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UX/UI Portfolio Crash Course

Advice and tips for creating your Product, UX/UI Designer portfolio and case studies

Product (UX/UI) Design Career Paths

UX/UI/Product Design is a vast industry and there are many different paths you can take in your design career. In this lesson, we'll go through some of the most common types of career paths and help you decide which one is best for you.


I get asked a lot about what it's like to be a UI UX or product designer, and that's a pretty broad question because there are so many different roles and day-to-day tasks depending on who you work for. So, I want to talk about some of these positions and roles and what's involved.

Hi designers, I'm Elizabeth from Designer Up, helping you level up your product design skills. So, who do you want to work for? Well, what your roles and your duties are depend so much on the size of the company and the resources that they have, and the stage that the product you're working on is in. And from teaching design to hundreds of students over the years, I can tell you that it boils down to three main considerations: your personality, your location, and what you want your day-to-day life to be like.

So, imagine that you are the pink dot, and the yellow border is the company you're working for. For small companies and startups, you're in the middle of a small organization that is surrounding and supporting you. Smaller companies often have newer untested products they may be just developing or designing an MVP, maybe going for funding. These are early days, early-stage companies. They often prefer hybrid UI UX or product designers, someone who can move fast, do research, and take them through all of the phases of design thinking. And that's because they often have fewer resources and are on tighter budgets. They're a little more scrappy. So, a jack-of-all-trades can sometimes be more desirable at this stage than needing to hire five people to do the job. You also may be working on a smaller team.

With larger or well-funded companies, you're usually dealing with more mature products. They often have more resources, so there's more income stability, job security, and benefits for you. You may be working on the same thing for a long period of time and really diving into it. So, it often requires more expertise into certain disciplines, and they tend to hire specialists rather than generalists. You'll probably be working in a larger department and more than likely have a set clock-in, clock-out schedule.

Working for yourself, freelance, or your own agency, means that you're in the middle, and you have all of these different projects and clients orbiting around you. This requires you to be more flexible to what's needed moment by moment by the client, and it's more focused on how quickly you can do the work and keep the client happy. You also need to know how to pitch and how to close the deal. There's much more variety of work, and you get to really pick the projects and clients that interest you. So, as opposed to company work, where you're working on one product for a long time, you may get to work on a number of different things over time. You have a lot of room to craft your work-life balance the way you want it because they're not set by anyone but yourself. However, it also requires you to be very proactive and self-motivated to find clients and avoid dry spells. There are a lot of administrative tasks involved in setting up and running your business, like creating estimates, contracts, accounting, etc. And while there's less job security than traditional company employees, there's more personal freedom and diverse opportunities to grow your income in different ways. If you want to create a product and run something of your own as an entrepreneur, then you are the company with a lot of different moving pieces inside of it. You'll need to focus on all aspects of product design, UI UX, and business. You need to be extremely driven and self-motivated to to keep going and be passionate about what you're creating there are a lot of fires to put out problems to solve and big and small decisions to make when you're building your own product and so you'll have to enjoy that high-stakes environment eventually you'll want to hire people to help you grow so you'll also need strong leadership skills this path definitely tends to be for the more risk-tolerant but in the end you are rewarded with ownership of the entire product now within the realm of any of these positions you might have the choice to work remotely or in person.

Working remotely gives you the most work/life balance, but you have to be organized, self-directed, and take initiative because you're your best friend and your worst enemy. You'll need to be able to manage your time efficiently, and you'll need a really strong portfolio, online presence, and job application skills.

Working in person, you'll have more structured hours, job security, and benefits. It also requires you to master soft skills like people skills, team collaboration, and team dynamics. You'll need strong interviewing skills and thick skin because you'll probably hear a lot more "noes" than you will hear "yeses."

So, in a nutshell, that is the landscape of who you can work for in UI/UX and product design. If you want to learn how to master all of the hard and soft skills of UI/UX and product design, come check out our Product Design (UX/UI) Course.