What kind of job do you imagine when you hear “designer”? A wide variety of designers exist, ranging from graphic designers who design posters, flyers, and billboards to web designers who handle website content.
For this article, we have compiled information on major kinds, annual incomes, and general career progressions of designers. We also introduce the Japanese language skills, work visas, and documents necessary to work in Japan as a designer, so please refer to the following content if you are interested in this career path.
- What is a designer?
- Major types of designers
- Graphic designer
- Web designer
- Product designer
- Annual incomes of designers
- Career progressions of designers
- Japanese levels required for designers
- Work visas needed to work as a designer
- Documents necessary to find or change jobs
- Employment agencies tailored to designers
What is a designer?
A designer’s job entails understanding client requests and intentions to create layouts and designs of various products and services (e.g., posters and websites). Many people think a designer’s work revolves around fixing and formatting appearances. While the job deals with visual elements, it also involves thinking about a product’s functional aspects such as user accessibility. As such, designers are responsible for tasks that fall anywhere between drawing up plans to creating designs.
Major types of designers
Designer jobs differ across industries and individual specializations. Below, we will explain three major types of designers.
The job of a graphic designer is to create designs of product promotions and announcements for flat surfaced mediums such as posters and flyers. Graphic designers often have a wide range of responsibilities, spanning from planning to creating products and services.
The job of a web designer is to create a website that fits the client’s desired image. In addition to concerning oneself with the aesthetics of websites, a web designer is also aware of whether these sites are easy to navigate for users who visit.
Specifically, web designers perform tasks such as overseeing uniformity in designs (e.g., checking for consistency in color schemes) and coding web pages with programming languages such as HTML and CSS.
The product designer’s job is to plan and design all sorts of manufactured products such as automobiles, stationery, kitchenware, furniture, and home appliances. Product designers create models or 3D computer graphics to consider the three-dimensional design of products.
Annual incomes of designers
Referencing the “Basic Survey on Wage Structure,” which was released by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare at the end of March 2020, the average annual income of designers in Japan is calculated to be approximately 3.86 million yen. However, the individual income of designers varies greatly depending on one’s industry, job type, age, and skill level.
For example, according to a survey published by PERSOL CAREER CO., LTD. (title roughly translated to “Annual income ranking, Latest edition [By job category]”), the average annual income of graphic designers is 3.35 million yen. In contrast, the average annual income of product designers is 4.42 million yen, higher than that of graphic designers. Thus, among designers, there is a considerable gap in salaries depending on job types.
Career progressions of designers
Designers generally start as entry-level employees in the field and move on to managerial positions should they pursue career advancement. For instance, graphic designers often are promoted to creative directors or art directors who manage the progress of design projects and oversee other designers in their team.
It will be easier to enjoy career advancements if one possesses the skills to manage multiple staff members and to direct entire projects.
Japanese levels required for designers
For foreign designers, the level of Japanese needed for work differs according to job responsibilities.
For example, Japanese ability will not be as necessary if one works at a foreign company where the official in-house language or the language used in design processes is English. Conversely, if one works for a Japanese design studio and needs to have meetings with external clients or create designs that mainly use Japanese, a high level of Japanese ability will be required.
Work visas needed to work as a designer
If you are an international job seeker, you will need an educational background and residential status to work in Japan as a designer.
An educational background is required to obtain residential status (i.e., a work visa) to work as a designer in Japan. For example, many who have majored in design at a university in their home country can obtain an “Engineer/Specialist in humanities/International services” work visa. However, those seeking designer job opportunities cannot obtain work visas in some cases if they pursued studies unrelated to design.
If you would like to be a designer but studied a subject unrelated to design, it may be best to enroll in a Japanese technical school or gain designer experience in your home country.
Documents necessary to find or change jobs
When finding or changing jobs, designers will need a collection of works called a “portfolio” among their documents. Designers will also need to write about the intent and processes involved in products and services they created along with photos or image files of their projects. Companies use portfolios to check the designer’s skill level, the amount of time spent on works, and the thought processes that influence one’s design methods.
Companies use portfolios to check the designer’s skill level, the amount of time spent on works, and the thought processes that influence one’s design methods. If you want to be a designer, it is in your benefit to have a portfolio site. For reference, we have listed below some sites of commonly used services that can help you easily create portfolios.
Sites to create your portfolios:
（Purchase necessary *However, those who use Adobe Creative Cloud can use this service without additional cost）
Employment agencies tailored to designers
If you are a foreign job seeker, there are ways to look for designer opportunities on job boards run by large Japanese companies.
If you are a student, we recommend that you use scouting services tailored to designers and creators. In many cases, these scouting services are linked with portfolio sites. You will be able to see other students’ works and receive feedback from companies on your own.
ReDesinger for Student
ReDesinger for Student is a service run by Goodpatch Inc. and matches students with companies recruiting new graduate designers. ReDesigner for Student is rich in portfolio functions and even allows one to upload YouTube videos in addition to JPEG, PNG, and GIF files. Students can apply for jobs at companies they are interested in or can receive offers from these companies. We recommend this job-hunting support service to students who are aiming to become designers or creators.
If you are changing jobs, it may be best to get job introductions from recruitment agencies specialized in the creative industry. Some of these recruitment agencies offer portfolio correction services. In addition to correction services, these agencies may also teach you Japanese expressions and give tips on how to promote yourself as an international job seeker. Please try out these recruitment agencies that are specialized in the creative industry.
マイナビクリエイター (Mynavi Creator)
マイナビクリエイター (Mynavi Creator) is a recruitment agency service operated by Mynavi Works Corporation and specializes in the IT, web, and game industries. Career advisors familiar with the IT industry will provide advice on how to create an industry-specific portfolio or on how to improve your current one. Additionally, career advisors who are well-versed in the above industries will introduce you to jobs that match your skills and desired job types. We recommend this recruitment agency service for designers who want to work in the IT, web, and game industries.
MASSMEDIAN is a recruitment agency service operated by MASSMEDIAN Co., Ltd., under Sendenkaigi Co., Ltd. Sendenkaigi has an extensive network and has supported the career transitions of 40,000 people through many job openings in specialized areas centered on advertising, web services, and mass media. The company has offices in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, and Kanazawa. Furthermore, its professional and specialized career consultants provide detail-level support from helping you create resumes to negotiating with companies conditions such as salaries. As this company provides support to professionals, we recommend its service to those seeking a job that will capitalize on their own specialized skills and experiences. As this company provides support to professionals, we recommend its service to those seeking a job that will capitalize on their own specialized skills and experiences.
To become a designer in Japan, you will need to acquire design-related skills at a university or vocational school. Working as a designer in Japan will become a reality if you can gain residential status and relevant skills. If you are thinking of finding opportunities or changing jobs to a designer in Japan, please use the recruitment agency services made for designers.
List of ways to look for jobs in Japan
- Recruitment Agency for Expats in Japan
- Job Board for Expats in Japan
- Search for jobs by occupation in Japan
- Search for jobs by industry in Japan
Job Hunting Guide for International Students