Types of Design Practice

Advertising Design

Attracts attention and makes a compelling marketing pitch to audience’s desire for products or services. Other persuasive advertising—such as political or social messages—encourages audiences to adopt an opinion or change behavior.

Book Design

Determines the layout of interior pages and covers of books. In some cases, illustrators or photographers also contribute to the design of book covers. (See: AIGA Fifty Books/Fifty Covers).

Brand Design

Authentically reflects how a business or organization wants to be perceived by people. Brand is expressed through a graphic identity system, but also includes the products and services the organization offers and the quality and value of relationships it establishes with people over time.

Design Management

Manages creative activities within a business or design practice to further the mission of the organization. Design managers focus on the processes and structures through which businesses and consulting firms deliver solutions to communication, product, environmental, and service problems. They seek the triple bottom line of economic, social, and environmental success through strategic and tactical interventions in the decision-making and operations of organizations.

Design Research

Studies how people encounter, use, and experience communication, products, spaces, and services. In contrast to market research—which relies on what people say in surveys and interviews and requires statistically significant results—design research guides design decisions through firsthand observation of what people actually do. Increasingly, technology also allows design researchers to examine the “faces, places, and traces” of user behavior in the analysis of digital data. Practice-focused research addresses how design is planned, produced, and distributed.

Environmental Signage and Wayfinding

Helps people find their way through streets and buildings, and provides clues to the nature of the environment people find themselves in. The work of wayfinding is to deliver the right directional message at exactly the right time. Visual continuity identifies components as parts of a system and assures users they are on the right paths to their destinations. Contemporary practice is inclusive, an approach to design that considers a full range of users’ physical abilities and cultural differences.

Experience Design (UX)

Addresses the entire user journey in acquiring and using information, products, and/or services. A multidisciplinary practice, experience design may involve psychologists, anthropologists, computer programmers, and business experts, as well as communication, product, and architectural designers. A business, for example, may be concerned about bridging the customer online and in-store experiences, while a museum may think in terms of the casual visitor versus member experiences.

Exhibition and Display Design

Involves an audience in exploring an idea in space and time through the use of graphics, objects, text, media, and participatory opportunities. In museums, exhibition design is an extension of a curatorial viewpoint. In other venues, such as trade shows and retail stores, exhibits serve an advertising purpose. Work sometimes requires spatial and structural expertise, as well as graphic communication skills.

Film and Video Graphics

Organizes information using images in sequence with narration, music, and text. Main title design is a practice that addresses the opening sequences of movies. News on-air graphics include over-the-shoulder graphic information that supports stories.

Game Design

Combines computer programming, storytelling, and the visualization of challenge- or rules-driven digital experiences. Games serve both entertainment and educational purposes. Some games involve simulations of potential social, economic, or physical scenarios for study.

Identity Design

Creates consistent application of an identifying name and/or symbol that visually differentiate the communication, products, places, services, and employees of a business or organization from others in the marketplace. Identity design is often a component of branding. Collateral design involves publications in service of a marketing strategy and often introduces a new identity or brand.


Visual translation of ideas, concepts, or systems through analog and/or digital media, and generally in the style of the illustrator. Some illustrations utilize multimedia components—AR, animation, 3D modeling—to emphasize or expand upon the rendered concept. Specialist areas are wide reaching across medical and scientific fields, fashion, architecture, concept art, and more.

Information Design

Clarifies data, helps orient a viewer, and guides the search for what is important in complex information by establishing a clear visual hierarchy among elements. Making patterns in abstract data comprehensible is a primary goal of information design. Dynamic information design uses the full capabilities of digital technology —time, sound, motion, and information layering—to show changes in data over time and in response to different search purposes.

Interaction Design (IX)

Creates the conditions for interaction between people and products. Products may be digital and/or physical. Interaction designers work in creating positive relationships among people’s perceptions of product affordances, actual behavior of the product’s system, and people’s achievement of objectives.

Interface Design (UI)

Connects the actions of the user to the technological system behavior of computers, appliances, and other electronic devices. Interfaces may be visual, voice-activated, gestural, or motion-activated through sensors, sometimes without user awareness. Icons are a graphical user interface. Pinching to re-size photographs on a smartphone is a gestural/touch interface. The efficiency and pleasure of use are of primary importance to interface designers.

Multimedia Design

Uses the capabilities of digital technology—time, sound, animation, image, and text—in a variety of communication contexts. Some multimedia presentations are interactive, while others do not cede navigational control to the user.

Package Design

Protects, stores, and identifies products. Packaging is a primary means for communicating a brand and featuring the qualities of the product. The practice may involve both the structural aspects of packaging, as well as the image and text that explain the product and its use. Packaging can facilitate a marketing display strategy (for example, how stacked items appear on store shelves) or a service strategy (for example, how packaging supports self- delivery).

Publication Design

Explores the overall layout structure—hierarchy, sequence, and pacing—as well as the particular page design of text and image in the editorial material of magazines and newspapers. Once designed only for print, publication design now addresses online reading on a variety of devices. Streaming services mean “the page” is a fluid concept in which the configuration is malleable and content is continuously updating.

Service Design

Plans and organizes people, communication, and the physical and digital components of a service to improve the interaction between a service provider and customers. Service design examines the internal infrastructure of the service provider’s operations, as well as the customer experience. Increasingly, self-service plays a role in business and government.

Software Design

Plans and creates digital applications that support specific user goals or tasks. Software design involves the totality of the digital product or service to be built by engineers and computer scientists, as well as the “look and feel” of the interaction between the user and the technological system. This work is sometimes called “Product Design” in the software industry. “Platform Design” focuses on the underlying systems on which software products can be built. A number of technology companies open their platforms to third party developers of software applications.

Strategic Design

Applies design principles and methods to the systemic challenges of business and social innovation. Strategic design assists in framing problems, identifying opportunities, applying methods, and developing solutions that improve the overall performance of companies and non-profit organizations. The practice is futures-oriented and focuses on creating value for the business or organization, customers, and society.

Type Design

Creates typefaces through attention to the form and legibility of letterforms and other characters or symbols. Some typefaces are created for specific purposes or surfaces—for example, highway signage or newspapers—or as components of a company’s identity system. Type families involve systematic variations in a typeface (i.e. in weight, proportion, and posture) that allow designers to create contrast and emphasis while maintaining visual unity through recurring formal relationships.

Visual Design

Creates the “look and feel” of screen displays in the design of websites and software applications. These designers are responsible for the development and consistent implementation of visual concepts throughout the users’ web or software experience.

Web Design

Creates and maintains websites—images, text, videos, and animation—using programming code. Web designers are responsible for information architecture—the organization, navigation structure, and labeling of content—used by the site to respond to user interaction.