mid level or senoir level?

Hi all,

I currently work in house as the only industrial designer and do projects from start to finish. From setting the brief, research, concept design, testing, engineering final CAD model, to hand holding production…and even a bit of graphic design. I’ve done this for 2 years at my current work and have got around 1.5 years experience before I joined the company…which gives me 3.5 yrs experience. From looking at the job market that’s puts me about mid level. And going from the salary survey and job adverts I would say my salary is of a senior designer (design week 2007 survey) , which I think is fair since I do the whole shabang.

so my question is what is the difference between a senior designer and a mid level designer?

I ask this as I want to join a design consultancy instead of working in-house. Do you think I should change my job title on my CV to senior designer, even though I have no one to be senior over and don’t have at least 5yr experience most senior designers have?

There also seems to be a lack of mid level positions, I’ve only seen junior/placement ones and senior ones. This is contrast to the design week’s article which says there is a shortage of mid level designers. I’m kind of expecting to have to take a pay cut where ever I go to too…or a bit worried about asking for a senior designer pay with only 3.5 yr experience.

any help from you guys out there?

I don’t think you should have to take a pay- or not be so willing to.

What you described is a tough spot for sure. On one hand, you’ve have and done the work of a senior level designer- on the other, more and more people are having to take on more responsibility… as you said you’re the only one.

I personally don’t work in a consultancy, so I can’t comment on how that switch is. One run-around might be to just yourself a “designer” then your experience can speak for itself (as it should). As for not really having employees under you… this is a trend that could plague the design profession really. Personally, I would suggest looking into expanding into some management classes, looking for methods and way to help you learn how to manage. There is a fine line to being a “manager” and a person who has employees under them. But my advice would be for you find your methods and ways of fostering and developing them and projects you have deligated to them.

Sorry for the long response- hope it helps a little. I think you’ve touched on a huuuuuuge topic here. Good luck!

The above thread discusses the same thing actually. I’d suggest you simply go for mid-level but with a high salary. That leaves the possibility of promoting yourself inside the company in a year or two, thus demanding a significant pay raise. If you go in as a senior, you only leave yourself the option of a promotion to director. With 3.5 years, I’d say you’re on the high-end of mid-level designer. Senior, from what I can tell, starts around 5-6 years.

It’s a vague term and one that’s tossed around far too much. The term deserves respect because it should only be reserved for persons that have successfully been in the industry for a set number of years and not just how long they’ve been with a company. There are a lot of senior engineers out there, but few seem to have senior skills.

Also In a SME (small medium enterprise) has no where to progress to…i.e from junior to mid to senior. As we only do a small number of 3D products (rather than electronic/software ones)

I did drop out of doing a NVQ in management as I didn’t feel it would add value to me, I would consider have a strong portfolio would better than qualifications…although saying that I should be finishing off my MA soon, which hopefully be worth something.

thanks for the link, its probably an issue that crops up every 2yrs when you feel you should be in the next group.

good advice, but I’m going to still have a pop at a few of the senior roles…worth a try? I’m pleased to hear you think I shouldn’t take a pay cut, I’m going to give it a go…I’ve got a few more leads to chase up on before I start to look for other routes to employment.

Any other London designers out there who could throw me a line? I’ll post up my portfolio/CV for you guys to crit.

I don’t want to get into a “what I would do match”… but let me say that I think you should reach high, and not sell yourself short. I never really like the term “years of experience” because that seems so limiting. I know people who have spent years just existing but couldn’t draw the right end of circle.
I always saw the experience thing as something like the SAT. It’s a reasonable denominator, but not really worth as much when you get down to it. If you base your descision just becuase someone has a 1500 as compared to another who has 1000- they just might see things differently.
I would be careful about overpowering your MA though. If you have little experience in developing/ training/ or managing/ leadership or whatever… then don’t overstate it. Ever have a boss come in with an MBA and zero people skills… Just be honest about it. (your potential employees will like you more for it- at least)

I’d say based on my knowledge of UK ID consultancy that the senior pay shown in the design week survey is for somebody with around 5-6 years experience (not any old experience either - has to be linked/related/useful to the business your entering).

Remember some consultancies take advantage of a glut of applicants and use this to their advantage when it comes to pay but generally good applicants will/should get past this. The more senior you get the less this will be the case.

  • Dawolfman - I’ve sent you a PM.

I’m totally with 6ix on this…

6ix wrote:

It’s a vague term and one that’s tossed around far too much. The term deserves respect because it should only be reserved for persons that have successfully been in the industry for a set number of years and not just how long they’ve been with a company. There are a lot of senior engineers out there, but few seem to have senior skills.

A few things to think about:

You most likely have a depth of experience as a sole designer at a corp, but a firm might want a breadth of experience, which might keep you in the mid level.

A design firm most likely will not pay as well as corporate, the few people that get paid are principals, design directors, and lead designers (super seniors)

Firms tend to have much tighter budgets, the only way anybody can make coin is by hiring junior designers (hence all the adverts you see) who are highly skilled. The best ones get promoted and stay with the firm, the not as good ones usually get marginal pay increases so they drop out.

Firms also tend to rarely advertise for seniors, but they will most likely snatch up a hot talent if one presents itself.

All that said:

I think it is great you are applying to firms, increasing your experience with a different type of position always ups the skills.

I think you should go for the senior roll, but just be prepared to negotiate. You might end up being able to make a lateral move in, instead of going for a junior position.

Someone once told to always apply for jobs you are not quite sure you can do, everything else is boring.

Good luck man!!!

good topic. i’ve heard the same discussion many times…

when it comes down to it, in most places with a “team” larger than one, a senior is someone who is not only experienced in design, but also acts as a mentor to more junior designers. a senior should be able to lead and help junior designer improve in skill and also act as a liasion to the lead or design director.

i too have been in a similar situation in the past where my role was more encompassing due to a small team, but i have found in my own experience that any potential employer (at least the good ones) will take this into account when judging “years of experience”.

the reverse can also be true. I have interviewed many applicants from large companies at a mid or higher level who do not have nearly as much true working experience as those at smaller companies becuase so many things get passed up the foot chain or to other departments. it goes both ways.

in any case, as someone mentioned, YOU know your skills the best, so you should apply for a challenging position that you think meets your skills and experience. a good company will look at the candidate, not only the resume or time served and get the best designers in the end.

hope this helps,


Great feedback guys, really appreciate it. I guess I have to make sure my skill set comes across in an attempt to stand out from the masses.

Definitely focus more on communicating your skill-set, broad experience and talent, than on existing job title. There is value in communicating that you have been the ‘sole’ designer that speaks to, not just design skills, but holistic product development and project management skills. You have also been able to engage on areas of the design or product development process that other designers with your (years) experience would love to have. I can understand your desire to move to a design consultancy for that more interactive design perspective with peers, but don’t eliminate in-house corporate groups…as long as it is more than one person!

As for titles, there isn’t really parity between corporate and consultancy. Typically consultancies are a bit more liberal with their titles than corporate. This may be to communicate a higher competency, or a means for higher billing. On the other hand with a start up company, you could be the ‘chief designer’ of a company of one!

Don’t forget the art of negotiation! once you get your foot in the door for an interview, doesn’t mean that you cannot negotiate for a position or title that matches your experience or the value that you can bring to any company. The position advertized, may not be the final position filled!

Good Luck!