What kind of designer do I need?

I wrote up the following questions to help a friend at work think about his design needs:

  • Do you know the core user you’re designing for, and the top 2 or 3 ways your product will improve their lives? Do you think that combination will make a successful product? Could you design the launch advertisement today? Does everyone on the team agree on these things?
    • If not, you need a product designer. Lots of explorations around a variety of opportunities & a process to decide on them. At the end you’ll have decisions on your target user, key benefits, and “unique selling points”.
  • Do you know how those features will work: how they will be accessed and controlled, in what order, how they fit together, and how someone interacts with it?
    • If not, you need an interaction designer, someone who can design a system that works elegantly and flexibly. You’ll get things like wireframes, interactive prototypes, flow diagrams, and page layouts.
  • Do you know exactly how the product should look, all the way down to fonts, colors, and animations? Do you have pixel specifications for all these things?
    • If not, you need a visual (or industrial) designer, possibly with motion graphics or video experience. You’ll get pixel-perfect specifications and design assets that are ready for production.
  • And if you don’t have any of these things, you’ll need all of these people. They build on each other, but I’d start at the beginning with the product designer, who will understand the rest of the process. It’s very rare that one person will do all these things at a high level, however.

See also: What I talk about when I talk about design