What is Product Design?
Product design is the process designers use to blend user needs with business goals to help brands make consistently successful products. Product designers work to optimize the user experience in the solutions they make for their users—and help their brands by making products sustainable for longer-term business needs.
“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”
— Dr. Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover
Cover More Angles on Projects – with Product Design
Product designers help make products which aren’t just easy and delightful (or at least satisfying) to use, but also fine-tuned to do consistently well in the marketplace. They help define product goals, create product roadmaps (high-level summaries or 6–12-month forecasts of product offerings and features) and, ideally, help brands release successful products. Much like usability and user interface (UI) design are subsets of user experience (UX) design, UX design fits within product design. Indeed, UX designers are concerned with the entire process of acquiring and integrating a product (including aspects of branding). However, product designers extend this scope to carefully monitor their brands’ positions in the market over time. They gauge likely impacts of design decisions based on in-depth domain knowledge and keep teams and organizations mindful of bigger-picture and bottom-line realities, particularly for the mid- to long term. They can therefore prevent or minimize risky consequences of implementing designs, and help maximize and sustain gains.
Throughout a project, a product designer will usually guide your design team and stakeholders on return on investment (ROI) and lower-level concerns such as the placement of interface elements. The product designer’s eye for factors such as product desirability and value is a vital safeguard to keep a brand competitive. In addition to what they would do as generalist-oriented UX designers (e.g., conducting UX research, creating personas) product designers also inform and plan roadmaps in close collaboration with development and marketing teams to ensure the feasibility of implementing designs.
Author/Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and the Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
See if Product Design may be Right for You
Product design can be demanding and intricate work. Typically, more responsibilities and specialized experience mean higher pay. As a designer and higher-level advisor, you can suggest viable alternatives to short-sighted company decisions and challenge obstacles such as the local maxima of UX. It’s important to bear in mind that the similarities between product designers and UX designers sometimes lead brands to have different definitions of the product designer’s role and the duties they expect. Some organizations may therefore fail to distinguish them from UX designers, while others may load even more responsibilities into the job description. In some instances, such as start-ups, you may find yourself acting as half the design team alongside a developer.
“Product designer” may be your dream role if you:
- Enjoy developing and integrating business goals into design and product decisions;
- Love participating in the entire design process;
- Have deep knowledge in design and a solid understanding of business; and
- Can analyze complex data to synthesize designs that satisfy business goals and user needs.
Overall, you should build brand value as you design for two overarching contexts—your users’ realities and your brand’s marketplace health—and “marry” user-centered design with market-friendly, affordable design. Your efforts in guiding the design of popular products will showcase your skills as a visionary problem-solver.
Learn More about Product Design
Take our UX Portfolio course to see if product design is right for you: https://www.interaction-design.org/courses/How-to-create-a-UX-portfolio
CareerFoundry’s post offers a wealth of insights on product design: https://careerfoundry.com/en/blog/ux-design/what-is-the-difference-between-a-ux-designer-and-a-product-designer/#4-what-are-the-differences
Freelancer and e-commerce marketing specialist Leigh Kunis explores many shades of what product design involves: https://www.springboard.com/blog/product-designer-vs-ux-designer/
Read one product design leader’s insightful take on what being a product designer means in a modern context, here: https://uxdesign.cc/ux-design-verses-product-design-whats-the-difference-577b3eab19c0Find out more about what goes into a good product roadmap, here: https://uxstudioteam.com/ux-blog/ux-roadmap/