Design team

Types of Design Agencies and How to Choose One


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We're Eleken, a pragmatic UI/UX design company. We design, fix and scale SaaS products. Throughout our journey, we managed to develop quite a unique work model that helps us stand out among other design agencies on the market and attract our specific target audience.  

Still, this our story, and design is a broad word in all its senses. This fact gave birth to numerous types of design agencies. So, when people look for a design partner, they often get confused with a long list of similar-sounding companies with different specializations. And it becomes a real challenge for them to choose the one suitable for their specific needs. We feel this problem when people ask us to make work that we actually don’t deliver. 

So, to keep your nerve and help you find the right design partner, in this article, we will analyze eight categories of design agencies so that you can understand the difference between them and make an informed decision about which one to work with.

Short overviews of major design agencies

When there is no time and other resources for building your own design team and hiring in-house is not an option, we usually start searching for some help in different design agencies.

Here are brief explanations of the most popular types.

Eleken, pragmatic UI/UX design agency for SaaS

Eleken, pragmatic UI/UX design agency for SaaS

As we started this article by introducing ourselves, we can’t help ourselves but conclude the thought and tell you a bit more about how we work.

Eleken is not a typical design agency. We help our clients eliminate unnecessary expenses and hire professional UI/UX designers experienced in design for SaaS, as part of your product team. That is, hiring Eleken is like hiring experienced in-house designers that work remotely. 

We use a subscription-based pricing model, meaning our clients pay a fixed sum every month and get a full-time designer dedicated to their project only. You can find more detailed information in our article about the Eleken Pricing Model.

Our services

Here are the main services we offer:

  • SaaS design from scratch (creating an MVP: UX research, wireframing, user testing, visual design, prototyping)
  • Redesign (UX audit, competitor analysis, UX redesign, visual language)
  • Product extension (discovering the existing product with its business logic, and UI patterns, designing new features, creating design system)
  • Additional services (as a part of the main project we can help you with website design/redesign, landing page design, pitch deck design, presentations, and the like)

Team composition

There are the following roles in our team:

  • UI/UX designers - responsible for user experience, visual design, UX research, and everything needed to create high-quality design solutions while taking into account business objectives
  • Design leads - supervise and mentor designers providing them with support and advice on how to cope with UI/UX challenges they may encounter during work on projects
  • Account manager - serves as the contact person for clients that want to leave feedback/apply some changes related to their cooperation with Eleken

As you can see, our team structure is quite straightforward. We don’t have project managers, as we believe that speaking directly to the designer helps to get rid of misunderstandings and saves your budget. One more advantage of having such a transparent team composition is that we start working on the project almost instantly. It usually takes a few days (or even a few hours) from the project request to the moment our designers start to work. 

Types of clients we serve

We serve SaaS businesses of different sizes and industries that

  • Don’t have a design team, but are looking to launch/revamp/expand their SaaS product
  • Lack employees and are looking for additional UI/UX designer/s to join their product team

But of course, we aren’t a universal agency that can help with any kind of design request. First of all, Eleken works with SaaS companies only. As well, because of the specifics of our pricing model, it’s more cost-effective to hire us for long-term projects. On the other hand, we don’t build brand strategies, don’t create content, or develop applications. 

So, there are certain areas of design that we specialize in, as well as areas that we do not cover. Therefore, let’s explore other types of design companies that are ready to meet the specific needs of customers that we don’t serve.

UI/UX design agency

UI/UX design
Image credit: UX Collective

Next we’ll discuss a UI/UX design agency, as the one most similar to Eleken in terms of a work model and services provided. 

A UI/UX design agency helps businesses create products/services that are usable, intuitive, accessible, and visually appealing. They ensure that the UI and UX of your product are coherent and optimized for the needs of its target audience.

Their services

As for the services you can receive at a UI/UX design agency, they are almost the same as at Eleken, which is the design of digital interfaces and experiences for web and mobile apps. This includes 

  • User research (conducting interviews, surveys, and usability tests)
  • Information architecture (developing a site map and user flow)
  • Interaction design (defining the behavior and functionality of the product, including its navigation, interactions, and animations).
  • Visual design (creating a visual style)
  • User testing (conducting usability tests with real users)

Besides, a typical UI/UX design agency often provides services of website design (websites, landing pages, coming soon pages). As we already mentioned, at Eleken we do this only as a part of the main project, not a separate one.

Still, keep in mind that UI/UX companies frequently work on custom projects that’s why some of them don’t provide enough transparency in their billing and project management processes, which can lead to misunderstandings and makes it difficult for clients to comprehend how much they will be charged and what services are included (and that’s the reason for us coming up with a monthly retainer fee).

Team composition

A typical UI/UX design team looks as follows:

  • UX designer - makes sure users will be able to easily interact with the product by conducting user research, defining user personas, and based on this information creating a prototype
  • UI designer - thinks out the user interface so that users easily interact with the product and quickly find the required information
  • ​​User researcher - responsible for conducting user research to inform the design decisions and identify user needs
  • Project manager - communicates with the client and the team, delegates the tasks among team members

Here’s one more thing that differs a common UI/UX agency from Eleken: they have a project manager in their team. As we stated, we believe that having a middle person between designers and the client may lead to miscommunication of project requirements or a lack of transparency about project progress. 

In general, the team composition in a UI/UX design agency can vary depending on the size and type of agency but they all have experts to ensure a seamless user experience of your product. 

Types of clients they serve

A UI/UX agency works with both small startups and well-established enterprises from different industries who need help with designing and structuring marketing websites, mobile user interfaces, and in certain cases, B2B software.

So, if you need to improve the UX of your products or services, identify pain points in the user journey, or get strategic advice on how to optimize the overall user experience the UI/UX design agency is a good choice.

Product design agency

UX studio

A product design agency may refer to two different things: industrial product design and digital product design.

  • An industrial product design agency specializes in the engineering and manufacturing of physical products from start to finish.
  • A digital product design agency helps brands create consistent and successful products, taking into account both user needs and business objectives. They work closely with clients throughout the whole product design process from ideation to testing, prototyping, and development.

Below we will talk about digital product design agencies as they also have much in common with our work model.

Their services

A product design agency may provide a range of services, including

  • Developing a product strategy (a value proposition map, product objectives and business goals, a marketing and positioning plan, and so on)
  • Conducting UX research (customer interviews, surveys, prototype testing, field research)
  • Creating visual designs (wireframes, UI/UX design, prototypes, usability testing)
  • Supporting during the development process (advice on code implementation, selecting frameworks, third-party API integrations)

In general, their services are quite similar to those of UI/UX design agencies, but with a bigger focus on strategic tasks and client’s business needs. As well, like Eleken, they often work with software-as-a-service businesses. But unlike us, who can easily develop an individual approach to each new project, product design companies often have strictly defined design processes, which makes them inflexible.

Team composition

The team composition of a digital product design agency typically includes

  • Project manager - communicates with the client and the team, delegates the tasks among team members, ensures everyone is moving in the right direction
  • Product designer - responsible for intuitive user experience while taking into account business goals and objectives
  • Product manager - bridges the gap between the business and the product design team, does business analysis, discovers business problems, and so on
  • UX researcher - studies target users and translate gathered data into valuable information for the design team
  • Developer - provides consultations during the UX design stage to ensure that the designed solutions are feasible.

Types of clients they serve

Digital product design agencies work with small startups and well-established enterprises. Consider this type of company if you want to verify the feasibility of new products offering, need guidance on pre-launch strategies, require assistance in scaling more rapidly than your rivals, or simply need help with creating usable products that are in line with business objectives.

Software development agency

Image credit: digitaltransformationagency1

A software development agency is generally hired to solve business problems related to the front-end and back-end development of custom software applications, external apps, or SaaS products. The agency's primary goal is to create and maintain software solutions that meet the specific needs of their clients. They often specialize in certain technologies, programming languages, or industries, and provide a range of services, including software development, software testing, project management, consulting, and technical support.

Their services

Software development agencies specialize in

  • Software development (web apps, mobile apps for Android and iOS, SaaS apps, multi-tenant systems)
  • Digital transformation (business analysis, digitalization)
  • Software testing and QA (manual testing, testing automation, test strategy)
  • UI/UX design (digital interfaces and experiences for web and mobile apps)
  • Continuous Deployment and Continuous Integration (CD/CI) (automate repetitive processes such as deployments, code quality checks)

Though such agencies do assist in creating UI/UX design, providing a full stack of services in app development, if you have a specific design request like improving user engagement and satisfaction, or making the app easy to use, it’s better to choose one of the agencies we’ve discussed earlier in this article.

Team composition

Major team members of a software development company are the following:

  • Project manager - communicates with the client and the development team, delegates the tasks among team members, ensures everyone is moving in the right direction
  • Business analyst - researches the market and formulates business goals, ensures the alignment of business model and technology
  • Front-end and back-end developers - code the user interface and functionality of the product  
  • UI/UX designer - designs the look and feel of the product, ensures the intuitive interaction with the product
  • QA - tests the product to make sure it functions well and meets all the requirements 

Types of clients they serve

Obviously, software development companies serve businesses of various scales and industries who need to develop, deploy, and maintain software products.

Still, as we’re talking about design, here’s the thing: if you want a one-stop-shop for all your app development needs, including design, development, and maintenance, a development agency is your go to. They can handle all aspects of the app development process, ensuring a consistent approach to your project.

But when you already have a development team, plan to handle development in-house, or have a specific design-related request, hiring Eleken, a UI/UX or product design agency can be a better choice.

Digital agency

Image credit: i3diligence

A digital agency offers diverse digital solutions to promote their client’s product or services online and assist in achieving their marketing objectives and expanding their business. Typically, these agencies specialize in a particular area of digital marketing and advertising. Working with multiple clients, they take time to comprehend their individual business goals and offer personalized recommendations and services.

Their services

The main goal of a digital agency is to help businesses to establish an online presence and reach their target audience through various digital channels. That’s why most digital agencies offer their clients

  • Website design and development (creating an easy-to-use and pleasant website that generates more leads)
  • Content creation (images, videos, articles, and so on)
  • Search Engine Optimization (link-building, making sure the content is getting noticed through organic searches) 
  • Email marketing (reaching more people and generating leads through email)
  • Social media marketing (increasing traffic on social media, building trust with the audience)

Team composition

The team at the digital agency may consist of the following people:

  • Digital marketing manager - builds marketing strategies, implements and manages marketing campaigns
  • Account manager - communicates with the client and the team, delegates the tasks among team members, ensures everyone is moving in the right direction
  • Content manager - develops, distributes, and evaluates content marketing strategy
  • Copywriter - writes the content required by the team
  • Social media specialist - creates and manages a social media strategy
  • SEO specialist - analyses, changes, and tests a website to rank it higher in search results on main search engines. 
  • Graphic designer - creates visual content for websites, ads, social media content, blog, and so on.
  • Web developer - programs the website and guarantees impeccable functionality on all devices

Types of clients they serve

A digital agency can be a suitable option if you need comprehensive digital services, such as search engine optimization (SEO) or social media marketing. 

Unlike Eleken, which can complete marketing design tasks as an additional service, and UI/UX design agencies that focus on creating engaging, intuitive, and user-friendly interfaces, digital agencies specialize in design from a marketing and advertising perspective.

Creative agency

Creative design agency

A creative agency offers a wide range of services that lies between advertising, consulting, design, and digital solutions. The main goal of a creative agency is to help businesses achieve their marketing and branding objectives through creative and effective campaigns, usually using traditional methods like print ads, PR, TV ads, and so on. 

Their services

Some of the services offered by a creative agency may include

  • Building strategies (brand, content, marketing, social media, advertising)
  • Advertising (creating and implementing a marketing campaign)
  • Design (logo, promo materials, landing pages, websites)

Team composition

Essential roles within a creative agency’s team include

  • Creative director - plans and monitors ad campaigns, shapes brand standards, guides and supervises other creative team members (designers, copywriters)
  • Account manager - communicates with the client and the agency’s team
  • Brand strategist - based on client’s goals, needs, type of industry, and target audience establishes brand standards, ensures brand message consistency across different channels
  • Content strategist - plans, creates, edits, and publishes relevant content based on business goals, market, and user research
  • Graphic designer - designs the creatives that reflect the brand and are needed to support the ad/blog/website/similar.
  • Web developer - creates a website
  • Copywriter - writes convincing copies for the agency’s needs

Types of clients they serve

Creative agencies typically serve businesses that need to run brand campaigns, attract clients to the website, and other ad and marketing needs. Some of them may focus on clients from a specific industry, while others may be more universal.

Branding agency

Image credit: jillmatrix

A branding agency specializes in creating and launching, as well as revamping brands. The role of a branding agency is to create, plan and manage branding strategies for clients to help them increase and reach the target audience, maintain brand consistency, and generally expand the brand.

Their services 

  • Creating brand strategies (company’s/brand’s naming, target audience definition, conducting market research, value proposition definition)
  • Designing brand identity (logo, packaging, identity system, brand architecture, and portfolio)
  • Running creative ad campaigns that spread the brand message

Team composition

Branding agencies’ teams usually consists of:

  • Account manager - an intermediate between the client and the agency
  • Brand strategist - researches the market and the target audience to correctly develop the brand’s message, elements, and tone 
  • Creative director and/or the designer - responsible for creating branding and advertising materials for the client (logo, packaging, campaign inputs), and ensuring that all the ‘artworks’ correctly communicate the brand message and values
  • Copywriter - composes content for campaigns/visuals and ensures it reflects the brand
  • Graphic designer - creates visual concepts for brand’s needs
  • Photographer/videographer - creates visual content for the brand (some agencies have external photographers/videographers)

Types of clients they serve

Branding agencies may serve different types of businesses, non-profit organizations, or even government agencies that want to create or revamp their overall brand identity.

P.S. At Eleken we can help you when you already have a new brand identity but need to revamp your product’s UX while keeping it consistent with the new image.

Marketing agency

Marketing agency

We often have leads that ask us for marketing services (not only design related). But as we already said, we do marketing design tasks only as a part of a main product design project. That’s why the last type of agency we want to discuss here is a marketing agency. 

It provides full-funnel marketing services that bring together a great variety of different specializations, including branding and graphic design, content, copywriting, search engine optimization, and more.

Their services

Here are some services that marketing agencies provide:

  • Marketing and brand strategies (defining business goals, conducting market/user research and based on this information create a plan of actions called to grow, promote and sell brand/product/service)
  • SEO (moving the content up the ranking to drive an additional organic traffic) 
  • Content creation (creating videos, photos, posters, infographics, copies, and suchlike for all marketing needs)
  • Email marketing (promoting business using email)
  • Special events (organizing events aimed at promoting the company’s brand)
  • Media buys (advertising at a popular media company (TV station, magazine, website, blog, newspaper)) 
  • Marketing automation (automating routine repetitive tasks with the help of special software)
  • PR (maintaining the positive image of a company)
  • Design (creating branding materials, website design, graphic design for social media, and more)

P.S. It’s not even the full list of services that a marketing agency may offer, for that reason they sometimes may lack strict-focus expertise. 

Team composition

As marketing agencies provide a wide number of services, their team may consist of various different professionals, here are only some of them:

  • Marketing director - develops general marketing plan, approves marketing campaigns, measures ROI of different promotional channels
  • Content manager - plans, creates, edits, and publishes relevant content based on business goals, market, and user research
  • Creative manager - plans and manages ad campaigns, shapes brand standards, guides and supervises other creative team members (designers, copywriters)
  • Project manager - communicates with the client and the team, delegates the tasks among team members, ensures everyone is moving in the right direction
  • Digital marketing manager - builds marketing strategies, implements and manages marketing campaigns
  • Copywriter - writes the content required by the team
  • Social media manager - creates and manages a social media strategy
  • Front-end developer - creates the layout for websites and web applications
  • Graphic designer - creates visual content for websites, ads, social media content, blog, and so on.
  • Web developer - programs the website and guarantees impeccable functionality on all devices
  • Brand strategist - based on client’s goals, needs, type of industry, and target audience establishes brand standards, ensures brand message consistency across different channels
  • Email specialist - builds email lists, writes emails, generates leads through written communication
  • SEO specialist - analyses, changes, and tests a website to rank it higher in search results on main search engines

Types of clients they serve

Marketing agencies help those who want to launch a new or grow an existing product or service successfully, targeting the right audience and channels. If a client needs help with specific areas of marketing, such as social media, content marketing, or SEO, a marketing agency can provide the specialized expertise to execute successful campaigns.

Key design services and types of design companies that provide them

Though we’ve just analyzed 8 types of different design agencies, it still may be challenging to choose the one that satisfies your specific needs, as their services often overlap with each other, or they have a specific focus. For your convenience, here are short statements that describe what agency type may help you with your request.

  • If you need to design from scratch or redesign a SaaS product taking into account both your business objectives and user needs, and want to start the project as soon as possible, choose Eleken
  • If you need to create or revamp web/mobile apps, and websites with intuitive user experience and pleasing user interface hire a UI/UX design agency
  • If you want to be sure that you’re launching a viable product, with strong UI/UX design that aligns with your business goals, choose a product design agency
  • If you need to design and develop a web/mobile app in one place, choose a software development company
  • If you need to design, develop, and optimize a website or landing page, choose a digital agency
  • If you’re looking to rebrand, or advertise your product using the combination of traditional and digital methods, choose a creative agency
  • If you want to revamp the image of your brand, including logo design, packaging, identity system, hire a branding agency
  • If you need someone to take care of your full marketing design needs, including creating branding materials, website design, graphic design for social media, and maintaining the positive company image, contact a marketing agency.

Now that you know what type of agency you need, it’s time to learn how to find the right designers and then manage your design team.

Kateryna Mayka


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Design team
min read

Scrum Master vs Product Owner: Can It Be One Person?

Product management is a complex field that involves many roles and positions whose duties seem to overlap. This is especially true when it comes to Agile environment, where the pressure to complete product sprints can blur the lines between who is meant to do what. And when it comes to the Scrum Master vs Product Owner dilemma, some business executives are unable to distinguish the two roles and can’t decide whether they need a Product Owner, a Scrum Master, or both in their team.

So, what exactly is the difference between Scrum Master and Product Owner? 

As a UI/UX design agency for SaaS that has had some luck to work with Scrum teams, in this article, we want to help you understand what tasks both people have to perform during the development process, so that you can decide who to hire.

Understanding the Product Owner's role

To start with, the Product Owner (PO) needs to have a strong product vision. They don’t dive into details of how the product is going to perform, but they have to understand why the product is being built, what problems it’s going to solve, and who’s going to use it.

For this purpose, POs communicate with stakeholders (customers, investors) and transform their needs/challenges into user stories, which are then implemented by the team of developers. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to satisfy all the stakeholders’ needs (otherwise the development team will be overloaded with loads of tasks), therefore user stories form a backlog — the list of features a product should contain.

The PO’s task is to collaborate with developers and stakeholders to prioritize the list of features in the backlog and 

  • estimate the value and size of each user story and define which are worth building and which are not
  • decide which features are critical to build first, and which can be developed later
  • define how long the product backlog should be.

So, product ownership is all about communication. POs should make sure everybody understands the product vision, the development team is in direct contact with the stakeholders, and there’s a short feedback loop in terms of frequent deliveries to real users.

Understanding the Scrum Master’s role

The Scrum Master (SM) bridges the development team and the Product Owner and is primarily in charge of empowering the team to accomplish the sprint goals. Their main objective is to make it easier for the development team to deliver the project’s outcomes timely.

SM heads the development team and ensures that everyone there adheres to the Scrum principles. By doing so these guys make sure that the entire team is familiar with the Scrum guide, methodology, and Scrum events and, as a result, can perform at their highest level.

Besides, SM is responsible for coordinating all the project activities aligned with business objectives and

  • acts as a facilitator for both the Scrum Team and the Product Owner, managing them as a unit and removing obstacles that block sprint progress
  • manages the process of information exchange between the team members
  • facilitates meetings by questioning the team “What was done yesterday?”, “What will be done today?”, “Are there any obstacles in your way?”.

Scrum Masters work to increase team efficiency and recommend changes to the product vision, roadmap, and backlog.

To sum up, a Scrum Master has more of a supervisory role. They play their part by ensuring the Scrum approach is implemented during the product development process.

Product Owner responsibilities

Here are typical responsibilities that a product owner job description may include: 

  • Capture and write user stories, explain product vision and user stories to the team to ensure they understand requirements and customer needs.
  • Create, manage, and priotirize product backlog, so that the development team can clearly understand what they are to build.
  • Approve each feature and continuously communicate with the development and business teams to ensure adherence to product vision and to evaluate risks proactively.
  • Collaborate with a product manager to develop the product vision and product roadmap.
  • Work with the Scrum Master to make sure the product's development aligns with the original goal.
  • Work with team members to ensure requirements, pain points, hidden needs, and expected outcomes are properly documented.
  • Decide on project deadlines and determine the release date.

Scrum Master responsibilities

After analyzing the Scrum master job descriptions on Linkedin and Upwork, we formed the following list of responsibilities for SM:

  • Facilitate adoption of the Scrum framework.
  • Assist the Scrum team in meeting sprint goals and delivering software solutions in an iterative manner. 
  • Support the Product Owner in creation, improvement, and prioritizing of the product backlog.
  • Proactively eliminate barriers, instruct team members on optimal practices.
  • Organize Scrum rituals (daily Scrum, sprint planning, sprint retrospectives) and make sure each team member attend them.
  • Protect the team from any kind of distractions and allow them to stay tuned.
  • Deliver activity and progress updates, mentioning all lingering obstacles and problems that influence team productivity and sprint efficiency.
  • Make sure the project is completed on schedule and within the allocated budget.

Main differences between the Scrum Master and Product Owner

There are three key perspectives you need to keep in mind when working on project: build the right product, build the product right, and build the product fast. But, usually, it’s difficult to find the balance between the three. Therefore, there’s a healthy tension between the Scrum roles:

  • The Product Owner focuses on building the right product.
  • The Development Team focuses on building the product right.
  • The Scrum Master focuses on shortening the feedback loop that accelerates learning, so that the team can quickly discover what the right product is and how to build it right.
scrum master vs product owner scheme

So, let’s sum up key differences between the roles of Scrum Master and Product Owner. 

  • Scrum Master is focused on maximizing the value and potential of the Scrum team and extending eventual return on investment (ROI), while the PO is focused almost exclusively on building the best possible product for the customers.
  • Product Owner forms a link between the Scrum Team and the customers. They are responsible for maximizing the value of the product after analyzing and prioritizing product features using sprint reviews and other similar methods. The role of the SM is more of the supervisor that coaches the team to ensure that everyone is aligned with the Agile process. They host daily stand-up meetings to sync with the development team's progress and note any obstacles that may keep the team from completing tasks.
  • Product Owners are accountable for project completion and providing timely updates to clients, while the Scrum Master is accountable for the entire quality of the project, as well as keeping the team on track towards meeting project’s completion timelines.

Scrum Master salary

According to Glassdoor, the Scrum Master in the United States is a highly-paid professional that earns about $108,571/year, while the average salary in the US is $95,831/year. 

scrum master salary according to Glasdoor

Now, let’s take a look at the average SM salary around the world, according to Glassdoor.

scrum master average salary by countries

Product Owner salary

The average salary of a Product Owner in the United States slightly differs from that of an SM and is around $107,478/year.

product owner salary according to Glasdoor

Still, when we look at the average PO salary around the world we see that the situation here is different: while SMs earn the most in the United States, Product Owners are better paid in Singapore.

product owner average salary by countries

Can PO and SM be one person?

If you asked whether a Product Owner and a Scrum Master can be one person the answer would be “Yes”. If you asked if they should be, the answer would be “No!”

Now, let’s get to a more detailed explanation.

In our practical experience of creating UI/UX design for various SaaS companies of different sizes and structures, we’ve encountered cases where one person performed the role of both PO and SM. Such a situation is most common for small startups at the early stages of product development. It works well for them, as usually their team consists of a CEO (who plays the role of PM/PO/SM), a developer, and a designer, so there’s no sense to build a strict organizational structure.

However, for bigger companies, we don’t think it’s right to hire one employee for two positions, unless it's just temporary while working with developers to "groom" someone into a Scrum Master.

This is because a competent SM will encourage the team to go an extra mile in terms of commitments while also ensuring that they are performing their tasks sustainably. While POs can handle this role, there may occasionally be situations when the Product Owner pushes for the maximum features, leading engineers to develop in an unsustainable and brittle way.

Besides, being a Product Owner is about having a vision and goals. It involves collecting information and, eventually, saying “No” to some ideas. Being a Scrum Master, on the other hand, involves identifying opportunities for growth, interacting with others, figuring out effective teamwork techniques, mentoring the Product Owner and the development team, acting as a good host for Scrum events, and setting an example for the rest of the team.

These two jobs call for quite distinct personalities, skills, and attitudes that are seldom found in one individual. It is against the fundamental nature of the roles to try to be both the PO and the SM at the same time.

Okay, seems like we’ve managed to dispel the confusion between PO and SM. However, these two are not the only roles that may cause you headaches when it comes to structuring a product team. Read our next article to learn about Product Owner vs Product Manager vs Project Manager.

Design team
min read

The Cost of Hiring a Designer for Your Startup: Main Things to Consider

How much does it cost to hire a designer? No matter if you're a startup owner or a CEO of a huge enterprise, you'll inevitably face this question. A product can be developed without any participation of designers (but as a design agency, we don’t recommend doing that), but it can’t be launched to the public without a designer’s hand. So, when it is your first time looking for a product designer, our article will help you grasp an idea of how much they charge, what their rates depend on, and where to find a good fit for your team.

Without further ado, let’s start with the question you came here.

How much do designers charge?

According to the latest Indeed statistics, the average UX designer salary in the US ranges from $61,454 to $149,184. This makes UX designer hourly rate $43.54.

When compared, designer fees in Europe are lower, but rates heavily depend on the country you choose. For example, designers from Western European countries have higher salary expectations compared to Eastern Europe due to taxes and higher cost of living. Still, you can expect the median UI/UX designer salary to drop to approximately $50K. We'll break down the prices according to the location and the skill level later in this article.

So as you can see, it is not cheap to hire UX designers or product designers. So the logical question is, why is it so? We’re just about to answer this question.

What makes a designer's salary?

There are various factors that contribute to the candidate’s salary expectations, but the most important ones are years of experience, designer’s specialization, their location and form of collaboration. Let’s look closely at each of them.


According to Indeed, UX designer entry level salary in the US is around $82,115. It takes from 3 to 5 years for a designer to get to the middle level and such specialists may ask for around $115K per year. Finally, with more than 10 years of experience, a Senior UX designer salary will go up to $127K per year.


It may come as a surprise to you, but when talking about design, there are more roles than everyone’s favorite “UI/UX designer”. Of course, smaller companies can have just one UI/UX designer with a wide range of responsibilities. But big industry players may look for various types of specialists for different projects. Among them are UI designers (as a separate division), interaction designers, product designers, Information architects, UX researchers, and UX writers. In 2023, the average salaries of different specialists in the US are as follows:

Visual designer salary will average to $91,250, and interaction designer salary follows suit with $90,198.

On average, UI designer salary expectations tend to be lower. And a web designer salary is even more modest. But they are not the best fit when you hire someone for a startup. Their strengths lie with visuals and aesthetics, while UX designers' responsibilities are more connected to the product's usability. So if you want to get a universal soldier, look for a product or UI/UX designer.


Designer’s whereabouts is the next salary-influencing factor you have to consider. UX and product designer salary in the US varies from one region to another. For instance, in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Chicago, where headquarters of the biggest tech companies are located, a UI/UX designer charges more than in places where the IT sector is not among the leading ones.

The picture below shows this difference: “cheaper” states are colored in pink, while “more expensive” in blue (black – no data).

Overall, average costs can be more than 25% higher depending on the state. That is why some businesses are searching for employees that don’t have to pay the rent in the Bay area.

Unfortunately, there is not yet a single database with designer salaries from all over the world. But the info from various sources still allows us to gain some valuable insights.

Hiring a designer from Canada or Australia will cost you around $55K. In the UK, as well as in most EU countries, an average design cost is somewhere around $50K, as mentioned, with Germany and Norway being the priciest. As for Central and Eastern Europe, the numbers are around $30 to $40K. Chinese developers have salary expectations similar to their Eastern European colleagues, but in Singapore and Japan, an average UX designer salary will go up to $66K.

Here is a brief overview on the designer's salary depending on their location: 

Of course, looking for a designer from abroad is not as easy as it seems: employing people overseas means having meetings with a 6 to 10 hours difference (Europe), or even an 11 to 17 hours difference (Asia), plus some communication barriers being in place. But it's still doable! If you wonder where you can look for good candidates from all over the world, check our guide on how to find a designer for SaaS..

Form of collaboration

The final cost also depends on how you want to collaborate with your future designer(s). The most popular forms of collaboration include hiring in-house designers, partnering with freelancers, and working with design agencies


Probably the first option that comes to mind, especially if you have numerous on-going projects or expect to update your product's design regularly. You pay a flat rate and, once you’re done with onboarding, you get a new team member on board (and hopefully, for many for years to come).

However, hiring an in-house designer comes with additional costs. Computers, tablets and other equipment will constitute a one-time expense. Still, you will also have to pay for designer’s insurance and sick leaves, so keep that in mind.

An unexpected cost might come from paying overtime or outsourcing some of the tasks if the workload turns out to be larger than expected. And, if after the probationary period you realize the designer is not a good fit for the team, you will have to waste more time and money on starting the hiring and onboarding process all over again while potentially losing money if your product's design is still half-baked.


Freelancers usually charge an hourly rate, which will vary depending on their qualification. Usually, they will not price their services lower than their colleagues employed full-time. Still, you will save some money on benefits and equipment. 

But when it comes to hiring freelance designers, we strongly recommend opting for this approach only if you have some previous experience. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but it can’t be denied that hiring inexperienced freelance designers is a risky step to take.

You might save some money on a junior designer's hourly rate, but you will lose more on redesigning and rebuilding your product if something goes wrong. Even with a more experienced designer, freelance brings the risks of miscommunications between the designer and engineers, which will cost you time and money. And if for some reason a freelancer is unable to continue working with you, just like with an ill-fitting in-house designer, you'll have to invest in looking for a new candidate, quite possibly in the most unfortunate moment. 


A design firm will charge depending on the scope of the project. So, there is no way of estimating the cost of their services unless you ask for a quote personally. On the one hand, the cost would be higher. On the other hand, you will save time on searching, hiring and onboarding the design team, as well as project management, when compared to hiring in-house designers.

When you’re curious to learn the details, we have a separate article describing all pros and cons of in-house designer vs agency that you’re welcome to read.

How to get the best design talent for less

Just to make it clear, we would not recommend saving money on design. Successful companies heavily invest in design, and the McKinsey report says that these investments do pay off. But of course, there are ways of getting great talent to work on your project without breaking the bank.

As mentioned, despite being more expensive than hiring a freelancer, but still cheaper than assembling the team of in-house designers from scratch, collaborating with an agency might be your go to. And when you collaborate with Eleken, you can save even more thanks to our unique pricing model

As a UX design agency that provides design services for SaaS, our pricing is similar to SaaS companies. Yes, you’ve read it correctly: you pay a monthly subscription fee and get a designer or a team working full-time on your project only. What’s more, with Eleken,  you won't have to worry about insurance, benefits, and equipment - we got you covered. Last but not least, with us, you can forget about project management fees, too. The reason is because we don’t have any project managers and let our clients talk to their SaaS designers directly, without involving any middle man.

To sum up

Typically, when it comes to hiring any talent, the final price you’ll have to pay is your soul depends on the project complexity and factors we’ve covered in this article. But when you’re looking to partner with a design agency and don’t want to take many risks, consider collaborating with Eleken.

At Eleken, we offer a subscription-based model, which allows you to cut costs and hire remote SaaS designer(s) fully committed to your project. And when you want to see whether our offer is worth it, we offer a free trial. 

Want to know how much the quality design of your product will cost when working with us? Drop us a line!

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