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My question is just about titles. I have been working at a company that uses fairly traditional titles for designers such as Senior and Lead. I am now talking to a new company that utilizes many different terms such as Designer II and Designer III. Within the new company there are also titles such as Senior and Lead. The terminology varies between orgs. What are people's understanding about the differences between Designer II, Designer III, Senior, Lead, and Principal?

closed as off-topic by DA01, Mayo, Devin, Matt Obee, JohnGB Dec 1 '15 at 11:57

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    "The terminology varies between orgs" = indeed. There's simply no standard. I don't think there's any way to answer what the differences between those are in any specific way. The only general answer we can give you is "they appear to different nodes in the org chart". – DA01 Nov 30 '15 at 8:49
  • Also, FYI, in firms and agencies, "principal" usually refers to part-owner. – DA01 Nov 30 '15 at 8:50
  • Designer II: The Sequel. Designer III: Silly subtitle. Totally never heard anything like that before. Does it mean Designer rank II or Designer of stage II of the process or...? – the other one Nov 30 '15 at 9:11
  • Isn't the key thing how your company differentiates between the titles? Not sure how other people's understanding will transfer across. – Peter Nov 30 '15 at 12:00
  • I also saw a "Supervising Designer" bridging the gap between "Senior" and "Team Lead". This is madness! – Jan Nov 30 '15 at 15:44
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Red tape

In my experience, the difference is an organization that's bogged down with bureaucracy and title fatigue and lacks an understanding of "fuzzy" roles. They aren't sure what it means to promote a designer, so they just use numbers to make the designers feel appreciated.

If you could draw a parallel between the two schemas, it looks something like this:

Designer 1 => Designer  
Designer 2 => Senior D.  
Designer 3 => Lead D.  

In both cases you might have a Principal or Design Director. I've never seen a Designer 4. One point for the bureaucrats.

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    You might even go so far as to say that their role titling system has poor UX. – user31143 Nov 30 '15 at 7:27
  • Thank you, it does all seem fuzzy. I have seen 4 and 5 as well. Your answer makes sense to me. The company has a similar response but the meaning of Designer 3 was unclear. – Dan Lee Nov 30 '15 at 16:58
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On a lighter note: To answer your question about people's understanding of Designer II, Designer III, Senior, Lead, and Principal -

As long as you are doing good stuff, delivering your responsibilities, and are able to showcase your understanding of the craft - outside community does not care much.

HR/Hiring perspective: Avoid the designer 1,2,3 etc. Senior/Lead works better.

  • Haha totally agree. I just wanted to clear my own confusion and see what the community says. Thank you! – Dan Lee Nov 30 '15 at 16:04
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As far as I know, numericals signify designer specialists that are on one rank (junior, mid-level, senior). A horizontal division.

Seniority rank shows how experienced a person is. You would hire a Mid-level specialist if you have a not very big range of not very complex systems to work with, but you would need someone more experienced and seasoned for innovative or complex service/app. It's a vertical division.

Finally, a lead is just someone who leads the team and is responsible for delivery and people. Lead status correlates with but doesn't necessarily depend on seniority.

So you can have mid-level designers 1-3, senior designers 1 and 2 and a lead (who is a senior designer 3), all in one team.

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