Job titles in the tech/software industry (with an emphasis on design) are quickly becoming a pet peeve of mine. I recently came across Chris Coyier's archived blog post on the subject which inspired me to complete my own post which I've had in draft-mode for many months.
It's becoming increasingly rare to see a consistent language within our industry when it comes to the ever-debated job title. I get it; the industry is changing very quickly and roles within smaller companies are sometimes vague with the "jack-of-all-trades" skill set being more sought after than the "master of one". But this can lead to confusion and a sense of unease when introducing yourself to a new person or prospective employer.
Depending on your (usually self-imposed) title, folks will treat you differently. Print designers may not take a web design seriously. Not having 'Senior' in your title may mean something to someone because their company treats titles in a certain way. Then of course there are the Unicorn, Rockstar, Bullshit titles out there. Hey, whatever works for you, Led! I'm personally not comfortable with such titles as they seem pompous.
This is madness.
It is madness because for years now, I've been doing roughly the same thing. I solve problems with design. I make things. I get things done. Deliverables do vary, but there are always solutions, or iterations on a solution.
I'm tired of designers needing to be pigeonholed into a corner via their title. How often have you (if you're a designer) had a similar conversation to this:
So, what do you do?
I.. I'm a designer.
So, you design print ads or websites or what?
Well, both. But I also work on user experience and 3D modeling projects when their needed. I also do front-end web development, specializing in responsive and interactive design. More and more I am involved in mobile app development projects. I'm currently working on an Agile software development team. I'm picking up the SCSS syntax and teaching my team about the importance of living, web-based style guides and systems of UI components.
And all of that leaves me little time to work on my side business of letterpress and traditional woodblock art prints. I freelance mobile websites and SEO services for small business owners. Large format illustration and installation in the recent past.. Just wrapping up a project where I'm writing all of the front-end styles for a major eCommerce startup. What was your question again?
So, what's your title? ...
My personal solution
It does require context, but I feel that the title Product Designer sums up my usual role. To me, Product Designer signifies a person who thinks about the design in the from the product or service's name through to the front-end (and sometimes back-end) build. In other words, an mashup of UI, UX, IA, visual design and front-end development. Product designers get their hands dirty in the codebase alongside the engineers and have technical discussions with them.
Over the years, I've often been unsure of how to brand myself as a digital designer. I've been the following in my career so far: Graphic Designer, Senior Graphic Designer, Web Specialist, User Interface Designer, Software Design Engineer, Senior User Interface Designer, UI/UX Designer, just 'Designer' and finally Product Designer.
Luckily, there is a commonality in these titles. Do you see it? Designer. I'm a designer. A designer who works on products. So for now, I'll be sticking simply with that.
Hello, world. I am a product designer.