The problem with job titles

Job titles are weird. Here are a few I’ve had (seniority omitted for brevity’s sake):

  • Designer/Developer
  • Graphic Designer
  • Interaction Designer
  • Visual Designer
  • Experience Designer

All of these have separate Wikipedia articles. None of them rank in the 2010 ALA survey findings (unless you count “Other,” the third most popular option).

In college I majored in Interactive Media Design, which they used to call Multimedia & Web Design. After I graduated, they changed it to Web Design & Interactive Media before merging it back into Graphic Design.

Some of my favorite web designers are graphic designers. Some of my favorite game makers are also my favorite web and interface designers. It seems like half the designers I’ve ever known are musicians (the other half are, of course, photographers). One of them is an abstract painter and sculptor, and one just built a chicken coop.

Perhaps the web naturally attracts the oddballs and outsiders of adjacent industries. Or maybe it’s too young to accurately define itself.

Another possibility: This could be the first medium where making and publishing something is often quicker than explaining it. Sometimes we don’t even know what we’re doing until our users clue us in.


murphypdx says

The hierarch in designer titles and the strictness of the hierarch has always bothered me. Ie. Designer < art director < associate creative director < creative director


Tac Anderson says

My favorite job title I ever had was El Presidente.I think we should all just make up our own job titles. With the people I’ve managed we have internal job titles that fit into HR’s system to make raises and promotions easy but on their business cards I let them put whatever they feel best describes their job.


Jonathan Simcoe says

That guy in the upper right-hand corner of your sketch looks like Calvin. That’s awesome!

Seriously though I do enjoy that the web design industry collects talent from varying disciplines and even how those very distinctive disciplines each have experience and fresh perspective to bring to the process of designing for the web. Otherwise what would sculptors and fine artists have to do with 8-bit nerds and analysts and developers.

I enjoy your insight here. Keep ’em coming Tyler! :)


Calvin Ross Carl says

This has been on my mind all day. Then just by chance, I read a blog entry by Chimero offering advice to young designers. The phrase which stood out the most reads:

“Everyone is just making it up as they go along.”

Designers are people with skills, yet we have no idea what we do and we never know what we are doing until we’re staring down the barrel of the gun. I have started realizing that our skills and capabilities of creating aesthetically beautiful objects have nothing to do with what we actually do. If you called us by what we actually do, our job titles would all be Optimistic Skeptics.

Our job is to be inquisitive and question every choice we and others have made, in hopes of creating something better than it was before. All that sounds too pretentious to tell others, so we make up silly job titles to justify our conceptual leanings, but taking time to ask questions is all we really do. The answer to that question can be found in any number of mediums, so we hop to whatever medium is capable of best answering the question.

In college, my BFA was in Intermedia. It seems to make the most sense. I propose we all go by Intermedia Artist or Intermedia Designer.


Matt Bepler says

Nice post, Tyler. I also really like the sketch graphic, and that pencil… I recognize it… I have one! Bought it at Clark College – originally for math classes, but love to sketch, wireframe and just doodle with it. Titles matter little to me. Titles are for books. People are people! Can’t we all just get along (and be creative!)


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