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8 Types of Designers You Could Be

Wondering what a career in design could look like? We talked with faculty and graduates from our College of Art & Design who are working in the field to explain 8 different design roles.

A designer develops and creates visual ideas. But depending on the type of designer you are, the work you do could be anything from designing magazines and digital interfaces to creating a navigation system for a public space. Wondering what a career in design could look like? We talked with faculty and graduates from our College of Art & Design who are working in the field to explain 8 different design roles.

1. Graphic Designer

Using visual elements such as typography, color, and image, graphic designers communicate ideas to the world. Graphic designers go beyond using computers. The design process is highly iterative and includes working with various media and materials to create visually meaningful and targeted messaging. 

Coming up with a company’s visual identity and brand experience, creating designs for print, and inventing the look of product packaging are a few examples of where a graphic design career could lead.

Chrissy Kurpeski ’05, BFA Graphic Design and Illustration, is a freelance book designer who works with book publishers, doing everything from cover designs to page layouts.

2. Information Designer

Information designers are storytellers with an analytical approach, says Shalini Prasad, a Lesley faculty member, and a self-employed designer/brand consultant. She explains that information designers view graphic elements like imagery, type, shape, color, texture, and space as tactics to simplify, organize, and communicate information. Information designers study, synthesize, and translate data into intuitive information systems that evoke a response and action in the viewer.

Professor Prasad creates infographics for her clients that find their place across mediums in print, web, and space. At Lesley, she brings this professional know-how to students in her Typography II course. Acknowledging the importance information design holds in storytelling, she gives her students the opportunity to work on real-world projects from her client base of socially conscious nonprofit organizations. Past classes have created designs for NYC Medics and the Leadership Now Project, and her students have successfully completed work for Feeding America.

“I work with the client at the onset to study, collate, and synthesize a set of data that is both helpful for the client to share to their prospective audience while keeping in mind the best way for my students to explore the power of typography and interpret the data intuitively,” says professor Prasad.

3. Experiential Designer

Experiential designers create displays and environments that communicate a message or feeling within a physical space, according to The Society for Experiential Graphic Design. By combining graphic design skills with spatial problem solving and an understanding of human behavior, experiential designers turn marketing campaigns, art exhibitions, and public installations into experiences.

Julia Kirwin '19, a graduate of our BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration programs, puts her skills to work for Richard Lewis Media Group, a design firm that specializes in creating interactive museum experiences. One of her projects involved integrating projections with an illustrated mural. Julia loves that she gets to do a variety of work with many creative and thoughtful people. “The educational nature of our projects is something that I find rewarding,” she says, “It's work that I know is making a difference,” Julia says.

4. Interaction Designer (IxD)

Interaction designers explore how words, visual design elements, physical objects, motion, sound, and space, can improve user interactions with products, environments, systems, or services. “An interaction designer is someone who is as curious about technology and user interfaces as they are about people and purpose,” explains Ryan McQuade, a professional designer/illustrator, and a professor in Lesley’s Interactive Design BFA program.

Emerging technology is one component of an interaction designer’s process, and can encompass Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and tangible interfaces where a person interacts with digital information via a physical environment. One interactive design course—Physical Computing—works at the intersection of art, design, fabrication, and technology. Students use computer programming to “speak” to external objects that can be produced using Lesley’s digital fabrication lab. “Students built games driven by computer algorithms, but the result was a physical game you could put together. Their programming was happening on the computer, but that programming was speaking to an external device that enabled it to respond in some way using hard switches, buttons, and physical objects,” explains professor Heather Shaw, Chair of Lesley’s Design Department. 

5. User Experience (UX) Designer

User experience (UX) designers focus on the experience a user has with products, services, or environments—both digital (think apps and websites) and physical. They improve lives by identifying problems consumers have, then envisioning ways to solve them.

According to UX consultant and former Lesley professor Lisa Spitz, UX designers’ responsibilities could vary depending on the employer. 

"UX designers conduct research to learn about people's needs, behaviors, and motivations. They create sketches of new or enhanced user interfaces and build interactive prototypes. They test and evaluate their design solutions, but most importantly, they iteratively revise their designs as necessary," says Spitz.

This role requires collaboration across several disciplines, including working with researchers, strategists, developers, and designers. UX designers are involved at various stages of the design process to ensure that a product addresses the goals and needs of an end-user. UX designers work with user interface (UI) designers, who design the visual aspects of an interface to ensure that the presentation is intuitive and easy for people to use. Many UX designers also work as UI designers.

6. User Interface (UI) Designer

User interface (UI) designers use the research results from the user experience designers and interaction designers to sketch out what an interface will look like. Based on studies of how people navigate through a site, app, or tool, user interface designers plan and develop a way to make the navigation experience better.  

Like user experience and interaction designers, wireframing, prototyping, and testing are part of the process. However, user interface designers are also involved with visual elements like buttons, menus, color, images, and type that would appear in a digital setting. “Visual representation is important. It’s not just decorating. Colors, words, language—these are all visual cues with meaning,” explains Professor Shaw.

7. Web Designer

Web designers create sites that are functional, easy to navigate, and visually attractive. They create the overall look of a website that fits with their client’s brand as well as resonates with their client’s target audience.

Web designers need to have some basic coding skills to communicate with developers, but their main focus is on the organization, structure, usability, and visual design of a website. Working mostly in a website’s front end—the colors, fonts, and aspects that users interact with—web designers use tools such as HTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and JavaScript to bring their designs to life on screen. They also ensure that websites are responsive, meaning, they work seamlessly across all device sizes, and are accessible to users with varying abilities or disabilities.

Web design is a role that has evolved with our ever-changing technological landscape, explains Professor Spitz. In the 1990s, as companies began launching websites, web design as the sole responsibility for designers was common. Today, there is more overlap, with web design being one of the responsibilities an interaction, user experience, and user interface designer could have.

8. Game Designer

Game designers develop the layout, code, storyline, environment, characters, and sounds of video games. They might also create other immersive experiences where the player or viewer is at the center of the action, such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), 3D audio, or using an LED wall to create a cinematic experience in a life-sized environment.

Creating complex games and immersive experiences requires many different skills. Game designers are visual artists and designers, storytellers, and programmers who use sophisticated digital software programs like Maya, ZBrush, Nuke, and the industry-standard real-time game engine, Unreal Engine, to create realistic visual effects (VFX). And they anticipate how a user will navigate and interact with their creations so that players and viewers can have the best experience possible.

Unsure of which path to take?

Design is a unique discipline because of its areas of overlap. So, when choosing the career path that’s right for you, our design and UX professors recommend that you think about your strengths, interests, and the types of problems you want to solve. You might even look at job descriptions and reach out to professionals to learn more about their roles and experiences.

But no matter what your job title is, as a designer, you’ll be improving our world by solving human-centered problems. 

This article was updated in July 2021 from "7 Types of Designers You Could Be" to include the exciting field of Game Design.

Learn more about Lesley's design programs.

Are you ready to become a designer? Check out our programs.

Bachelor’s Degrees

Learn more about how our majors in Graphic Design, Interactive Design, and UX Design differ.

Online Certificates

Students can also take these certificates as minors.

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