“Designer”: It’s what you do, not what you’re called

As designers, we spend far too much time analyzing how to refer to ourselves. “Product designer, UX/UI designer, visual designer, full-stack designer, lead designer of products”…do any of these really tell you about the person behind the title? If you saw a resume with one of these titles at the top, would it shape your expectations?

My bet is, no.

For example, I have reviewed countless resumes for people heralding themselves as a UI/UX designer because they have worked with wireframes. Often times, these individuals have never once spoken to an actual user or conducted any user research.

But can you blame them? Read any job description for designers, and you’ll think you can only be hired if you can conduct research, generate content, formulate an app’s infrastructure and key interactions, test prototypes, design the whole thing using the latest trends, and then launch the product with CSS, HTML, and Javascript.

It’s no wonder designers are forced to market themselves as the full package, even if it’s just to get a foot in the door. Plus, descriptions like these contribute to imposters syndrome. Your company may be missing out on the perfect candidate because he didn’t think he fit the full description of what you were seeking.

As an industry, I think it’s time we take a step back and just embrace the title “designer”. That, in of itself, expresses so much.

A designer is a problem solver; a thinker; a doer. They are someone who can navigate complex ideas and processes and help define a clear way to manage them. And they have core strengths and weaknesses, too. But I would get more from someone saying “I am a designer that focuses on visual design and product interactions” than if they just said “I’m a UI/UXer.”

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the phrase “less is more.” The same holds true in this case.

Someone trying to describe themselves as a unicorn through their title often fails to match my expectations going in. On the other hand, I would not shortchange someone who simple called themselves “a designer.” I would feel confident that she could understand the core values behind UX research, content strategy, or interaction design, even if they weren’t familiar with the nuances and deliverables associated with that field.

A designer is a problem solver; a thinker; a doer. They are someone who can navigate complex ideas and processes and help define a clear way to manage them.

It’s time we rid ourselves of the debates over who we are and what we do. Be a T-shaped designer, find the area you love, focus on it, cultivate your skills, but expose yourself to other areas too. Don’t be afraid to try new things, like illustrations and mobile app design.

When you’re applying for your dream job, proudly say, “I am a designer” and own it. Own your strengths, own your weaknesses, but know that you can

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