Product Design

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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

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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.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Learn More about Product Design

Take our UX Portfolio course to see if product design is right for you.

This post offers a wealth of insights on the differences between UX and product design.

Freelancer and e-commerce marketing specialist Leigh Kunis explores many shades of what product design involves.

Read one product design leader’s insightful take on what being a product designer means in a modern context.

Find out more about what goes into a good product roadmap.

Questions related to Product Design

How to become a product designer?

To become a product designer, you need to have a combination of technical, creative, and interpersonal skills. Begin by understanding the complete product lifecycle, focusing on integrating beauty with functionality. As highlighted in our article, a product designer’s role is broader than a UX designer's, encompassing a range of responsibilities from concept to completion. Acquiring a solid foundation in design principles and hands-on experience is critical. Interaction Design Foundation offers many courses that can guide you in honing your design skills and techniques, setting the groundwork for a promising product design career.

Is UI/UX the same as product design?

Product designers oversee the entire product lifecycle, integrating both form and function. They handle aesthetics, functionality, and user needs. On the other hand, UX designers specifically focus on user experience, ensuring products are user-friendly and meet users' needs. As outlined in the article from Interaction Design Foundation, while there's overlap, product design is broader, encompassing many aspects that UX design homes in on. For a deeper understanding, consider enrolling in Interaction Design Foundation's comprehensive courses to distinguish and master both realms.

The Differences Between Product Designers and UX Designers

Does product design require coding?

No, product design doesn't inherently require coding. While the core focus is aesthetics, functionality, and user-centric design, knowing how to code can be beneficial. It bridges communication gaps with developers and allows for prototyping interactive elements. However, many successful product designers don't code but collaborate closely with development teams. Familiarity with technical constraints and prototyping tools can enhance design decisions, but coding isn't a prerequisite.

What does a product designer do?

A product designer creates user-centric products that offer functionality and aesthetic appeal. They blend user experience (UX) principles with visual design to shape how a product looks, feels, and functions. Using research and user feedback, product designers identify pain points and craft solutions that enhance usability. Their role spans ideation, prototyping, testing, and refining designs to meet user needs and business goals. They work closely with developers, marketers, and stakeholders, ensuring the product aligns with user expectations and brand identity. While their tasks overlap with UX designers, product designers have a broader responsibility, considering the complete product lifecycle. Learn more from our detailed article on the difference between product and UX designers.

How much do product designers make?

Product designers' salaries vary based on experience, location, and company size. According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a product designer in the US is approximately $85,277 annually. However, top professionals in sought-after companies can earn significantly more. Specialized skills, portfolio quality, and industry demand can influence pay rates. Additionally, further education and courses can enhance potential and career growth. Researching and negotiating is essential based on your qualifications and the job's requirements.

Career Path and Salary Ranges for UX Designers and Product Designers

Is product design a good career?

Absolutely! Product design offers a dynamic and creative career path. As the Ultimate Guide to Understanding UX Roles highlights, product designers are crucial in crafting user experiences and solving real-world problems. With the digital world expanding, the demand for skilled product designers is rising. This profession provides opportunities to work in diverse industries, ensuring variety and continual learning. Moreover, it offers competitive salaries and the chance to leave a tangible impact on products many use daily. Product design is undoubtedly a rewarding career choice for those passionate about merging creativity with functionality.

What is the difference between product design and product management?

Product design and product management are distinct yet collaborative roles. As discussed in our guide on becoming a product manager, product managers define a product's 'what' and 'why,' focusing on strategy, roadmap, and feature definition. They ensure the product aligns with business goals and user needs. On the other hand, product designers emphasize the 'how.' They dive deep into user experiences, crafting the product's look, feel, and functionality. While product managers set the vision and direction, product designers bring it to life through user-centered design. Both roles are vital in creating successful products, working hand-in-hand to ensure user satisfaction and business success.

Is product design easy?

Product design is a nuanced discipline that requires a blend of creativity, empathy, and technical knowledge. As our article on behavioral science in product creation highlights, understanding user behavior is pivotal. It's not just about crafting aesthetically pleasing products but ensuring they meet user needs and solve real-world problems. The process demands continuous learning, adaptability, and a user-centric approach. While some aspects may come naturally to specific individuals, achieving mastery in product design necessitates dedication, practice, and a deep understanding of design principles and human behavior. While it's a rewarding field, it's not necessarily "easy."

What skills do I need for product design?

For product design, essential skills include:

  1. Human-centered approach: Focus on understanding and designing for people's needs.

  2. Problem-solving: Address the root cause, not just the symptoms.

  3. Systems thinking: Recognize the complexity and interrelatedness of components in a design.

  4. Prototyping and Iteration: Continuously refine designs based on feedback and testing.

  5. Design research: Spend time observing and understanding the end-users.

  6. Technical know-how: Familiarize yourself with the latest technologies and materials.

  7. Teamwork and Collaboration: Often, product design involves collaborating with specialists from various fields.

  8. Communication and Diplomacy: Articulate your ideas and negotiate design choices effectively with stakeholders.

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These skills align with modern challenges in product design and ensure the creation of successful, user-centric products.

Essential Skills and Qualifications Required for Product Designers and UX Designers

How to get into product design?

To get into product design, follow these steps:

  1. Acquire foundational knowledge in design principles.

  2. Engage in hands-on projects to build a portfolio.

  3. Seek mentorship from experienced product designers.

  4. Join design communities to network and learn.

  5. Continuously update your skills with courses like those at interaction-design.org.

  6. Apply for internships or entry-level positions to gain real-world experience.

Remember, consistent practice and lifelong learning are key to success in product design.

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Literature on Product Design

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Learn more about Product Design

Take a deep dive into Product Design with our course How to Create a UX Portfolio .

Did you know the average UX recruiter spends less than 5 minutes skimming through your UX portfolio? If you want to join the growing and well-paid field of UX design, not only do you need a UX portfolio—you’ll need a great UX portfolio that showcases relevant skills and knowledge. Your UX portfolio will help you get your first job interviews and freelance clients, and it will also force you to stay relevant in your UX career. In other words, no matter what point you’re at in your UX career, you’re going to need a UX portfolio that’s in tip-top condition.

So, how do you build an enticing UX portfolio, especially if you’ve got no prior experience in UX design? Well, that’s exactly what you’ll learn in this course! You’ll cover everything so you can start from zero and end up with an incredible UX portfolio. For example, you’ll walk through the various UX job roles, since you can’t begin to create your portfolio without first understanding which job role you want to apply for! You’ll also learn how to create your first case studies for your portfolio even if you have no prior UX design work experience. You’ll even learn how to navigate non-disclosure agreements and create visuals for your UX case studies.

By the end of this practical, how to oriented course, you’ll have the skills needed to create your personal online UX portfolio site and PDF UX portfolio. You’ll receive tips and insights from recruiters and global UX design leads from SAP, Oracle and Google to give you an edge over your fellow candidates. You’ll learn how to craft your UX case studies so they’re compelling and relevant, and you’ll also learn how to engage recruiters through the use of Freytag’s dramatic structure and 8 killer tips to write effectively. What’s more, you’ll get to download and keep more than 10 useful templates and samples that will guide you closely as you craft your UX portfolio. To sum it up, if you want to create a UX portfolio and land your first job in the industry, this is the course for you!

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