Many people in the tech community have heard of a full stack developer, but what about a full stack designer? Does that simply mean a versatile designer? In the not-so-distant past, designers had clearly defined roles and titles: UI designer, UX designer, IA, IxD, etc. These were all described as unique jobs with unique talent requirements, and all performed by different people. But those days are coming to an end — fast.
In today’s world, everyone is more than familiar with the ‘many hats’ job description. A marketing executive might straddle social media, editorial and copywriting. A CEO might partake in the occasional customer service e-mail. As it’s becoming increasingly difficult to pinpoint and define our skill sets, many of today’s job specs are multi-disciplinary—meaning you’ll wear many hats as part of one role. A full-stack designer follows this same protocol.
Put simply, a full-stack designer is a designer that gets involved at every stage of the user experience design process, from research to implementation. Where a normal designer might take charge of one segmented part of the process before handing off, a full-stack designer will see the project through to its execution, focusing on the full picture of the project from day one. Typically, this means a full-stack designer has a range of skills including UX and UI design, coding, project management, copywriting and an understanding of the development process.
Resourcefulness is both a hot topic and a high-priority in the start-up world. As such, the ‘generalist or specialist’ debate has been raging since the dawn of the start-up era. Expansive and multi-disciplinary skill sets often come under fire for being too broad or too much work—evoking the fear that you’d be doing the job of 3 or 4 people for the salary of one. This criticism has meant it’s highly tempting to want to hone in as much as possible when it comes to job specs, and opt for a career that means you’ll excel at one thing rather than being a jack of all trades. However, being a full-stack designer and having a skill set that straddles multiple disciplines is hugely advantageous.
Full-stack design is especially lucrativeif you’re a freelancer.Why? Because, put simply, you can add more value than two specialised designers. Alongside being so much more than just one small cog in a machine, you’re able to track the progress of the project.
Being a full-stack designer also has huge benefits when it comes to the handoff process. Generally speaking, there’s still a noticeable discrepancy in both understanding and communication between design and development—or, in other words, an ‘us vs. them’ mentality. A full stack designer understands the entire process and is able to design with a real concept of the limitations and tangible goals from the development side. They’re then able to listen to the niggling problems and propose solutions, making the entire hand-off process as smooth as butter.
While having such a broad inventory of skills might seem overwhelming, there’s a level of flexibility and freedom that comes with being a full-stack designer. Full-stack designers are able to choose where they invest their time and prioritise one skill over another if necessary. Where a conventional designer might have to retrain if they’re growing tired or bored of their specific skill set, a full-stack designer could fill any design role that comes up in the job search. Win-win.