Design’s many roles



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So far, since releasing the 2016 Product Design Report, we’ve explored compensation, gender, education, and professional happiness. Today, we’re diving into a closer look at how designers today actually spend their working time.

It’s no secret that the role of design has changed rapidly over the last decade or so. What once was simply a phase in the progression of a product is now a lens through which businesses see their entire creation process.  

The fact that designers are spending more time doing things other than designing, then, makes a lot of sense.

Across the board, participation in brainstorming and idea generation has become a huge part of designers’ jobs, with more than 95% of all survey respondents being involved.


For designers earning $150,000 or more a year, that percentage inches up even higher, to 98%.

Most designers—just under 92%—regardless of title or role, spend some of their time wireframing and storyboarding, as well as creating visual designs and mocking up prototypes.

“67% of the highest-paid designers use project management skills daily.”

Not as many (less than 70%) conduct research and validation testing, and only 42% are involved in development.

Project management, though, is clearly a place where designers’ responsibility is growing.

A whopping 71% of high-earning designers are involved in project management, while 55% of all designers on average report project management involvement.


Depending on where a designer works, though, their involvement in project management can vary. Designers at startups are most likely (61%) to be involved in project management, while those at agencies are only 50% likely to be involved. Only 37% of designers at educational organizations find themselves using their project management chops.

We found, though, that in general, 3 in 5 designers at organizations where design plays a leading role are involved in project management. And 67% of the highest-paid designers use project management skills daily.

As design continues to find itself at the forefront of product development, it makes sense that designers would find themselves applying a wide range of nontraditional skills to their expanding roles.

Want to see more? Dive into the 2016 Product Design Report for even more juicy details.


Kayleigh Karutis
Kayleigh got her start as a news reporter, and she still considers that time she wrote the entire paper among her greatest achievements.

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