Ask DN: What entitles somebody to be a "Senior Designer"?

7 years ago from , Designer

'Sup fellow designers.

I'm curious, what do people think entitles somebody to be a "Senior Designer" in a particular field? Is it their ability? or their experience? Or both?


  • Account deleted 7 years ago

    Nowadays this is much harder to nail down to something specific. For a long time there was a set progression of roles based on cumulative experience, the type of work that was done, etc.

    A senior designer was usually someone with 4/5 years of real world experience who had shown they can take on a bit more responsibility with projects and as a whole become a bit more "creative" and less "production" in terms of work.

    Now titles are flung all over the place and to be fair - there are a ton of super talented people who are self taught and can jump right into this type of role. The ability to learn at home and develop skills has become FAR easier then it used to be (when having access to a really good design computer and software was not something most people could do). It's also far easier to get inspired as well.

    If I was hiring a Sr. Designer today I would expect them to be a reliable worker... bring great ideas to the table and have a mix of grunt work and tasks they completely own. They probably aren't good yet at articulating clearly why they are going down a particular path... and aren't ready to really "lead" a team yet. They are looking for opportunities to learn and desire challenges beyond "do this". Traditionally I treated my Sr. Designers more like Jr. AD's... giving them the ball and letting them run with it as much as possible... and trying to get them thinking about goals (business/metrics/user) as a part of their process.

    4 points
  • barry saundersbarry saunders, 7 years ago

    Having hired and promoted people into that role, a senior designer should:

    • be able to do design with limited oversight
    • be able to articulate design decisions fluently
    • talk to clients directly, present work without supervision
    • (if a research role) lead workshops, interview users, prepare and defend design rationale
    • estimate a piece of work
    • manage their own time
    • be across best practices, but
    • have the humility to let go of their personal biases

    A lead would be able to do all that, but would also manage multiple seniors, estimate project scope, and manage skills development and training for their direct reports. A lead would have more experience, and be able to guide seniors when they are in unfamiliar territory. Lead would also be expected to do business development / sell as well (if in an agency environment)

    1 point
  • David KlawitterDavid Klawitter, 7 years ago

    Putting together some expectations for different roles and tiers within those roles at Detroit Labs right now. A great source of inspiration (I had very little personal experience to draw on) was some stuff BuzzFeed shared, one of which was their updated version of their Design Team Roles, https://medium.com/buzzfeed-design/buzzfeed-product-design-roles-2-0-6fe445078a74#.wixnm3w0r and https://docs.google.com/document/d/1V8HHMXe2LIj4V6SfnxXm-3FCDkZP0U7lLt9dvtjNrHk/edit?usp=sharing.

    What I like about their approach is that it's not only about growing as a designer (or whatever your discipline might be), but about being impactful in an expanding way outside of your own little bubble. So, in my opinion, a "Senior" designer not only has the abilities and experience that make them a great designer, but they show a drive to share those abilities and experiences with others to help their peers grow and to help the business evolve.

    1 point
  • Dmitry SholkovDmitry Sholkov, 7 years ago

    While I agree with all points in the thread I'd add one more point here though:

    Senior Designer is someone who is capable of creating a design language that easily translates across different touch-points. While a Designer could be someone who can design a great app or a website, yet not many of us can take a step back and create a modular system that scales naturally.

    0 points
  • Nathan HueningNathan Huening, 7 years ago

    If you're making > US$100k, you call yourself a senior designer.

    0 points
  • Duke CavinskiDuke Cavinski, 7 years ago

    Something a person just asks for to get a little bit of a pay raise. I think just about everyone is a senior something lately.

    0 points
  • Sherizan SheikhSherizan Sheikh, 7 years ago


    Those who have been in around the company for some time, knowing the product offering, the design process and shown managerial quality in terms of project management, he/she gets bumped up to Senior Designer. In this case the "Senior" means experience within the company. Probably reports to the Lead Designer, who reports to the Head of Design (if there is one)

    That's how I would use it or have seen it being used :)

    0 points