Every designer has their starting point in design. That time when they are rookies in the design industry, and they still need a lot of guidance to get by. However, with time, things start to change. With the increase in knowledge and experience, junior designers get better at the craft until they can be confidently referred to as senior designers in the industry.

This article explores the seeming delineation between senior and junior designers. In most organizations, there are varying criteria for classifying senior and junior designers. However, here are some important points to note, irrespective of whether you are a junior or senior designer.

It’s Beyond the Experience

Many designers often mistake believing that talent is enough to overshadow experience, especially if a designer has a growth mindset. While it might be fair to assume that the difference between senior and a junior designer is often clear, there are also some misconceptions that may arise from time to time. One of these is with respect to experience.

For designers, the experience can often have different implications. More simply put, the experience is different for individual designers. The context of the ‘experience’ has to be considered too. For instance, if a designer claims to have three years’ experience in design, it is vital to understand if such a designer spent three years as a freelance designer or working with an agency where there was quality oversight.

Ultimately, a designer, irrespective of the background needs to have a growth mindset. This can help catalyze the growth process. This is why it is often recommended, especially in design HR, that sometimes a designer’s portfolio might be more important than the years of experience.

So, for junior designers, the important thing to look out for is making your value clear in your portfolio. Define your process clearly, so it is clear to everyone interested in checking out the portfolio. Each project should be an opportunity for learning.

Handling Priorities, Deadlines, and Tasks

The primary difference is often awareness and ownership. Most junior designers tend to have issues negotiating enough time to complete a project. This often results in unfavorable timelines for these junior designers. Senior designers, on the other hand, tend to have the convenience to effectively negotiate preferred timelines. Senior designers also know the essential questions that should be asked when taking up a project. This way, it becomes easier to prioritize projects and set appropriate timelines.

It is based on this premise that it is often advised that when employing a junior designer in a firm for the first time, it is important to provide some oversight to ensure they get the hang of how to follow these processes. Also, junior designers should always try to look out for design execution methodologies and frameworks, and also be open with their team on the details of tasks. They should ask for help if they need to.

Understanding Independence and When to Ask for Help

Most Junior designers often have a problem asking for help with regards to developing solutions. This can be a major distinguishing factor between Senior and Junior designers. When you need help, it is alright to reach out to more experienced people on the subject matter. However, to make it easier to initiate a conversation, having an opinion can be a good starting point for the conversation.

In most instances, a lot of Junior designers only need a simple nudge when faced with some form of uncertainty. It, however, gets better with experience, thereby making the process much easier for senior designers.

This further reinforces the need for that oversight for young designers. This can be achieved through mentorship or through some workplace arrangements. Junior designers also need to understand it’s alright to seek some clarification when faced with some uncertainty.

Articulating Design Decisions

The ability to efficiently articulate design decisions is a good representation of one’s mastery of the craft. In assessing the level of growth of a designer, their presentation of design decisions is also important in the process. In most instances, Junior designers complete projects with the expectation of general feedback. However, senior designers are specific about the kind of feedback they request.

This also applies to the presentation of the design and design process. Most senior designers show intention and are articulate with the design decisions made, particularly in line with the project’s overall goals. Junior designers should, therefore, pay closer attention to their presentation skills and work towards improvement. Being articulate with your design decisions is an essential skill required to win clients and users as a designer.

The transition from Pixel Pushing to Curating Experiences

Curation does not merely assess the maturity of a designer. As a matter of fact, it can be the only difference between a product designer and a fantastic product designer. ‘Pixel pushing ‘is the practice of designing only what a person is pushed to create without going beyond the demands of the job. This can be a major difference between Junior and Senior designers as while most Junior designers are pixel pushers, most senior designers are curators.

Curating experiences as a designer is a more holistic approach to solving design problems. A curator looks beyond the scope of the requests and finds new and innovative solutions to possible problems that might not even be assessed yet.

In conclusion, the distinguishing factors between senior and junior designers are mostly due to experience gained over time. However, junior designers can catalyze their growth process by working closely with senior designers. This way, they can tap into the wealth of experience of the senior designers while accumulating some experience of their own.