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What it Means to be a Designer in 2023

Things are looking pretty exciting for the world of digital design

UX/UI Design
5 minute read

I’ve been a designer for a long-ish time, around ten years now and let me tell you, the world of design is always on the move. As we head into 2023, things are looking pretty exciting for the world of digital design. So if you're thinking of diving in, let me give you a heads-up on what to expect.

Digital Design is So In

I popped “designer” into a job search platform to see what came up. These are the top job roles that appeared:

  • UX designer - Sits within a product team and often hands off to a visual or UI designer.
  • Product designer - Typically works within tech businesses and is involved in the conception and delivery of a digital product or feature.
  • UI/UX designer - Usually a designer within a product team that thinks about how things work and how things look/feel.
  • Website designer - Designs (and sometimes creates) websites.
  • Content designer - Designs content and thinks about information architecture and UX writing.

Other notable jobs which would have come up frequently in years before are:

  • Graphic designer - Typically sits within physical product businesses and creates physical/visual assets.
  • Brand designer - Digital equivalent of graphic designer focused on brand elements like logos, sales and marketing pages etc.
  • Interaction designer - Focuses on how things work such as prototypes. Typically found in large organisations or agencies where designers are more specialised.
  • UI designer - A digital designer focused on how things look or feel, often called a visual designer.
  • Motion designer - Specialised role focused on design that moves e.g. 3D animation.
  • Games designer - Works on video games.

Design Goes Beyond Interfaces

The world is looking for a design solution to very complex problems.

  • Design for sustainability is a design approach that aims to reduce the negative impact of design on the environment.
  • Decentralised design is a design approach focused on creating for the decentralised web. Wikipedia defines the decentralised web as a research program which proposes to reorganise the Internet using peer-to-peer infrastructure rather than centralised data hosting.
  • Design for Good is a design-focused non-profit alliance that aims to enact measurable impact on society's biggest challenges aligned to the United Nations.
  • Ethical design refers to design that resists manipulative patterns, respects data privacy, encourages co-design, and is accessible and human-centered. For example, Signal is an app created specifically to protect users’ privacy.

Many people I know have moved on from traditional design roles to tackle design from these bigger/different points of view.


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Design Information is Everywhere

Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Mentors, Bootcamps, Big tech, Universities, Postgraduate institutes, Governments, and Communities. These are all places/avenues to get information if you want to consume design content. Whatever your budget level, learning style, stage of life, or location, there is something for you.

This glut of information means prospective designers might be overwhelmed and need guidance to navigate it. Needless to say, Memorisely seeks to keep design learning accessible to people of different means, with varying learning styles and locations. It's my top recommendation for where to start.

AI Might as an Opportunity

Unless you’ve been under a rock - or maybe in space - it’s unlikely that you haven’t heard of ChatGPT, Midjourney and other AI tools. These tools help people write code, generate ideas, analyse tons of data and execute digital marketing. People around me are terrified that AI is moving at such a rapid pace that design jobs will be obsolete in five years. This may or may not happen but I like to think that I was born to be a Renaissance man. Someone free to pursue many interests. Art, photography, literature etc.

If AI takes over my job so I can do other things, I don’t mind. I’m being facetious. I think some jobs will go away and AI will take over tedious tasks and free us up to do other things. I’m staying up-to-date, and trying to incorporate some of them into my role where it seems reasonable.

Design Roles are More Popular than Ever

I have several mentees and speak to people frequently who are transitioning into design or attempting to land their first jobs after a design degree. Salaries might have peaked in 2022, AI might be changing the way we do things down the line, but none of that matters right now. Many companies that wouldn’t have entertained digital departments, have one now and therefore have design roles available.

Many entrepreneurs and startups have recognised that creating products people want is a great way to get and stay relevant and also have design roles available. Countries that were previously not big on the tech scene - India, Nigeria, and the U.A.E. for example - are creating thriving tech companies and design has seen a surge in popularity in those locations. Design is remote-friendly and somewhat location-agnostic therefore ever-popular with people who want a more flexible, nomadic lifestyle. Designers can expect to have more competition but they can also expect more opportunities in the immediate future.

Designers Want More Influence

I’ve worked in many roles at different organisations and it feels like designers have to work harder than most tech roles to justify their presence. No one asks engineers what value they bring to the company. People don’t question the need to hire a product manager for each product team. Old-school companies are more apt to have a project manager/scrum master than adequate design roles within their ranks.

When you look at the C-suites Marketing, Product, Finance, Operations, HR/People, and Technology/Engineering are always represented in most companies. I don’t know any Chief Design Officers. Designers are often distributed between marketing, product and engineering departments. I see more designers questioning the status quo in 2023 and I’m curious to see whether we get a seat at the table that made companies like Apple, Airbnb and Spotify successful.

What about you? How do you expect 2023 to shape up for designers?