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Which Design Field is Right For Me?

With the increasing number of design roles comes a difficult question: which design field is right for me? To help you make a decision, this post will give you an overview of the design roles in 2021, what they are about, and if it is a role for you.
Which design field is right for me

This post will take a look at three of the main design fields we currently have in 2021. These are UX design, visual design, and product design. Let’s zoom in on what they entail, what they would require of you, and their differences.

For every design field, we will talk about the work you will be required to do and make a list of things you might like in this particular design field. We will link to our in-depth posts about said design fields as well.

Table of Contents

Picking a design field that is right for you

Selecting a design field that is right for you is as much about the design field in question as it is about who you are as a designer. You have to feel like your design role is the right fit. To help you select the right design field for you we’ve created a summary for three of the most common design fields available today.

  • UX design
  • Product design
  • Visual design

For all three design fields, you will be seen as a creative and as a designer. Those are the basics that you will need to have in order to be a designer in any of the fields we will talk about.

Let’s take a look.

UX design

UX design, or user experience design, is a role within the broader design field that focuses on the interaction between the user and the product, software, or object he or she is using.

This means that your work as a UX designer is less about creating pixel-perfect visual designs. It is more about doing research, creating a customer journey, facilitating design sprints, and designing based on the outcome of the activities we’ve just listed. Other tasks can include the following.

  • Creating personas.
  • Exploring a customer journey.
  • Facilitating design sprint workshops.
  • Designing wireframes.
  • Presenting UX ROI to stakeholders.

In a lot of cases, you’re expected to do a lot of UI and visual design work as well. Keep that in mind when deciding whether or not the field of UX design is for you or not. If you do not want to be a visual and UX hybrid designer you will have to be very critical about the jobs you apply to.

UX design is the right design field for you if you like to work with people. Also, UX design is for you if you’re a puzzle solver. Creating a customer journey that fits is like solving a complex user puzzle.

One of the most well-known UX groups is the Nielsen Norman Group. If you’re looking for some UX inspiration, they are the place to start.

Product design

Product design is a role or design field that is entirely aimed at the development of a product that solves a user problem. You could be designing an ATM, a cereal box, or even an entire grocery store.

Let’s take a look at the example of an ATM. This machine solves the problem of withdrawing money from a bank or being out of cash alltogether. Designers in the field of product design would focus on the following.

  • Gathering (design) product requirements.
  • Create interface and system designs.
  • Research user problems.

Where a user experience designer is a puzzler, the product designer is a problem solver. You’re more of a technical designer. You have to figure out how someone interacts with an ATM, where the pain points are, and how you can solve that problem.

Being a product designer requires you to like that problem-solving part. You will be having a lot of discussions, workshops, and talks about the customer journey. This design field is more technical than others. You’ll have to like that type of design work!

There’s a great post on what product design is over on Medium. Go check that out if you want to know more.

Visual design

Up next, we have the field of visual design. Where other design roles do not focus on pixel-perfect design, visual design does. Visual design is all about creating pixel-perfect design solutions that will create the wow-factor for its users. You might be doing any of the following.

  • Creating a (personal) branding style for a client.
  • Color or logo exploration.
  • Designing websites.
  • Designing for print (posters, flyers, and billboards, for example).

For example, this color exploration by Filip Justic is something you might have to work on as a designer of the visual design field.

Which design field is right for me? An example showing the field of visual design
An example of visual design work by Filip Justic.

Visual design is a very creative design field. That means you must like that type of work. Do you like to draw or paint? Are you someone who likes to think in images rather than in text or numbers? Visual design might be your thing.

One downside to visual design is the subjective aspect of it all. Your clients have to like your work. It is less about the science of design and more about connecting with your clients and designing something that they can relate to.

Frequently asked questions

That’s some of the most common design fields explained. Knowing what they’re about is just one part of the puzzle. We also wrote down a number of questions you might have in regards to finding the design field that is right for you.

Is design a good career?

Yes, design is a very good career. The demand for designers is high and with the increasing role of technology in our lives, there will be more designs needed than ever.

In addition, there are a lot of different design roles and fields. That’s what this post has been about! With that many roles and jobs available, we’re sure there’s something available that will fill your needs.

What is the highest paying design job?

The highest paying design job depends on your experience and the industry you’re working in. If you put that aside, some of the highest paying design jobs are those of the UX designer and the product designer.

Here’s a list of the average salary for a number of design roles in the United States, according to data provided by LinkedIn Salary.

  • UX designer: $81,000 per year. We have an in-depth post on
    UX design salaries.
  • Product designer: $90,000 per year.
  • Visual designer: $70,000 per year.

As you can see, the product designer is earning the highest average design salary in the United States. However, one thing to keep in mind is the industry and level of experience we’ve mentioned earlier. Senior visual designers (or art directors) with lots of experience will probably have a higher salary that is higher than an entry-level UX design salary.

As a final remark, we would like to point out that going for a certain design field solely based on salary is not a good idea. Yes, it is important, but having a good connection with your colleagues, clients, and company values is just as important.

Further reading

That’s it. UX, product, and visual design are three very common design fields. You’ll be able to find a job in one of them in 2021 without a doubt!

Once you know the design field you want to work in, it is time to prepare for your job interview. But first, you’ll need a great portfolio. We have a few great posts on that subject. One of those is the UX portfolio, for example.

About the author

Hi! I'm Nick Groeneveld, a senior designer from the Netherlands with experience in UX, visual design, and research. I have completed a wide range of projects in finance, tech, and the public sector.

Take a look at Nick's LinkedIn and Medium for more.

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