In today’s highly digitized workforce, product design has risen to the top of the list of priorities for businesses of all sizes—even small startups. This has opened up a lot of opportunities for creatives with strategic sensibilities and a passion for tech. A career in product design is one of the most fascinating avenues currently on offer in the lucrative tech industry. And you might pleasantly surprised at how easily you can make headway into this career.
This article looks at the ins and outs of product design and the skills, tools and experience you’ll need to blaze a trail into this exciting field. We’ll also look at what goes into a great product design portfolio and how best to position yourself for job interview success. So let’s dive in.
What Is Product Design?
Product design describes the process of envisioning, creating, and tweaking new products. A product can be a physical thing, but it can also be something less tangible, like a software program or app. As long as it solves a specific problem or meet the needs of a potential consumer base in a given market. A company with a distinctive design sensibility will have a better chance of making its mark in today’s market, which is awash with new products and ideas.
Companies refer to to the role of product design by various different titles and terms. You may have seen job ads asking for an Information Architect, UI Designer, Unicorn UI/UX Designer, UX Designer, or User Experience Rockstar—essentially, they all refer to the role of a product designer.
A successful product designer cultivates a deep intuitive understanding of their end-user, the person they have in mind while creating the product. They approach the design process with a specific problem in mind that they intend to solve using their knowledge, intuition, and empathy to craft the perfect product.
Get Qualified as a Product Designer
The logical first step in becoming a product designer is to earn the right qualifications. But with so many options out there, it’s natural to wonder what’s the best way to go about it. Will a degree from a prestigious university set you apart from other applicants? And if so, which university’s name will look the most impressive?
The answers, of course, are highly subjective. The industry today contains a full spectrum of designers—those who have taken the traditional route of earning a college degree and those who have completed less formal courses, certifications and self-learning options. Then there are those who have transitioned into the field, or learned through experience.
Learn Product Design Online
Online courses in particular have seen an explosion in popularity in recent years. The number of people enrolling in remote learning and online bootcamps is increasing year on year. This is one option you should consider seriously if you’re not so keen on a four-year degree, or you have some relevant prior learning experience. The best bootcamp courses will help you build solid foundational knowledge that you can always supplement with educational content from product design blogs, ebooks and video tutorials as you progress.
Thinkful’s part-time Product Design career advancement program is an ideal option to launch you onto a path to a high-paying new career. The course offers in-depth training with respected industry professionals with experience building smart and successful tech products. The course is delivered 100% online, and has the security of a career guarantee when you graduate.
Master Product Design Skills
As a product designer, you’re creating for the user. It’s all about what your target user wants and needs. There's a lot that goes into designing beautiful and highly functional products, including:
- User Research
- Information Architecture
- Prototyping and User Testing
- Visual Design
- Front-End Design
Throughout your study and practice, you’ll be aiming to master and refine these essential product design technical skills that every successful product designer needs to have.
Get a Handle on Product Design Tools
Just like in any other profession, there are tools of the trade that need to be mastered. In this case, we’re usually talking about the relevant design apps used by product designers. Mastering the right platforms will ensure you can deliver a highly customized solution that solves real-world problems for specific market demographics.
There are plenty of options out there, and by now you’ve probably heard of many of these popular tools:
- Adobe Illustrator
- InVision Studio
And the list goes on. Some of these apps are capable of working on a browser, and will assist you in prototyping your creative vision for the product, and playing with interfaces until they meet your design goals. The great part is that a lot of these world-class apps are open source and free of cost. A lot of them also function offline, making it perfect for those who need to go offline for periods or would prefer to get things done without online distractions. You can get started by learning some of the popular product design shortcuts here.
Supplement Your Learning
The prospect of learning how to use new tools can be daunting, however you’ll soon find there’s nothing to feel anxious about. YouTube is replete with channels that can coach you on any topic you might find challenging. And most design apps maintain blogs to guide you through the more advanced features.
Because most product designers work on shared projects, it’s important to have strong organizational skills and maintain good workflows. This includes things like organizing layers, naming files, and being aware of program compatibilities. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being the one who is responsible for the clutter in a shared project.
Get Practical Product Design Experience
Once you’ve earned your qualifications, getting down to serious design work should be next on your list. If you haven’t landed your dream job just yet, there’s no reason you can’t begin working on passion projects to get your creativity flowing. Building practical experience helps bolster your resume and portfolio, which will in turn help you to impress potential employers. A great resume and portfolio speaks volumes about your creative drive, process, and design capabilities. This will pay off in job interviews, where there’s no better way to demonstrate your creative process than with practical examples.
Create a Great Product Designer Portfolio
Below are some useful tips to keep in mind while creating a professional portfolio.
- Work on passion projects that line up with your dream job. The design projects you work on should resemble the kind of work you’d ultimately like to be paid to do. For example, if you intend to become an app designer, put together a working model of an app that showcases your flair for design and your ability to execute your vision.
- Have at least four projects to use as talking points. Having four pet projects will come in handy when you need to pitch your skills to prospective employers. You can use these projects to demonstrate the approach and philosophy behind your product design process.
- Always be ready to tweak your design if inspiration strikes. No design is perfect the first time you pen it—there’s always a scope for improvement. Whether inspiration strikes or a trusted mentor gives you feedback, you shouldn’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board to improve a good design. Most of your projects will remain works in progress, because as you gain experience, it’s natural to identify flaws you didn’t see earlier.
Network With Other Product Designers
Seek out industry veterans who are personable enough to take the time to speak to you about their work and their passions. The product design community is growing in leaps and bounds, with plenty of meetups, social groups, conferences, and personal blogs to choose from. This is an ideal way to learn more about life as a product designer.
With many of us choosing to stay home at the moment, there are also plenty of online platforms like Reddit, Dribbble, and Creative Bloq that can expose you to the works and opinions of thousands of gifted product designers. Some even post detailed video vlogs to facilitate learning in the community. This can offer some priceless insights into the product design process. You may even meet someone willing to mentor you and guide you on your journey.
We hope this blog has given you a window into life as a product designer and how you can progress towards a career in this field. The next step for aspiring product designers is to apply online. Your application is not a commitment to take the course, but it will help you start a conversation with Thinkful to find out if Product Design is right for your abilities, your happiness and your future.