Have you ever used an interactive chatbot on a website and felt amazed by the way it responded? Ever wondered who might have designed pizza savers (yes, the tiny tables on pizzas) that have kept millions of pizzas intact? These are the creations of product designers, a bunch of highly creative individuals, who strive to provide enhanced experiences to users.
Design is not just about how a product looks but how it functions. Product design is a process used by designers to create products that consider a user’s experience as well as the business goals of an organization. Product designers are professionals who create marketable designs for products that are easy to use, improve user experience, can be reproduced whenever required, and solves a particular problem. It isn’t limited to merely creating digital user interfaces – rather, product design is a vast genre that includes everything from UI/UX design to the design of physical products. While UX designers work on improving the overall experiences of users when they use a product based on user feedback and the general consensus, UI designers focus on improving the visual characteristics of a product (which are mostly digital, like mobile applications or websites).
Product designers have to identify problems, create solutions, test these solutions for applicability in the real world, and understand how they perform. Product designers need to understand their customers and the needs of their business, possess the ability to transform requirements into product designs and have the ability to perform user research that can help validate their designs. Designers work with engineers to know how feasible a product is, product managers, to understand the needs of the organization, and other product designers to build strategies and exchange ideas.
Product designers generally try to understand the requirements of users and the goals of an organization. They also create user journey maps (how a user traverses a product such as a website) and come up with design storyboards that help them to understand the user interface or user flows. The design needs to be strategized so that it aligns with the goals of an organization, needs to be documented, and produced as prototypes to help visualize how the end product would look and feel. Product designers create products that connect with the users on a utilitarian level, the style that a particular product seems to showcase (compare a chef’s knife and a regular kitchen knife on your kitchen counter now) and the emotional connection that it can create amongst users.
To become a product designer, one needs to possess the right set of skills and experience. It is important to familiarize yourself with product design concepts including journey maps, wireframes, prototypes, and high-fidelity designs. We list out a set of requirements that can help you become a product designer. Although different organizations require a different set of skills, the fundamentals of becoming a product designer pretty much remain the same across roles.
- Education – Degrees, certifications, diplomas, self-study books (The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman is a good place to start), online courses, and tutorials can help you go a long way in the field of product design. Learning the basic skills of UX/UI can also help one to become a good designer.
- Experience – Start by learning how to use certain tools that are popular in the product design industry. Some of the popular tools include Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD, InVision, Balsamiq Mockups etc. One could also make use of tutorials to help them explore different design tools. Interning under a product designer or working closely with them can help to gain the right experience. One must also attend meetings, hackathons, and workshops to be updated about the world of design.
- Build a network – This one is a no-brainer. To know more about the latest developments in the fields or to get in touch with new clientele, it is important to communicate with experts and peers. Keep in touch with your classmates or people you meet at meetings and workshops as one can never predict where a new opportunity might come from!
- Expand skill set and build a portfolio – Experiment with various tools and platforms and gain some knowledge about how product design works. One could also offer their services to individuals or organizations who are willing to work with them.