Ask DN: What does the "full stack designer" title really mean?

over 7 years ago from , Product Designer

I just saw an advert on DN for a fullstack designer role... and I'm kind of turned off by it. I'm assuming a full stack designer does print work as well as web based work? Interior design too? How about furniture? Can anyone clarify?

I got my degree in graphic design, but I have since switched to digital/web work. I would never go as far to say I'm a fullstack designer... I feel like the line has been crossed with job titles in our industry. Anyone else?


  • Joel CalifaJoel Califa, over 7 years ago

    Hey, I coined this unfortunately. It's like a regular designer but with more anxiety.

    36 points
  • Sherizan SheikhSherizan Sheikh, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    Full Stack Designer means you get paid as one person to do a 4 person's job :)

    20 points
    • Paul Sawaya, over 7 years ago

      In my experience this is true of everyone at an early stage startup.

      2 points
    • Ix TechauIx Techau, over 7 years ago

      Well...it means you have the skill set of four people, not that you're working 4x more than others.

      1 point
      • Sherizan SheikhSherizan Sheikh, over 7 years ago

        If you are talking about a mid/senior level designer, you have all the skill sets required but that doesn't mean you should do everything and burn yourself out. Focus on things you are good at and execute them well.

        You have targets as a Design team to achieve and hogging every task because you are a Unicorn/Full Stack designer diminishes your quality of work and in return you meet your targets with a lot of struggles and unpolished work.

        1 point
        • Ix TechauIx Techau, over 7 years ago

          Why would you burn yourself out, unless you're working more? I'm probably a full-stack designer but I work 8 hours a day. Just because I have a broader skill set doesn't mean I work more.

          0 points
          • Sherizan SheikhSherizan Sheikh, over 7 years ago

            What's your day to day like? What is the size of your startup? How big is your Design team? What kind of targets do you have as a whole? What is your product and how many verticals does your team own?

            0 points
            • Ix TechauIx Techau, over 7 years ago

              I go from task to task, and they all require different skill sets. Sometimes I spend a few hours on our print material, and then I dive into CSS animations for the rest of the day. It varies. Has been the same whether I'm at a three-man startup or a 20+ employee company, etc.

              But again, I don't understand why you believe a full-stack designer means you are working more than a specialised designer? You said full-stack means you get paid as one person to do a four-person job...but that insinuates you think a full-stack designer works four times more for the same pay.

              0 points
    • Michael LangMichael Lang, over 7 years ago

      This is the best one.

      0 points
  • Chris GillisChris Gillis, over 7 years ago

    It refers to a designer that can not only design, but also has the skills to make pancakes.

    18 points
  • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    I believe this is referring to the UX design stack as outlined in The Elements of User Experience Design by Jesse James Garret.

    So a full stack designer would have skills in: Strategy, Content, Interaction design, Information architecture, Information design, UI design, Visual design

    It basically means a you're a design generalist rather than a specialist.

    8 points
  • Pasquale D'SilvaPasquale D'Silva, over 7 years ago

    It's vague. Steer clear of whoever thinks that is a good bucket.

    7 points
  • Account deleted over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    Andy, I'd stay away from any company advertising for a role with that title. It sounds like they just want one 'design' guy to do anything and everything, rather than actually invest in their team. Any organization that values and understands design realizes that it takes a proficiency in various skill sets in order to wholly solve their problem.

    Based on my observations/experience, it seems like a term that's catching on among younger, more junior designers as a means to make themselves sound more valuable in the marketplace. Now, the trend its trickling up to companies who think these types of people can save them capital. On a side note–anyone making the claim of being "full stack" is probably not actually proficient in one of the insinuated skills.

    5 points
    • Andy Leverenz, over 7 years ago

      Thanks Atif, I'm not actually looking for a job but I saw that title and it was an instant red flag. There's all too many perceived titles like this these days which makes it even harder to find a genuine job.

      1 point
  • Andy ChipperfieldAndy Chipperfield, over 7 years ago

    My understanding is that it means pre-launch UX (content analysis, IA, wireframing etc), UI and front-end dev. So you take the design from design thinking to on-screen finish, before the back-end dev's start their work.

    Having said that, designer titles are all over the place at the moment, so it could mean less, it could mean more, it all depends on what the employers think it means and what they want you to be able to do.

    4 points
  • Dave HawkinsDave Hawkins, over 7 years ago

    It's a made up title and the requirements will differ depending on whatever company is advertising. If your turned off by it just move on :)

    3 points
  • Dustin CartwrightDustin Cartwright, over 7 years ago

    I think the disconnect is the lack of a defining industry keyword in the title. Having only "Full stack Designer" is vague, but something like "Full stack Web Designer" is much more clear.

    Really though, titles are always relative. The expectations of a visual designer within one company could be vastly different from that same role in another. Titles are simply an efficient way to market yourself and what you do in one line; Sometimes it's hard to boil down a diverse skill set into a few simple words.

    3 points
  • pjotr .pjotr ., over 7 years ago

    People say Full Stack Designer when they don't want to say Product Designer (which they actually are)

    2 points
    • Paul Sawaya, over 7 years ago

      We considered "Product Designer" as well, but we felt like it excluded stuff like marketing/landing pages, print materials, logo/branding, and illustrations.

      0 points
  • Mitch Malone, over 7 years ago

    It refers to the requirements for a generalist role typically seen at technology startups. At a minimum, it means interaction design + visual design + front-end engineering.

    2 points
  • Marcus Proietti, over 7 years ago

    Sounds like a startup.

    1 point
  • Casey BrittCasey Britt, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    All titles are bullshit. Especially ones like this. Responsibilities and job description are what matter.

    1 point
  • Paul Sawaya, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks for asking this. We posted an ad here on DN for a "full stack" designer because we're looking for someone who doesn't necessarily limit themselves to one of graphic, visual, or UI/UX design.

    We're a brand new startup, and I'm humbled by the great team of engineers, product people, and non-technical business people that we've built so far. That said, we feel the need for the eye of a talented designer in pretty much everything that we do.

    It comes up constantly. From PDF materials we give to our customers, to our blog, to the UX of our product itself, and to the illustrations on our home page.

    We're looking for a designer who could join us with an attitude similar to our first engineering hire. Someone who can see and contribute to the design needs in all facets of our business, as well as prioritize among them and find places to apply design that we haven't already thought of. If this person can serve as a product manager or do some light front-end dev, all the better.

    As a developer, I've felt the pain of dealing with people who aren't fellow programmers try (and fail) to speak the language of code to me. By putting out a call for a "full stack designer" and leaving aside specifics, we hope to communicate that we don't really know what our ideal designer looks like, but that we're excited to find out, and give that person the same kind of resources and compensation that a great engineer could expect.

    I hope that answers your question! Come to think of it, I think this comment may make a better job description than our current one. :) If this sounds interesting, I encourage you to reach out!

    1 point
  • n keylen keyle, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    A designer with a lot of experience, a wide range of capabilities and willing to work for the wage of an intern.

    1 point
  • Dean HaydenDean Hayden, over 7 years ago

    I know what I do but the current flux makes me question EVERYTHING I do! Fact is, terms and language have changed but those that do have kept on doing!

    1 point
  • Khaled Islam BouyaKhaled Islam Bouya, over 7 years ago

    Sometimes I feel like there is a competition to create the fanciest titles just to be "trendy"...

    1 point
  • Max SchultzMax Schultz, over 7 years ago

    To me it means the ability to collaborate company-wide to design, release and test a feature.

    Meet with customer to see what they actually want. Meet with design stakeholders and product team to prototype and spec. Pair with engineering team to build the feature. Launch, and then loopback to measure performance.

    1 point
  • Axel ValdezAxel Valdez, over 7 years ago

    There is no stack.

    1 point
  • Alexis CreuzotAlexis Creuzot, over 7 years ago

    I replace fullstack with full'o'shit wherever I see the word. It's usually more accurate.

    0 points
  • Robin RaszkaRobin Raszka, over 7 years ago

    SV bullshit

    0 points
  • Tony Jones, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    Chris from Uber wrote a good article on the subject. https://medium.com/@chrismessina/the-full-stack-employee-ed0db089f0a1#.g11awv715

    0 points
  • Djordje VanjekDjordje Vanjek, over 7 years ago

    Check this out http://fullprocessdesigner.com Should answer your question I guess. Cheers ;)

    0 points