Designers! What is your profession? A deep dive in to job titles.
How you name your self matters. It's how clients percieve you, it's the first thing people see on your resume. As designers we tend to go for simplicity, yet we have thousands of job names and fancy descriptions.
I would like to dig deep and give you an overview, in the hope that you can find a job title that suits your dreams and hopes. Of course, the best way to look into this is to get some input from the community. I did a couple of polls on different communities.
1. The logo geek community poll.
There was a good amount of response from this facebook community, run by the ever friendly Ian Paget. There were 150 people that answered the poll. As we can see, 60% of the answers said 'Graphic designer'. It seems this term is still an industry standard and a good umbrella for a lot types of designers. Brand designer is up and coming with a 16%. We can see 'niche' labels like logo designer swinging in the bottom. I think this is part of a general discourse where designers start seeing the scope of their job wider then just logo design. In fact, you can't design a good logo if you don't think about the identity, the graphics and even the strategy.
In the comments there was an interesting discussion. Some members mentioned the importance of using multiple 'hats' depending on the situation.
"In my view a graphic design is a general term that's been around for a lot longer then other suggested titles and is the safest bet. But given how people now see brand identity as a must have. You must show what your strengths are on a client by client bases. Today I'm a design negotiator, Tomorrow I'm a brand strategist, next week I'm an art director the following week prop designer and so on.. "
Also, other terms were mentioned, such as :
"I've started to use visual strategist, seems to cover everything I do and people have responded very positively to the change."
2. The LTB community
As you can see it also depends a lot how you ask the question. Due to the instagram 'poll' option only has 2 choices, I thought it would be interesting to put job titles next to each other. Here we can see 'Brand designer' losing against graphic designer but winning against 'identity' designer. Again, logo designer comes out as the big 'loser' in this situation.
Choosing your job title is not easy, you don't want it to be 'boxing' you in as a lot of people have mentioned, on the other hand, when you say you are a designer, it can be quite vague as for example Thomas Sturm mentions in a conversation with Gil Huybrecht:
Gil : "But I don’t really like saying like I’m a web designer, or logo designer, in general if people ask me what I do i just say I’m a designer".
Thomas "But then you could also be understood as a fashion designer"
Community member Dan Baciu has an interesting vision as wel:
"One other thing you could do, since you’re the head of the studio / one of the main designers, is call yourself a Principal Designer. By definition, it’s a designer who’s focused on the business of the studio as well and has a strong voice in everything; personally I use that since when I say I’m a brand designer (which I still do sometimes) people think “oh he makes logos and styleguides” when I’m actually doing strategy and copywriting as well, and I feel Principal just kinda points to somebody being involved in every aspect of a brand."
And finally Gyor Moore mentions a similar note:
"I think its quite logical. We design, we live a design lifestyle, but that doesn’t really make you one specific type of designer. Sometimes I guess if you specialize but usually freelancers do a bunch of things. When I say just designer they're usually like oh you design clothes?"
So we see there are so much stories connected to to a job/business title. It depends on the context you are in, even the country you are in. It depends on the goal you have: getting a client, going freelance, landing an agency job or moving up in a big corporation. But choosing this title is important, it's part of your reputation and can influence how people percieve you.
Let's take a look at some of the ways we can structure these names:
A. Seniority en Hierarchy
An easy way to keep track of names in agency/corporate world is seniority, senior brand strategist, junior designer,... This is a handy way for recruiters, companies to get to know your years of 'experience' in the market. As a freelancer, it's not that easy to earn your stripes, clients won't be persuaded by saying: I'm a senior freelance graphic designer. You need to show them your work and reputation to get a sale.
Another easy way in the agency world is to work with titles that signal 'hierarchy'. Functions such as 'lead designer', lead product or creative 'director' point to a highter position in the hierarchy. In a lot of cases, a 'junior' designer goes trough the steps and grows and goes up a level becoming a 'lead' or director as the ultimate goal.
There is some danger in this aswel, as loaded functions also come with a lot of responsibility. Cora Chrysa shares here story:
"I got a job as Lead designer. That was a former role with a start up marketing consulting company. It was and one other woman who did all the marketing strategy and new business. She had never worked in an agency, only in-house with some big brands. So she wasn’t familiar with some of the usual titles of CD, AD, or designer. That role was a mess and taught me that no name companies with unique titles like that either don’t know the industry and won’t be a good working environment or are trying to find a marketing/advertising/PR account person who can also create content, designs or photos. It’s usually a red flag for me. They want a PM, Designer, AD, CD, strategist, photographer, copywriter,account manager but only want to pay you for one role. So they make up a title to justify the insane workload."
So always be aware that a title can also be misleading, so when looking for new job opportunities, keep that in mind!
B. Field of work
Are you in strategy? Or in 'logo design'? A lot of job titles point to the specific skillset you have. For example: a logo designer is a pretty clear name for what you are doing. But, it is often times limiting, for example, as a logo designer you also create identities, do graphical work, ... So defining your field or work is interesting for clients, because they can 'GET' what you do in the blink of an eye. But make sure you do not limit yourself to much.
C. Creative names
Next to the industry standards, there also a lot of people using creative or more unique names/titles to stand out and create there own space. For example community member Davy Denduyver branded himself as 'creator of things/collector of thoughts'.
So, what should I call myself?
Similar to what your tagline should be as a company, you have to take many things into account:
- What's your goal ? For example, if you want to get hired, look at profiles in the companies you want to work at and use a similar title
- Who's your audience? If you're freelancing, think about your clients. Ask your clients how they found you, what your titles means for them. Also look at where you are, for example, in Belgium, branding is still not a term used so much by clients.
- Find the balance between broad scope and specific skills: don't box yourself in, but don't be unrealistic, you can't be everything at once.
- Think about the context: A name is just a name, it's about your complete reputation, how you present yourself, will the name be on a resume? Or on your business cards?
- Does it support your vision? Does it fit your purpose and beliefs? Does it fit your personal brand?
After this research i've decided for myself: I'm a brand designer. Here's why:
Broad/specific: I work on the intersection between branding and design. Designing a brand on all it's aspects, from the experience to the logo and identity. Identity design would be to specific for me, while 'design' is not specific enough.
Goal: I'm working as a freelancer and employee. So I want clients that believe in the power of branding. If they contact mee because they want a brand designer, they already believe in 'branding' as proces.
Purpose: I believe strategy is also part of the 'design' proces, your solving a problem by positionining. That's why 'Brand design' supports my strategic and visuals skillset
I hope you got some understanding. And above all, I believe your job title is just a small part of your brand, and consistency is key. So make sure your title fits with your purpose, that it connects with your reputation and personality.