Different types of Design

Graphic Designer

So you want to be a graphic designer? What does that mean exactly? What types of jobs are available? It turns out deciding to be a designer is a pretty vague choice that often requires some more direction and career evolution before you really land yourself in a meaningful career.

Today we’ll explore the underlying structure of the graphic design industry and take a brief look at some different design jobs and career paths that you can and should explore. Whether you’ve been a designer for ten minutes or ten years, this article could help you find your place in the industry.

Mac Operator (sometimes written “MAC Operator”) is a term that you almost never hear in web design but appears frequently in the print industry. Other terms like “Mac specialist,artworker,entry level designer, or even simply “graphic designer” are often equivalent.

Though the use of the term varies considerably, most often you’ll find that a Mac Operator is someone who, quite frankly, can use a Mac for what is was once widely known for: desktop publishing. Mac Operators can, at the very least, use page layout software with a high level of proficiency.

Mac Operators are often not usually in a position to display much, if any, creative prowess. Instead their roles are restricted to converting existing low-resolution artwork or sketches from designers to a print-ready layered file or to make minor changes to preexisting work created by someone else.

As an example, I had a friend that worked for a marketing company who would have designers come up with a first round of artwork, which would be sent off for approval. If the piece came back with copy changes and other slight suggestions, it would go to the Mac Operators to be tweaked. If however, it required major design changes, it would go back to the higher level designers. In smaller companies this is obviously done all by one person but larger companies want to make sure they’re paying high level designers to do high level work, not copy changes.

Design jobs

Senior designer

Senior designer is a pretty vague title as far as duties go. It’s typically gauged more by experience than duties, with those designers who have 6+ years of experience having a much better chance at landing a senior design position.

A very typical example of a design team will have one or two senior designers, with a handful of low to mid level designers. The senior designers are often the voices to listen to, the experienced few whose opinions carry more weight and paychecks slightly higher numbers, without necessarily being “the boss.

The senior designer is often the one who reports to the creative director and goes through status updates on various projects, lessons learned on past projects, etc. Direction from the creative director is often filtered through this person to the team.

Again though, expect senior designer jobs to be all over the place. Often it only refers to the years of experience you have. You could easily find yourself with a “senior designer” position in a company where you’re the only designer!

Art/Creative Director

These are the Don Drapers of the world. While everyone else sits in a cubicle, the Creative Director sits in an office. For the most part, Creative Directors started at the bottom and worked their way up through 10+ years of experience.

A typical Creative Director might actually do more managing than actual full on design work. Good Creative Directors know how to maximize the potential of their teams. All major work is filtered through them and they have the ultimate say on the direction of the creative, specific artwork used, how the tasks are split up and more.

They also manage a good deal of the client relations. Meetings, planning, phone calls, emails, lunches, dinners, long flights and presentations fill the time of the Art/Creative Director, which some love while others long for the days when they could spend their time in front of Photoshop.

The Creative Director position is a precarious one. Often, they get the praise when a project goes right, even if they haven’t really designed a single thing. Similarly, when projects go horribly wrong, they take the blame, even to the risk of their own jobs. They’ll pass both praise and castigation on to their team, but ultimately it’s their heads that often rest on the chopping block.