I am a Designer for Multiple Mediums

When someone asks a designer what they do for a living, there’s always a slight pause for most multi-disciplinary designers out there.  Simply stating the title of designer could lead to many varying conclusions from prospective clients – interior design, product design, stage productions?  However, you seem to be understating your abilities if you say print designer or web designer exclusively – because prospective clients might think you do one thing, but not the other.  Or what about web designer versus web developers?  There are many who strictly work in one aspect, but countless others who do both the visual creative and development.  A quick search on Google will give you countless design-related titles to choose from including the latest trend of UX designer or design engineer, which I don’t believe most people would understand thoroughly.

It seems natural especially that graphic design and web design are often coupled like Siamese twins. Many clients like the fact that you can supply services from print to web and we often see a huge amount of varying skills required on job postings.  Many graphic designers were schooled in traditional print design, but through the years might have moved into web design to keep up with the competition and changing market expectations.  I think that has to do with the natural evolution of how web design and the Internet came to be as well.  When the need arose for the old-fashioned role, webmaster, it was usually thrown over to the graphic design group, probably because it most closely resembled the skill set required.  However, there are obviously different challenges for print projects versus web projects.  Just as a childrens’ book illustrator would know specific inside knowledge on that industry and how things must be done.  Interesting to note the comparison between “graphic designer” and “web designer” from Google Trends.  I started doing a lot of comparisons to see what the Google world is saying about job titles in design.

Nevertheless, I think all designers possess a common set of skills, no matter what their medium.  After all, our job is to ultimately make aesthetic sense out of what seems to be chaos.  Designers have that aesthetic sensibility along with all the foundation basics such as composition, color theory and typography to name just a few.  A good designer who wants to work in a new medium, will certainly have to learn the industry standards and particulars, but surely he is still a good designer at the core.  It is important to note that over time, one working in the same field would still have to keep up to date with the latest improvements and enhancements due to the ever changing space of technology.  The core principles of design persist throughout, but everyone has to keep up with technology, new programs and new standards of the changing market.

Multi-discipline designers such as myself seem to continue with the struggle of an accurate job title.  The web industry is still young and it is not surprising that job titles are not yet standardized and may even change in meaning over time.  It certainly simplifies the issue if specializing say in logo design, because everyone understands what a logo designer will produce.  But what about those of us who do many things?  Do we have to risk losing business because of misinterpretation from a limited job title or even losing worth as various job titles render different pay rates?

I have found myself changing my title depending on the needs of the client, so as to ensure they understand what I can do for them.  It is difficult to encapsulate all of one’s abilities in a few words.  Perhaps it is best to go with the generic title of designer so when queried for more detailed information you can explain properly.  After all, whatever title you have it still boils down to actually executing in the end.

Reference reading:
Examiner – Are Graphic Designers Being Pushed in the Direction of Career Generalists?

About.com – Print versus Web