14 Types of Graphic Designers: A Humorous (?) Take

Artem Barinov
 | 
September 16, 2021
 | 
13
 min

Graphic designers are just folks who are good at graphic design, but of course they will tell you that they are highly sensitive creative virtuosos with mysterious skills that can turn any business or mission into a wildly successful endeavor. Let's take a closer look at these cool cats who roam the streets of your city and claim to have a vision for a better-designed future.

Warning: This article is bursting at the seams with clichés, generalizations, and unforgivable humor. Proceed at your own risk.

Brand Identity Designer

Be Dandy for Maison Crivelli

Brand identity designers craft visual identity systems for businesses. Identity systems consist of logos, color palettes, font pairings, icons, print collateral, and so on. The elements are designed to form a cohesive, brand-driving whole. Alongside these elements designers deliver style guides that tell the client how to use the identity consistently across various applications, however, these guides serve mostly as artifacts of wishful thinking.

Brand identity designers operate in the spaces where business, culture, semiotics, and aesthetics intersect. They boast an impressive emotional IQ, do their homework to understand your business, and always bring the conversation back to strategy. Tell them to make the blue a tad lighter because you like light blue and you risk getting fired. Yes, you, the client, getting fired. So try "I believe that softening the color palette would better align the visual identity with our future brand direction" instead.

And if you don't get fired when you ask to tweak the colors it means you've been conned and are dealing with an amateur. To confirm, immediately ask them to tell you the story of the Starbucks logo on your cup. If they cannot, ask for your money back, then never speak to them again.

Print Designer

Imprimerie du Marais

This is an elite class of graphic designers who design for print. They take their digital designs and, wait for it, send them off to the print shop... Anticlimactic, you say? I know it's hard to believe but that step—sending files to a print shop—actually requires some serious know-how unless you want your printed design to look like yesterday's newspaper in a gutter after a hailstorm. The work of print designers will literally touch your customers, so be nice to your print designer!

Print designers know the best print shops in the city and can rattle off an impressive list of printing effects that sound like abracadabra. Listen for key words like offset, Pantone, bleed marks, duplexed cards, die cut, perforation, selective UV, and gilded edges. Be ready to answer if you want your logo blind embossed or foil stamped. Oh, and get your wallet ready because you are about to be convinced that paying for the 300gsm Fedrigoni Arcoprint Milk textured ivory paper is a phenomenal idea. You may not understand this now, but you won't have any regrets once you hold the business cards in your hands. And you will cry a little every time you give one away.

Surface / Pattern Designer

Bruna Pereira for Monte Etna

Pattern designers use repeating graphic elements to design, uh, patterns. They are mad people who aren't satisfied with only one instance of an image, however, they are worth tolerating because the patterns they design can add interest to an otherwise boring website background, transform your shop's $7 tote into the hottest fetish item of the month, or make the tablecloths in your restaurant fun.

To spot a pattern designer look for patterns! If they are wearing a plain shirt they aren't a pattern designer. It's as simple as that.

Packaging Designer

low key Design for Aokka Coffee

The title gives it away; packaging designers create packaging for your products. They design how the packaging will open/close, how the product will be stored in it, and of course what the packaging will look like. They are kind of a fusion of industrial and print designers with a side of coleslaw, erm, I mean awesome.

Packaging designers think in many dimensions (!) and spend a lot of time in their workshops stress-testing different materials (mostly your patience). To check if your friend is a packaging designer, give her a little gift in an interesting box and observe if she pays more attention to the gift or to the box. If you leave her alone and then come back to find that the box is taken apart and laid out flat while the gift is untouched, you know who you're dealing with. Be careful when you approach, she's got an X-Acto knife in her hand!

Lettering Artist

Jessica Hische for Mahonia Vineyard

Lettering artists draw beautiful letters and words, drink pumpkin spice lattes, and add rococo and pizzazz to everything they touch. Their vocabulary is devoid of words like boring and banal.

Go to a trendy place and look for someone with a thick sketchbook full of wonderful squiggles. Bring your aura detector to locate positive vibes because hand-letterers are the hippies of the design world. Every brushstroke they lay down makes the planet a happier place.

Type Designer

FF Meta Serif by Erik Spiekermann, Christian Schwartz, Kris Sowersby, Ralph du Carrois, Botio Nikoltchev

Type designers say weird things like kerning, and x-height in their sleep, and the walls of their offices look like they were built entirely out of different letters!

Type designers create custom typefaces (families of characters, digits, and symbols). If this sounds easy, think twice. Designing typefaces is one of the most, if not the most, meticulous and demanding design jobs out there. Each and every glyph needs to look consistent with the rest of the font, vector curves are manipulated with scientific precision, stroke thickness is tweaked to perfection, and counter-forms (the white spaces inside of letters) are painstakingly modeled to achieve an optimal balance between style and legibility. Spacing between letters, called tracking, is carefully fine-tuned so that a capital "T" looks great next to a lowercase "o" when you write "Totally!". The fonts are then run through different pixel-hinting algorithms to see how each of them affects the rendering and if any legibility issues arise. Repeat the process for different font weights, styles, and alphabets.

This is why some fonts cost over $400 per style. A lot of blood, sweat, and tracing paper go into designing typefaces.

If you decide to hire a type designer, make sure to call from a pay phone. They'll ask you to meet them under a bridge. Bring a suitcase full of cash and don't make sudden movements.

Calligrapher

Alexander Babariko

Not to be confused with hand-letterers who draw letters and words, or type designers who design typefaces, calligraphers are experts at writing letters and words. They are ink samurai wielding fountain pens and flat-nib markers.

Next time you hang out with you friend who you suspect to be a calligrapher, utter this phrase verbatim: "Yesterday I had this dream... Inks of every imaginable color were flowing from a mysterious source and overlapping to form delicate shapes. It was this mesmerizing dance of ink..." Now carefully gauge their reaction. If they take a few steps back and look at you like you are mentally skewed then they clearly aren't a calligrapher. If, on the other hand, they seem dreamy and respond with "Yeah, I have this dream quite often, actually," then they are a calligrapher and now it's your turn to decide if you should be concerned for their sanity or not.

UI/UX Designer

Ramotion for Ninox

It's pronounced you-eye-you-eeks, not yikes, but you already knew that because that's the only thing people seem to be talking about these days. UI stands for User Interface, and UX for User Experience. These are two interdependent spheres of design, most often mentioned in the context of designing software applications. User interface design is pretty self-explanatory—it's what defines the final look of your application's interface. User experience, on the other hand, determines how you use the application to accomplish your goals. UX designers concern themselves with usability, accessibility, information architecture, design patterns, and other fancy ways of saying that they know what they are doing.

Ideally, UX must determine UI and should always come first unless you want to get The Most Useless App of the Month that Looks Absolutely Stunning! badge in the app store. So yeah, technically, it should be UX/UI instead of UI/UX, but it doesn't sound nearly is good now, does it?

Most UI/UX designers are fond of bright colors in their apps but not in their clothes. Look for a hipster-y vibe. Also, strangely, they are always talking about some Sketch. You've seen their sketches on paper, but you have a suspicion that's not the Sketch they are talking about. And when you asked them to send Sketch to you last week, they told you that it wouldn't work because it only works on Mac. It's now been a few days since that conversation took place and this shroud of mystery is starting to get, well, sketchy, so you decide to investigate further. After all, isn't this just absurd?! You are paying these people good money and they won't even send you Sketch! Turns out Sketch is just an interface design software... And you were gonna call the police. Silly you.

(Pro tip: these days it's all about Figma.)

Web Designer

The Bakery for Darkroom

Freelance web designers are reclusive individuals who like to live with their blinds drawn shut. To avoid office drama they form one-person teams that consist entirely of themselves and then they work on a bunch of gibberish like IA, UX, UI, CMS, HTML, CSS, JS, PHP, SEO, and GDPR in hopes that their labor results in snappy, astounding websites their clients hired them to concoct. It would be smooth sailing but CSS likes to throw tantrums and must be wrestled into submission at every breakpoint. Expect F-bombs.

OG web designers are all about WordPress, but there's a new crop of designers that has been emerging as of late. They are, supposedly, "more better" (not my words). They call themselves Webflow Experts.

Elite web designers work in studios and agencies and produce top-level work for badass brands, like the example above.

Editorial Designer

HelloMe for Per Kirkeby – Bau und Bild

Editorial designers are masters of layout grids, justification, hyphenation, and paragraph styles. They spend their days in Adobe InDesign and express their imagination with text boxes, margins, columns, and gutters. Water-cooler rumors suggest that they can recite the first 239 words of the "Lorem ipsum" placeholder text by heart. Ask them what the meaning of life is and they'll say "Export to PDF."

Shame if this makes them sound too eccentric for your liking. It's precisely this originality that will make your books and zines fly off the shelves.

Infographics Designer

Manuel Bortoletti

Infographics designers have great organizational skills, meticulous attention to detail, and they are great information architects. They can visualize relationships between complex sets of data and then represent them in visually appealing ways that make the information easy to grasp.

It's true that they always complain how the metro map of your city must have been designed by a 5-year-old, but these people like things to be crystal clear and poorly laid out information pains them. Also, they probably have synesthesia and are definitely god-level at Tetris.

Illustrator

Yin Weihung for Doist

From illustrating restaurant menus to the latest Forbes article, illustrators are experts at crafting bespoke drawings that communicate the vibe of your business or story. They are more artists than designers. Hire them for some pop, fizz, and "damn, that's awesome!".

Their drawing skills are out of this world. When they sneeze into a napkin they produce better illustrations than anything you could draw in your wildest dreams with step-by-step instructions. You don't get to see illustrators very often because most of the time they are in their bat caves, sliding their Wacom styluses and Apple Pencils across glowing glass screens.

Creative Director

Don Draper for Heinz in Mad Men

Creative directors wear black turtlenecks, religiously study Don Draper's body language, and scribble copy in the margins of The New York Times with vintage Montblancs. Nobody knows what they do so nobody has been able to do what they do better. Rumor has it that they don't eat or sleep but sustain themselves entirely on late-afternoon sex.

Design Entrepreneur

Chris Do, CEO & Founder of Blind and The Futur

Design entrepreneurs design businesses. They don't work on design, they work in design. They get fired up when they think about all the great things design can do for them, their clients, and the world. They are leaders of networks of top-level professionals and they know how to leverage these networks to produce outstanding creative and deliver astronomical value. They are the people whom if you ask to do something, they'll know how to make it happen. Go to the website of your favorite design agency, click on "Team," and look for the leader of the pack. That's the design entrepreneur.


Of course in the real world design disciplines are never this clear-cut. There is a lot of overlap and most designers will be proficient at several of these skills and will have at least tangential experience with most. There are also some branches I didn't mention because they reach beyond the scope of graphic design and into other realms. For example, add motion to illustration and you get animation. Add 3D and you get 3D animation. Add lettering and patterns and you get motion design. Create very elaborate atmospheric illustrations and you get concept art. Replace the brief with an idea and you get (fine) art. Add programming know-how and you enter the world of software and web development. Add niche skills and you get print technicians, for instance. Also, a lot of graphic designers will flirt with photography.

In other words, the world of graphic design is vast, bleeds into neighboring disciplines, and is very difficult to chart accura... A Pumpkin Spice Latte for Artem! Excuse me a moment. Artem, your Pumpk... Dude, what the hell, I ordered an espresso. Do I look like a lettering artist to you? Do I?! Take a look at these biceps. Do you really think...