.
The job outlook for UX designers is excellent. CNN Money expects UX design to grow by 18% between 2015 and 2025. Nielsen Norman Group predicts explosive growth in the field. In 2020 they estimated there were roughly a million UX designers worldwide and by 2050 that number may grow to as many as 100 million.
UX Designer salary — $81,000–165,000 per year
UI designers are responsible for the look and feel of digital products. They create the interfaces we use every day. While they keep user experience in mind, their focus is more on using visuals to create exceptional user experiences in attractive ways.
UI designers use creative problem-solving techniques to design interfaces that are both innovative and user-friendly. They work closely with UX designers and developers to create products that meet user needs while also being visually appealing.
The job outlook for UI designers is good. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 10-year growth expected for digital designers (and web developers) is 13% between 2020 and 2030. That’s a faster-than-average growth rate compared with other careers.
UI Designer salary — $69,000–127,000 per year
UX/UI designers combine the roles of UX and UI designers, often guiding a digital product through the entire design process. They conduct user research, create wireframes, and translate those wireframes into finished products.
UX/UI designers may work with other designers, developers, and any other stakeholders on a design project. They need to have both strong analytical skills as well as strong creative problem-solving skills. It’s an excellent option for people who love both the data-driven side of design along with the more creative aspects.
The job outlook for UX/UI designers is on par with that for each specialization individually. As mentioned already, that means faster-than-average growth for this position.
UX/UI Designer salary — $55,000–125,000 per year
A product designer or industrial designer is a position of great responsibility as they're involved in all stages of product development, from ideation to launch, and have influence over final design decisions. Product designers are responsible for delivering functional, attractive, user-friendly, and affordable digital products and services. Most of their work revolves around strategy, design process planning, identifying opportunities for a product, and overseeing its implementation.
Product designers should know how to conduct user research and testing, do product roadmapping, run design sprints, and identify market opportunities. Meanwhile, soft skills like strategic thinking, leadership, communication, collaboration, problem-solving, and empathy are even more critical and take longer to master.
Despite limited employment growth, there are about 2700 openings for industrial designers annually, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This role will remain in demand as the need for intuitive design and sophisticated technology continue to evolve. A competitive product designer salary makes this job one of the most desired in the design field.
Product Designer salary — $76,000–121,000 per year
UX researchers focus on the — you guessed it — user research aspects of a design project. They focus on both quantitative and qualitative data about the users for a digital product, and help translate those things into usable information for the design team.
UX researchers conduct most of their work at the outset of a project, before the “design” parts happen. They may be heavily involved in things like creating user journeys and basic wireframes. They may also conduct user testing throughout the design process.
In 2017, CNN Money estimated the 10-year job growth for UX researchers to be 19%, which is much higher than the average growth across careers. It was ranked #39 that year for the best jobs in America.
UX Researcher salary — $79,000–210,000 per year
Visual designers have a role similar to UI designers, but work on digital designs for things other than user interfaces. They design everything from content marketing and social media graphics to infographics and editorial illustrations.
Visual designers need to have strong digital design skills first and foremost. They also need to understand how to create visual elements that will appeal to their target audience, so some basic UX knowledge is also helpful. Visual designers may work with UI and UX designers, content marketing teams, or any other department that has a need for digital graphics.
According to Zippia, the demand for Visual Designers is expected to grow by 3% between 2018 and 2028. While there’s some career growth for visual designers, it’s not as high as some other design roles.
Visual (Graphic) Designer salary — $50,000–120,000 per year
Motion Graphics Designer
Motion graphics designers create a variety of graphics for digital products. They may create animated video content, animated GIFs, splash screens, or even microanimations for user interfaces. Their work spans beyond user interfaces to also include content for social media and advertising.
Motion graphics designers work alongside UX and UI designers to create the moving parts of user interfaces.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for “Special Effects Artists and Animators” is expected to be 16% between 2020 and 2030, twice the average growth for all occupations.
Motion Designer salary — $42,000–102,000 per year
Mobile designers work primarily on the interface design of mobile apps. They may also work on mobile versions of web apps or websites. They need to have a thorough understanding of the patterns that create highly usable mobile products, which differ in many ways from the UIs of websites or desktop apps.
Mobile designers work closely with developers, UX designers, and other stakeholders on mobile apps.
While it’s difficult to find statistics specifically for mobile designers, the job outlook is similar to that for other UI and UX design positions. A quick look at LinkedIn Jobs shows over 10,000 open mobile UI designer positions.
Mobile Designer salary — $58,000–134,000 per year
Many of the skills and qualifications for these design roles are the same or similar. In all of these positions, creative problem-solving skills and the ability to collaborate with others will take you far. Salary ranges are also fairly similar for all positions, and they all have good job growth outlooks over the next 10–30+ years. Which positions is right for you will depend on the exact types of design projects you most enjoy working on.