Junior/Midlevel/Senior Designer

These prefixes aren’t used where I’m from, so I’m curious - what do they really mean? What does respective role do and not do? When does one move up? Is there a significant salary bump when you switch that prefix?

I remember yo writing once “put in the work, the titles will come later” or something like that, I though it was wise. But several times now I’ve seen people calling themselves Sr Designers 2 years out of school which confuses me. I realize it’s likely about skills and not time put in, but there’s only so much experience you can get in 2 years. So… I guess I’m looking for some type of bullet points on each role, or any general thoughts about the subject.


In General -

Junior, 1-3 years experience.
-mostly execution type jobs: sketch exploration, modeling, rendering

Intermediate, 3-5 years experience

  • more higher level thinking in addition to execution.
  • may meet with some clients to make presentation, help write design briefs, guide some junior designs in basic tasks like sketch exploration

Senior, 5-7 years experience

  • more management and mentorship role
  • writing design briefs
  • defining design direction
  • review of Jr/Int. work
  • hiring of lower level staff
  • time and project management
  • lead creative for larger projects, sketching initial concepts to be fleshed out by Jr/Int. designers

After 7 years, may transition to Project/Design Manager, Creative/Design Director type role, etc.

Of course, this is all “in theory” it really depends a lot on the environment, but also the individual.

In my first position, I was able to transition to Senior Designer after 3 years doing all of the above noted tasks and more because it was a quickly changing workplace that I helped shape and define. Still, I did find it was hard to compare that role with others in different environments that were a lot more fixed and slow, so it was a tough sell to HR people that often only look at time. I heard “you only have 3 years so you are a junior”. My next position was a Manager/Director level position.

If the tasks really fit the title, you should get a salary bump accordingly. Some places however will just shift your title to keep you happy instead of actually paying you more or expanding your responsibility.


I’m not familiar with education/training systems outside my own country, so could you please add the corresponding ages and whether or not the designer in your example has graduated (at what kind of institution).

Age is pretty much irrelevant. it’s based on experience, and I’d consider the years to be after a minimum of 3-4 years university/college degree in design.


I just wondered, because in Germany no company would put a graduated designer (who went to school for 13 years and then studied 3-4 years to achieve an university diploma or bachelor’s degree) on “probation” for several years to grow into his job (maybe for the first 1-3 months or so, to acclimatize into “professional life”). As you describe the tasks of the jr. and intermed. designer, in Germany that would match the profession of a “Technischer Produktdesigner” (technical product designer), a non-academic profession learned through a 3-years apprenticeship (state-regulated).

To think that a fresh out of school designer can step up and be a manager (which is what a Sr level designer does) is ridiculous and any company that does it should not be trusted. You have to learn to crawl before you walk. Just because you have a degree does not mean you know how to lead projects, teams or manage clients. This only comes through experience. We too here in the states go through 12 years of school and at least 4 years maybe 5 of university. When you are done with this you can be as young as 22 years old, and have not been in the “real” working world.

Not all companies go by these titles. We have junior level and senior level, but we are all just design managers. In a company where levels or bands are transparent that normal ranks seniority.

I see , things are different here and there :wink: . Here, we have a “distinct” system of job qualification via apprenticeships and today, many of these apprentiseships require education at high-school level, not by imperative, but by selection of applicants (there is a high level of unemployment here etc. and the design professions are pretty overcrowded). These designers are usually employed to do all that everyday stuff like sketching, rendering, CAD modelling, etc. In contrast, graduate designers usually have to manage their own projects (of course not the priority ones) from the beginning on (and are willing to do so :sunglasses: ).
Of course individual skills are more important than degrees in the long term, but the German system is somehow silly, so, without the right “piece of paper” you probably never get the chance to prove yourself, but with degrees and diplomas, you may find yourself confronted with overwhelming jobs and can’t easily shift down, because that would make you look incompetent to employers.

Thanks for clearing it up!

Happy to try to help. R