Ask DN: Definition of “Senior Designer” in your company?

over 8 years ago from , Product Designer

After it came up in a discussion with @jxrlee last week, I began to wonder how different companies define the ranks of their designers.

Some companies value experience, others value the number of platforms your can design for, others want to see a designer who codes. I'd imagine a lot try to balance the three. How do the qualifications pan out in your company?


  • Jian Wei LiauJian Wei Liau, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    Designers are problem solvers. This is how I would classify them:

    Junior designer: The problems and solutions are there and your job as a designer is to execute the design.

    Mid-level designer: The problem is there but the solution is not. Your job is to understand the problem and to create a solution.

    Senior designer: The problems and solutions are unknown. Your job is to identify the problem and create solution(s).

    102 points
    • Will Hitchcock, over 8 years ago

      I think that's a really great way to look at it.

      6 points
    • Jeffrey KamJeffrey Kam, over 8 years ago

      This is an excellent way of classifying them.

      2 points
    • Bob CBob C, over 8 years ago

      Nice! I'm gonna steal that ;-)

      0 points
    • Mitch Malone, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

      This is a good way to classify. I would also just add that levels should determine the problem scope as well.

      Junior designer: The scope of the work is limited to a discrete interface problem. E.g., design a form.

      Mid-level designer: The scope of work is a larger in scope. E.g., design a system, new workflow, etc.

      Senior designer: The scope of work affects the business as a whole. E.g., we are vulnerable in this space; we need to transform our business.

      8 points
    • Richard SisonRichard Sison, over 8 years ago

      Yeah, that's a pretty concise way to say it!

      Obviously, it's not necessarily THAT black-and-white across the board, but I love the simplicity of the comparison. It's really easy to understand where the core responsibilities lie and how each role relates to one another.

      0 points
    • Nav PaweraNav Pawera, over 8 years ago

      Very well put!

      0 points
    • Vinay ChilukuriVinay Chilukuri, over 8 years ago

      Very nicely put.

      0 points
  • Mike HeitzkeMike Heitzke, over 8 years ago

    IMO, 'Senior' goes with making sure the design process is intelligent and the thinking behind everything. It's knowing which battles to fight, when to die on a hill for something, as well as balancing business objectives, budgets, as well as your time.

    Also IMO, but a Senior designer is usually a utility type player and able to help out when needed, whether it's offer guidance or lend a hand to meet a deadline.

    9 points
  • Philip WeberPhilip Weber, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    I'd question why you are looking to rank designers.

    In my experience, junior/mid/senior is only useful for consultancies that want to be able to bill at a higher hourly rate for employees. It let's them manage their profit margin with high salary/high experience designers.

    If you are a product team, what value will assigning a level to each designer provide you? I find assigning responsibilities to be more effective and empowering.

    5 points
    • Gwen BrinsmeadGwen Brinsmead, over 8 years ago

      I would say this question is not about ranking designers.

      Because senior usually means experienced, it helps people understand what it means to be an experienced designer. What skills might come with time? What does experience mean? How do companies/individuals value different skills? What are difficult skills to learn that someone "senior" might know? etc...

      3 points
      • Philip WeberPhilip Weber, over 8 years ago

        Hehe. I agree with your second paragraph. Understanding the wisdom that experienced designers provide is valuable.

        This question literally is about ranking designers, though.

        I began to wonder how different companies define the ranks of their designers.

        0 points
    • Stuart FrisbyStuart Frisby, over 8 years ago

      I disagree wholeheartedly with you, and here's why:

      1. Titles (not ranks, that's something different IMO) help the rest of the organisation to establish 'who can I go to for help', 'who can help me become a better designer', 'who is best suited to tackle this particularly complex problem'. A product team of three probably doesn't need this kind of organisational design - but in my organisation, where we have around 90 designers, this becomes a really critical piece in how you organise your teams and people.

      2. Titles are signals of progress - I know we'd all like to believe that we are in a post-hierarchical, sit-in-a-circle-and-tell-me-how-you-feel era of founders in hoodies and unlimited vacations, but in the real world people like recognition, and they like to feel as though they are making professional progress and growing as an individual contributor within an organisation. The recognition that comes with a title is important & undervalued.

      Yes, titles can be misused in badly run businesses (Senior Vice President for Toilet Paper Design, LATAM), but in businesses which really think about organisational design, and maintaining a happy & motivated staff, they're a really good tool.

      5 points
  • Abhishek SureshAbhishek Suresh, over 8 years ago

    My company's Senior Designer job description wants a wolverine on a magical unicorn at $25 per hour.

    3 points
  • Jordan KoscheiJordan Koschei, over 8 years ago

    My favorite senior designer.

    1 point
  • Caleb SylvestCaleb Sylvest, over 8 years ago

    The ranks of employees seems to vary at every company. But I think this article by Ben Jordan sets a fairly good understanding of Junior, Mid, and Senior designer: http://blog.invisionapp.com/how-to-design-your-design-team/

    1 point