December 1, 2023

How To Get Started In Product Design

This article was first published by Joseph Micheal on Medium.

Getting started with product design is a bit difficult at the beginning, like any other profession. It demands your passion, commitment, and consistency. But once you get your foot in the door, you will start seeing things more clearly than ever. Obviously, you’ll need to keep yourself updated with the ever-evolving industry, but by then, you would have mastered the art of learning.

What is Product Design?

Product design is the process of identifying real people with real problems and using an iterative, human-centered design process to create and validate solutions to those problems, thereby helping those individuals achieve their goals. Today, the term is mostly applied to the tech industry. So when we talk about products, we refer to digital products like apps or websites that help you accomplish something, such as Facebook or Google Maps.

Think about how many products you use on a daily basis. Whether they are physical products like computers and phones or digital ones like apps and software, the number could range from dozens to hundreds. And in the majority of cases, these represent the work of a product designer.

Of course, from a consumer standpoint, we only see the end result and have no idea about the work that went into it behind the scenes!

Why Product Design is a Good Area to Get Into

Let’s look at a few reasons why you might want to consider product design as a career:

  • Use both creative and analytical skills: Design roles within the tech industry are an excellent option for people seeking a mix of art and science in their job. It brings together fields like design, business, engineering, and research, providing a lot of variety in your day-to-day work.
  • Room to grow: Since product design is such a multidimensional role, it also allows for growth in many different directions. You can gain experience with a variety of skills and tools that can be useful for other career opportunities beyond product design. For instance, you could specialize in graphic design or become a strategist, or you could climb the product design ladder as far as it will go. There’s always something new to learn — this isn’t a career you have to worry about growing stagnant in.
  • Competitive product design salary: The “room to grow” point extends to salary as well. Product design salaries can vary widely. While entry-level positions start at around $30,000 per year, the most experienced designers can earn up to $150,000. According to LinkedIn, the median base salary for product design is $121,500.
  • Growing demand: In 2019, LinkedIn named product design one of the most promising jobs in the US. Their report shows an 86% year-over-year growth in job openings, making it a good time to get involved in this field!

Product Design Jobs and What They Entail

Every company assigns its design and development roles in its own way, so all roles are going to have different nuances and require different tasks. Your title might be a product designer, or you could have a role that has overlapping duties and skills. Maybe you’ll start in one of the roles below and transition to another as you learn your strengths and weaknesses. Whatever the case, let’s learn about some roles involving product design:

  • Product designer: As described above, this role involves researching and creating product solutions for users, often in partnership with a company’s design and engineering teams.
  • UX designer: UX (User Experience) specialists focus on usability and how the product functions for the user. They work closely with developers and UI designers to consider every element of how the user will interact with the company and website.
  • UI designer: A UI (User Interface) designer works on how a product looks and feels to the user. They focus on designing visually appealing interfaces for websites and apps that are easy to navigate.
  • UX researcher: This role involves extensive research through surveys, focus groups, interviews, A/B tests, and more to understand what users really want and need.
  • UX strategist: Strategists lead the UX/UI design process by setting guidelines and vision for product researchers and designers. They help teams stay user-focused and create the best product market fit.
  • Interaction designer: Interaction designers focus on creating the experience users have when they interact with digital products. They ensure that every interaction with the product helps users reach their intended goals.
  • Information architect: These professionals decide what digital information should be displayed for knowledge retention and understanding, and the best way to display it. They are focused on helping users find the best answers and information.

Skills You Need for a Job in Product Design

Design skills are essential for product design. Here are some key skills to focus on:

  • Creativity: To make a product stand out, it’s important for designers to think outside the box.
  • Attention to detail: Good design means precision and no elements out of place.
  • Grasp of design principles: Understanding design principles is crucial.
  • Interaction & UI design: Familiarity with interaction and UI design is important.
  • Visual design: Skills in visual design help create appealing interfaces.
  • UX design: Knowledge of UX design is necessary for creating user-friendly products.
  • Prototyping: Being able to create prototypes is a valuable skill.

Other skills that can be beneficial in product design include:

  • Basic web development: Knowledge of HTML, CSS, and Javascript can be useful for understanding design from a development standpoint.
  • User research and testing: The ability to conduct research and testing is essential for creating effective products.
  • Conceptual thinking: Being able to think conceptually helps in problem-solving and ideation.
  • Psychology/human behavior: Understanding psychology and human behavior aids in designing products that meet user needs.
  • Problem-solving: Product design revolves around solving problems for users.
  • Analytical skills: Sorting through information to understand how humans think, behave, and interact with technology is important.
  • Communication skills: Product designers need to communicate effectively with their teams, understand problems, and brainstorm ideas.

You may come across product design job listings that ask for additional skills as well. I always suggest looking for “dream job” listings and reverse-engineering your skills to fit!

This article was first published by Joseph Micheal on Medium.

Joseph Micheal

Product Designer | UI/UX Enthusiast | Design Thinker