What does full-stack design really mean?

almost 7 years ago from , Designer

I've been designing for some time and I haven't heard of the term full stack design until recently. Google doesn't return any result on anything related to full stack designer.

My guess is that full-stack designer refers to someone who can do illustration, print and web design. I'm curious to see if anyone know the official definition for it or/and your thoughts on what it means to be a Full-Stack Designer.


  • Diego LafuenteDiego Lafuente, almost 7 years ago

    It means you will do as much work as 3 guys for the wage of 1.

    30 points
  • Matt SistoMatt Sisto, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    TL;DR: A designer who can code.

    The "stack" refers the the layers of technology in an application.

    Think of it like this: If you were to "stack" all of the technologies in an application, starting with the UI down, it might look something like this:

    HTML, CSS (Interface). JavaScript (Interface & Interaction). PHP (Communication with the server). Apache (Server).

    The stack would look different depending on the project and the role of each layer might change depending on the chosen tech. For instance, Meteor is a JavaScript framework where you write all of your code - front end AND back end (except HTML/CSS).

    So, anyway... "full-stack".

    Far as I can tell, this pretty much always means the designer can design an interface (whether it be by wireframe, Sketch, Photoshop, or whatever) as well as implement the interface in HTML/CSS. Sometimes, it might mean a designer who does all of the above, as well as JavaScript and, say, some Ruby back-end code.

    Not to be confused with a "unicorn" which is a designer that can do all of the above as well as brand identity, etc.

    In my experience, these just seem to be terms that people throw around loosely and are usually project-specific or otherwise not entirely accurate.

    25 points
    • Darth BaneDarth Bane, almost 7 years ago

      I'm not sure this is "correct". A full-stack developer is someone who can code, commercialise, implement, test and maintain. I wouldn't think a full-stack dev would be able to design, and because of that I'm not sure a full-stack designer would be able to code.

      Full-stack designer to me is someone who can research, design, implement, prototype. Someone who is knowledgeable in all types of design, be it product, graphic, web, software or more specific areas like typography.

      I also don't agree on your description of unicorn. Unicorns, at least in the startup world, has always been people who are able to fill more than one role in the key areas (sales, backend, frontend, design). So a designer able to do frontend coding, a backend dev able to comfortably pitch, and so on.

      6 points
    • Sam Pierce LollaSam Pierce Lolla, almost 7 years ago

      I've always thought calling someone a "unicorn" was sort of incredulous. It's a joke--people who do "everything" are unicorns... but unicorns don't exist. (Get it?)

      I meet your definition of "unicorn", but I would never call myself that. I consider myself a full-stack designer.

      1 point
      • Spencer HoltawaySpencer Holtaway, almost 7 years ago

        I'm sorry but I will continue to call you a unicorn :-)

        3 points
      • Zack Davis, almost 7 years ago

        I have heard so many terms. It makes it difficult to get a job. I can do everything from database schemas to your brand identity but I have no idea what my title would be.

        Unicorn, Purple Squirrel, Full Stack Designer, Deseloper (my favorite), Devigner, Hybrid.........I am sure there are more.

        2 points
      • Nicole FosterNicole Foster, almost 7 years ago

        Sometimes, calling yourself a Unicorn as a joke is a great step into the door of a company. Nothing wrong with making an interesting good impression!

        0 points
    • Joe Blau, almost 7 years ago

      Someone called me a unicorn and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be offended or not.

      0 points
  • Matt HoilandMatt Hoiland, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    As a developer, I would assume a full-stack designer would be someone who designs the business logic, data management structure, user experience, and user interface for an application or website.

    For example, a client wants you to "design" a todo app. You'd first design a feature set with use case scenarios. Then you'd define what data you'll be managing, and how it all fits together. Then you'd design wireframes that include app flow. After all of this you'll proceed to design the actual interface of the app.

    6 points
    • Sam Pierce LollaSam Pierce Lolla, almost 7 years ago

      As someone currently trying to hire another "full stack" designer, this is the correct answer.

      A "full stack" developer is someone who can carry a project all the way through the development cycle--front-end web, backend, DBMS etc.

      But before all that happens, a product design process starts with UX/research/concept, continues with IA and interaction, and ends with visual design and validation. A full stack designer doesn't have to be a developer at all--it's a completely different "stack".

      5 points
  • Chris De La FuenteChris De La Fuente, almost 7 years ago

    Drew Wilson.

    5 points
  • Jon GoldJon Gold, almost 7 years ago

    I see full-stack design as everything from research & UX through product, visuals & interactions.

    I'd separate it from full-stack development - though I'd say it's fine to call yourself a full-stack designer & full-stack developer (which I do)

    1 point
    • Eli RoussoEli Rousso, almost 7 years ago

      You sound like a full-stack butthead.

      7 points
      • Matthew SaforrianMatthew Saforrian, almost 7 years ago

        I'm going to start off by assuming you were being sarcastic or possibly know Jon and have this kind of relationship with him but if not, please take a look at at the DN guidelines. There are specific guidelines about being nice and calling him a butthead is counter to the intent of this community.

        0 points
  • Anastasiia Stefanuk, 3 years ago

    It has the same meaning as in development

    Fullstack designer - understanding UI/UX & business logic, ability in interface design in different ways. Also, I would like to add to this list Javascript skill and maybe PHP or another back-end code

    0 points
  • Dainis GraverisDainis Graveris, over 5 years ago

    As with everything there are pros and cons to becoming full-stack designer. I think it really depends from personality - do you prefer to be expert at one, or fairly skilled at many things.

    You could check out this article to learn more about what full stack designers means and what skills it includes:

    You'll learn:

    Full-Stack Designer Defined What Does It Really Mean to be a Full Stack Designer? What the Experts Say about Full-Stack Designing The Benefits of Being a Full Stack Designer The Pitfalls of Hiring a Full Stack Designer What Skills a Full Stack Designer Should Have Full Stack Designer Job Boards Real Life Full Stack Designers Tools Full Stack Designers Must Have Is Being a Full Stack Designer Financially Rewarding?

    Article here - http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/full-stack-designer/

    0 points
  • Kevin YunKevin Yun, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    We run a full-stack digital design bootcamp, and we still get a lot of guest speakers with varying definitions of digital design across the board.

    For our team, we've subjectively simplified it down to: UX (research, IxD, etc.), UI (visual, branding, etc.), and front-end dev (HTML + CSS + JS + knowledge of web services & APIs, etc.).* Of course you can't be a whiz at everything, but you sure can have empathy as a team member, and understand all the ins-and-outs of different design/dev roles.

    *subject to change

    0 points
  • Christian Krammer, almost 7 years ago

    For me a full-stack designer is somebody who takes care of the whole design process, and not just the visual design for example. So for example he does the UX, the visual design, the data design and so on - and not just the visual design alone. So, normally every designer should be a full-stack designer, because you know, design is not make things pretty alone.

    So for me i's not somebody who can also code, that's a frontend designer.

    0 points
  • pjotr .pjotr ., almost 7 years ago

    To me it's just a label.

    I like to make it simple and just use two terms:

    • Designer = UI, UX, Front-end, and Brand

    • Product Designer = Requires a deeper understanding of the product before coming in. Has the ability to produce prototypes, program efficiently in multiple languages, and help with support/interfacing with real users (as well as UI, UX, and branding)

    0 points