What does 'senior' mean to a designer?

What does 'senior' mean to a designer?


3 min read


I met Michael, the digital product designer at Movio and had a great conversation this Monday. I got heaps of career advice from him (thank you Michael), and he also inspired me to start thinking a question: what is 'senior' mean to a designer?

I used to think I'm a senior designer. 15 years ago I accidentally found I have a passion about design, then I self-learned PhotoShop 5.02 and got some freelance design job. After graduating from college with a B.S (Bachelor of Science) degree, I got my first job as a graphic designer (seems I wasted 4 years on science lol). After working as a designer for a few years, I led a team with designers, copywriters and marketing coordinators to support marketing and business development. Then I co-founded a digital design company in 2010. We launched our first app in 2013, then 3 years later, we were involved with more than 30 digital projects, including Apple's Apps of the Year Award Winner. Am I a senior? Oh yeah of course! I have 11 years of experience on design, man!

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Some of my previous projects

In China, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries, the understanding of 'senior' is slightly different from Western countries. Asian culture respects aged people, so sometimes senior means experienced and aged. Typically, we know aged people are more experienced in their professionals. And that is definitely right in the good old days.

But in the digital age, things are changed. The age of the most popular smartphone (iPhone) is only 11. If you started your digital design career in 2008 and keep sharpening your skills, you are a god-damn senior designer now, no doubt about that. If you started it at college age, which means you are already a senior designer before your 30. That's impossible in the past.

I asked Michael what a senior designer is, he answered me that a senior designer could define the core problems, provide the solutions, lead and inspire a team to execute the plan until the problem is solved. A senior designer not only can design but also can encourage, persuade and convince people to accept the solution and make it become a real product or service. He has a long way to go.

Now I don't think I'm a senior designer anymore. To be honest, consider the fast trend of digital design and the fast developing pace of design tools, I can only regard myself as an intermediate designer. There's a long way for me to go too.

When I review my previous career, I found that I did so many different things and had many hats on my head. I was a graphic designer, app designer, product coordinator, product manager, copywriter sometimes, and a flexible team leader. I did have a holistic business thinking and different experience, but as a designer, I didn't keep sharpening my professional skills but distracted by short-term trends. I just self-learned Design Thinking last year, and before that, I even didn't know Double Diamond design process... Yes, it will be a long way for me to go.

Hope I can proudly say that I am a senior designer in a few years later.

Speaking of 'senior', what do you think? Please leave your comment below.

PS. Attached Michael's dribbble account below. Love his design :) Feel free to follow and comment, I'm sure he's happy to read comments from you!

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Hi I'm Bear, a designer on the way of improving my communication skills. If you find any grammar mistakes in my blog, please leave a comment to let me know. It'll be much appreciated, thanks!

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