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Design Jobs at a Startup

6 MIN READ | 2022-02-08

Design Jobs at a Startup: A Complete Guide

Design jobs are plentiful, and for those who are skilled in their area of expertise, they can be highly lucrative. The great thing about design jobs at startups is that they offer unique challenges that are particularly rewarding. 

The purpose of this complete guide is to navigate you through the world of startup design jobs. Are you ready?

What to expect from design jobs at a startup

Startups are notorious for their exciting, fast-paced atmosphere. In general, as a designer at a startup, you are responsible for creating fantastic designs. What kind of designs? We’ll cover that later in this guide. 

Startup benefits

When you work at a startup as a designer, there are several benefits you can expect:

Push boundaries

You can truly make a difference in a company building something from the ground up. Parallel to this, companies often look for people to take on many different tasks as part of their growth process, which means that as a designer, you will expect to pick up new things at an exponential rate. 

Work on various stages of projects

Due to the sheer nature of startups, designers are usually expected to perform many different tasks, including anything from drawing wireframes for new products, creating marketing assets, and designing new websites or apps. If you're good, you will get many responsibilities that can help hone your craft.

Opportunities for growth

Startups are constantly growing, and more often than not, they hire new people to support this growth. If you do well, there will be opportunities for you to take on larger roles & responsibilities. 

Startup challenges

At the same time, startups also have unique challenges that designers should be aware of. Here are some things you should keep an eye out for:

Unstructured environment

When designers work at startups, they tend to wear many hats, and there is less of a structured hierarchy of tasks that you will need to complete on time. Sometimes this can make it difficult to stay on top of everything and in turn, deadlines might be affected.

Compensation

Usually, design jobs at startups don't pay as much as those at corporates, due to budget restrictions the early-stage companies face. However, if you're doing well and are willing to commit, there will still be chances to grow with and within the company — just make sure to keep in mind that it may take some time.

What you do as a designer at a startup

In design roles, there are three main things for which you are responsible: the product, the branding, and the marketing.

Product

As a designer, you need to design and define the product your company is building. It's easy for designers involved in discussions about how the final product should look.

Branding

If the startup does well, it will gain traction fast. At this point, it's important to present consistent branding to help grow a strong reputation. As such, your company will need consistent branding so that people understand the product or service that the company is selling. For example, you might be responsible for creating and/or following a brand guide and ensuring that everyone in the company does the same (e.g. no one creates their own designs with different fonts on Canva). 

Marketing

Design is crucial to marketing. In the end, you are responsible for promoting the company and getting customers to sign up. In addition, you will likely design or help with designing new ad campaigns, explainer videos, and landing pages for users.

How to get a job as a designer at a startup

What qualifications do you need to get a design job? In this area, one would assume that you need a degree from a reputable school to successfully land a job. However, if you're willing to study and learn independently, you can still succeed. 

Having experience

The amount of work experience required can be a deal-breaker. For example, if you only have two years under your belt, it will be challenging to compete with someone who has over five years of experience. But experience doesn’t always reflect your capabilities. For this reason, look for design jobs at startups that correspond to your level of experience.

No experience? 

If you have little to no experience as a designer working at a startup, your best bet is an entry-level design position. Design positions at the junior level may not offer a competitive salary or extensive company benefits - however, they provide a great opportunity for new designers to get their foot in the door and start learning more about what it takes to become successful in this field.

Applying for entry-level positions

Many entry-level design positions are focused on wireframing products and creating visual mockups of various screens, including mobile devices. As a result, new designers will spend a significant amount of time learning from their experienced peers on how to create products from start to finish. They’ll also learn how to become familiar with the latest tools and resources used by other designers. 

Applying for internships

Design internships are another opportunity for new designers (mainly students and recent graduates). An internship is a great way to gain practical design experience and make connection within your industry.

If you have some experience, the market will usually offer you more opportunities to apply for. For example, you may choose to pursue a mid-level design position that combines visual elements that you've worked with before while adding new layers of responsibilities such as marketing strategy, planning and research.

Having the right personality traits

Designers must have a set of specific personality traits. While some traits are more important than others, having a unique mix will help you stand out from competition. 

Creativity, Imagination & Innovation

It goes without saying that for all design jobs, you must be creative. But it's not enough to just be creative. You must also dream up new ideas and come up with innovative solutions for problems you have never encountered before.

Strong problem-solving skills

Your design will likely address a specific problem your client is facing or an opportunity they are looking to take advantage of. These problems need to be solved, and your client expects you to solve them.

Strong communication skills

Your design skills won't mean much if you're unable to communicate your ideas well as part of the branding and marketing process, which is why designers need to possess strong communication skills and work well with others.

Working at a startup that is not design-related

Why should you explore working in industries that are not design-related? While designers often dream of working for design agencies, there are many roles in other industries that offer rewarding careers.

For example, marketing firms and PR companies often seek talented designers to create digital advertisements, brochures, magazines and custom logos for their clients. In addition, nonprofit organisations may need your help creating print materials related to fundraising events or promoting volunteer opportunities. 

Many designers can leverage their design skills to find success in other industries. This is due to lower competition for vacancies and the opportunity to have more ownership over the entire process as a result of a (usually) smaller design team.

Common Design Jobs at Startups

If you are looking for a design job at a startup, start by exploring some of the most common roles listed below.

UX / UI Designer

A UX/UI Designer is a hybrid role that focuses on product design and usability. They are responsible not only for the usability of an app or website but also for its creation.

Core Responsibilities:

  • Work with product managers to define the product experience
  • Wireframe and layout products
  • Create clickable prototypes that users can test
  • Collaborate with front-end engineers
  • Create user flows and maps to guide users through the product

Related Skills: Javascript, CSS3, Adobe Creative Suite

Responsibilities vary depending on the size of the startup. In smaller startups, designers usually spend most of their time working with minimum viable products (MVPs) and creating mockups for initial user testing. This provides a strong foundation for later product iteration, which often leads to new design tasks.

For larger startups, the focus is usually on iterating based on data gathered from user testing and user experience research. This can include creating wireframes, detailed mockups for high fidelity designs, or prototyping parts of a website or app. 

Looking for opportunities at a startup? Explore UX / UI Designer roles on Techleap’s job board!

Graphic Designer

A graphic designer manages and creates all company's visual assets, such as logos, illustrations, ads, product design, and even website design.

Core Responsibilities:

  • Create designs that best showcase the brand image
  • Adhere to brand guidelines and standards
  • Collaborate with others to create campaigns that communicate the right message

Related Skills: Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, Photoshop)

Graphic Designers work with other designers and employees of the company to create designs that best represent the brand. They are also called upon by frontend engineers when integrating design elements into websites or mobile apps.

Looking for opportunities at a startup? Explore Graphic Designer roles on Techleap’s job board!

Product Designer

A product designer is responsible for managing the process of developing a new product, including its specifications, interface and usability.

Core Responsibilities:

  • Collaborate with engineers to define product requirements
  • Create wireframes that illustrate design elements
  • Work with graphic designers and front-end developers to create high fidelity mockups

Related Skills: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator

For those interested in creating visual interface elements, a product designer is an ideal role. In addition to working on new project requirements, they spend time designing and mocking up product interfaces.

For new designers, this role is perfect as it allows you to focus primarily on design without requiring you to learn how to code or understand marketing & sales.

Looking for opportunities at a startup? Explore Product Designer roles on Techleap’s job board!

Brand Designer

A brand designer manages the overall look, feel and voice of a product. They are responsible for creating a visual identity for a company or product to influence the customer's perception of a company.

Core Responsibilities:

  • Manage the visual design process from concept to execution
  • Create mockups that present products in an aesthetically pleasing manner
  • Create design elements such as colour palettes and typography styles

Related Skills: Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, Photoshop)

Brand designers usually work closely with graphic designers to create a cohesive brand experience. They can also be involved in the product life cycle, creating mockups of possible products to help guide future projects and features.

Looking for opportunities at a startup? Explore Brand Designer roles on Techleap’s job board!

Front End Developer

A front end developer is responsible for the look and feel of a website or application. They are often in charge of deciding how elements will be displayed, where they will be placed and how information should flow from one element to another.

Core Responsibilities:

  • Develop code that presents an interface to users
  • Implement user interface features related to user experience and interactivity
  • Collaborate with designers to implement visual elements and layout styles

Related Skills: HTML, CSS, Javascript

Front end developers work alongside graphic designers and product designers to create a fully functional website or application that feels seamless. They also plan out the details of how each page should be laid out and what elements are displayed.

Looking for opportunities at a startup? Explore Front End Developer roles on Techleap’s job board!

Motion Graphics Designer

A motion graphics designer creates animations for videos, presentations and other multimedia projects.

Core Responsibilities:

  • Create animations using 2D or 3D software
  • Illustrate how to implement animation in video footage or other recordings

Related Skills: Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects

Looking for opportunities at a startup? Explore Motion Graphics Designer roles on Techleap’s job board!

Art Director 

An art director is responsible for creating a visual style for a company or product. They manage teams of artists and designers, overseeing the creation of print materials, websites or applications.

Core Responsibilities:

  • Create brand guidelines so that designers and developers have a central source to reference when implementing designs
  • Brainstorm ideas with team members to create artistic style guides
  • Lead teams of designers and artists to complete projects on time and within budget

Related Skills: Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign)

Art directors spend most of their time creating a style that represents a company or product. They spend most of their time brainstorming with team members to develop guidelines for presentations, print pieces, animations and website layouts.


Are you looking for design jobs at a startup? Explore hundreds of options on Techleap’s job board!