Job Titles and the Working World

Over the years, like many of you experienced professionals, I’ve held many job titles, working my way through the ranks as one expects to. But, do those job titles really have any meaning at all? If you work in the corporate world, my guess is “Yes, they absolutely do” and there are concrete definitions of what your job title requires from you. If you’re at a small business or a 3 person consultancy, I’m guessing “Yeah, it does, but not really” is your answer.

In my current position (I work for a small business of around 35 employees), I have no assigned job title. No one does, except the owner/CEO, but he doesn’t have a sign on his office saying so. The thing is, everyone knows what department they work in, and where they stand in that department. But, how does that translate to the rest of the working world? If someone asks you what you do (yes, we’ve been over this for the term “Industrial Designer” many times, but…) do you have a quick answer, or recognizable job title? Probably not. I know I don’t.

Personally, I’m in favor of job titles. But not, so that I have subordinates, or that everyone knows what the pecking order is in the office. I believe a title gives you a bit more to think about every day at work, a sort of constant reminder of what your responsibilities are. It also gives you and your co-workers something to strive for, or an achievable goal. “Some day I’m going to be CDO of this company…” you get the idea.

So, what do YOU think? Are you in favor of titles? Or do you think they work against you, holding you back? Does your experience level make a difference in your answer?

Titles are sometimes a strange subject. I think it all depends on where you work. My job title up until about 3 weeks ago was Industrial Design Manager. We just had a re-org and HR wanted to simplify titles and turned all Design Managers in “Packaging Managers”. Your thoughts are the same as mine on that title. The key thing there is my boss flat out told HR that they could call us whatever they want, but the rest of the business will know us as “Industrial Deisgn Managers, Branding Managers,” etc…

I have found in corporate they are used to identify layers. Designer, Sr Designer, Design Manager, Director, VP, and if your lucky CDO. In corporate structure I think it is a good thing and helps to identify responsibilities. You have to remember, your company may have 35 people, mine has 500. Without a bit of structure things can get a bit crazy.

On the flip side I always find titles quite amusing in the consulting world. They tend to be higher then the actual experience of the employee. What may be a director in the consulting world would most likely be a manager or sr manager in the corporate world. This is especially true when it comes to graphic design and advertising. Everyone at these places are Art or Creative Directors. I just don’t get it.


The “c-suite” definitely has a connotation of level to it.

As I’ve gotten older, title has become less important to me. I’d be happy with the title of design lead or some such. At IDEO I believe originally no one had titles, so you could be who you needed to be at the moment… or some other IDEO mind warp like that.

Anyway, I’ve seen people with big sounding titles with really little to no power, influence, ability, or compensation, and I’ve met people with fairly innocuous sounding titles with all of the power, influence, ability, and compensation.

What matters is not what it says under your name, but the reputation that precedes you. What have you done, and what can you do, and how clearly can you communicate and monazite that value.

That said, I like my title :wink:

Never cared for titles. Too many, especially in the sales area, are a joke. They are completely void of meaning.

When I was consulting, I never had a title. Now in the corporate world I have one, but I prefer to be called by my first name. While the owner agrees with me, HR insists.

What would be of greater use is to have your signing power on your card instead of a title. At least with that you get some functional information instead of fluff. And it creates the real departmental hierarchy.

I don’t mind titles, they are a nod to a person’s background and/or expertise, and can help me gauge what I can rely on them for and what I might support them with. What bugs me about titles are two things, people with “lesser” titles who give automatic respect and priority to those with “greater” titles (people who don’t question authority). And people with “greater” titles who assume respect just based on their title regardless of whether or not they legitimately deserve said title (people who are completely full of shit). Put these types together in a corporate working environment and you have the perfect recipe for mediocrity.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

Completely agree. I was brought into a project a while back to redesign a particular line that was preforming extremely well and was growing year after year. I question the need for the redesign and gave a bit of push back. I was then told that VP of X said they did not like the current design and wanted to see a change. When I ask what about the item they did not like there was not real reason.

Just because upper management asks to do something does not always mean it is the right thing to do. It is our job to show them why it should or should not be done. If you speak up generally they listen.


In my 30+ years of working, titles might denote pay grade but are useless in most circumstances especially in the creative field.

They can be used to crush you but in most cases this is ego driven. If someone has a good idea, my top level boss listens. even if that person is a “Lower” level.

A lot of people in top corporate positions got there by screwing up or luck!!

This is a great topic!

During my time in Corporate America [GM & Black & Decker], a title was your ticket to acceptance at various levels. Without it you held no power, no ability to prompt change and generally no voice either (unless you were in a brainstorm or VOC session, where everyone was equal). In my case, as my responsibilities grew to different continents it would have been impossible to lead the 3 office group without that title in my email signature. It was all about structure - pay grade, vacation, comps, bonuses - without the titles it would have been chaos. All the while, the titles were also a hindrance, a way to get-off-the-hook for decisions and actions - a ticket to look to someone higher for the hard decisions. So that ole adage of why Corporate America is broken seemed to shined brightly at both of those companies. A friend worked at CAT and told me that everyone except Presidents of their divisions are titled ‘Manager’. I guess that makes some sense, we all manage something! There’s a leader of a large, softsewn company we dealt with in Mexico whose card reads, "Head Honcho’. I’ve always gotten a chuckle from his card.

NURB, I admire your office situation - everyone must feel empowered and able to facilitate change / voice an opinion (or at least I hope so :slight_smile: )

As for now, the title doesn’t mean anything to me - we’re structured as a team and I consider everyone on our team a Partner. It’s more for clients and my business card than anything else.

At my company everyone has two job titles, their internal corporate one and one that describes what they actually do. For instance my internal corporate job title is Design Engineer 1B, but my business cards and email signature say Industrial Designer. Same with the mechanical engineers and interior designers who are also lumped into the Design Engineers category.

The internal title is just for HR’s organization of the company and for employees to find out where other people rank if they don’t know them. It’s much easier to say “everyone with a 1B after their title makes $X per year and gets X number of hours of paid time off each year” than figuring it out on a case-by-case basis for such a huge company with such a diverse number of different jobs and job titles.

The only person who actually calls themselves a design engineer here is the one interior designer who hates interior design and doesn’t want to be called an interior designer.