Product design is the process of conceptualizing and building a product that solves a problem or addresses a specific customer need. Product design techniques can also be applied to existing products in order to improve functionality, reduce costs, and add new features.
The product design process involves identifying customer problems, researching competitors and markets, developing ideas, designing solutions, and launching the product into the market. Designers iterate by performing product testing and listening to customer feedback. In order to remain on-trend throughout the entire product life-cycle, a product designer must also keep their ear to the ground and stay in touch with ever-changing consumer markets.
If you’re a creative person with a passion for design, this article will help you choose the right course to kickstart your career. You’ll also gain valuable insight into the many product design career options out there.
The Difference Between Product Design and Product Development
Product design is specifically concerned with the styling and look of the product, together with how well it performs its function. Designers use their engineering skills to select materials and components to make the product functional, affordable, and attractive to users.
Product design is a subset of the entire product development process. Product designers aren’t responsible for the manufacturing and testing of the product and report to the product development team for approval. A product design team consists of illustrators, interaction designers, and UX designers.
Product development refers to the entire process of creating a new product. Product development includes identifying market opportunities, costing, manufacturing, testing, marketing, launching, and upgrading the product. Whether the product is a simple item like a book or a screwdriver or a more complex item like a computer or a car, the product development process is the same.
Product development goes beyond the design and creative realm to cover budgeting, costing, sales, and testing. Unlike a design team, a development team includes marketers, manufacturers, engineers, and sales staff.
Career Opportunities in Product Design
If you’re interested in product design, there are various career options available to you, offering excellent job prospects and above-average salaries. Here are just some of the reasons why working in product design is a great choice:
- Flexibility: Product designers can work independently and have their own offices. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25% of designers were self-employed in 2017. This flexibility helps you to maintain your work-life balance.
- Highly Paid: The average salary for a product designer working in the United States is $87,923. This is almost double the national average income.
- Career Options: Every industry needs experienced product designers. This means you’re free to choose where you’d like to specialize. You can work in a range of different fields including industrial, automotive, software, or interior design.
- Job Satisfaction: As a designer, you have the opportunity to change the lives of people around the world. The Design Council is a U.K. based charity whose mission is: "to champion great design that improves lives and makes things better".
Skills Required to Become a Successful Product Designer
Good product design requires a range of different skills and experience. Here’s a list of what’s required for a successful career in product design:
- Information Architecture: When working as a product designer you must have a solid understanding of how to organize and handle large amounts of information. Product research, market research, competitor research, and testing all generate data that must be stored, analyzed, and communicated to other teams within the company.
Product designers also deal with cloud environments that require the storage of technical information.
- User Research: The key to great product design is to provide an amazing user experience. In order to achieve this goal, the designer must conduct extensive research into the target user. The entire process involves questionnaires, interviews, and experiments that must be carried out in a professional manner.
- User Testing/Prototyping: To ensure the product is worth the investment, you need to know how to create prototypes for testing. This will provide you with an insight into the product performance, before launching.
- UI/UX Design: User -interface and user -experience design can make or break a new product. It’s the responsibility of the product designer to ensure the product is easy to use and offers a great user experience.
- Visual Design: Product designers need a wide range of visual skills to express ideas through products. They must understand grid systems, typography, color theory, and hierarchy.
Product Design Courses
If you want to learn core product design skills and stand out from the crowd, online learning platforms are a great way to kickstart your career. We have put together a list of courses to get you started:
- Thinkful’s UX/UI Design Bootcamp New Product Development Program
This online program has been designed to give you a holistic introduction to UX design. You’ll learn to plan out the flow of a website or app using wireframes, collaborate with others on your design team, and turn your artistic vision into a beautiful and functional website.
Throughout this UX design course, you’ll partner with a personal mentor who’s experienced in UX design. The curriculum is paired with career coaching, interview prep and resume assistance. You’ll graduate with an impressive portfolio that demonstrates your full range of design skills.
2. Innovation Through Design: Think, Make, Break, Repeat
Ideal for those curious about design, you’ll learn the tools and techniques used to create innovative products in this course from the University of Sydney. This online curriculum will train you how to use design as a way of thinking. Taught by industry leaders, you’ll explore, apply, and practice the fundamental design process: think, make, break, and repeat.
3. Thinkful’s Product Management Bootcamp
The product management bootcamp has been developed by leading industry professionals and will teach you everything you need to get started in this space. Learn how to manage product life-cycles, think and speak like a product manager, and build amazing products from start to finish.
If you’re a creative individual with a keen interest in design, this course is perfect for you. No previous experience is required and you’ll be assigned a personal mentor that’ll support you throughout the study program.
4. Online Course: Culture Sensitive Design
An online course offered by TU Delft, Cultural sensitivity and understanding is a hot topic in modern product design. This program is great for professionals that want to gain insight into the relevance of culture in their work. You’ll learn how to study, examine, and apply cultural aspects to your designs.
5. Online Course: Vision in Product Design
If you want to learn how to incorporate your personal vision for the future into your product, this interactive course from TU Delft is perfect. The course combines short lectures from industry experts, practical exercises, webinars, and individualized feedback.
By the end of the course, you’ll be able to deconstruct an existing product or service on three levels: product, interaction, and context, and you’ll be able to create a future design context for products.
Your Future Career in Product Design
That concludes our list of product design courses. We hope this article helped you in your future career direction. Remember that as a product designer, you must manage the design process every step of the way. From market research and idea generation to specification and concept development. By doing so, you have the chance to improve the lives of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people that use your product. It can be immensely rewarding and few other jobs bring as much satisfaction.
To learn more about product design and management, check out our blog. You might be interested in Who Should Pursue A Product Management Career?, where our industry expert shares his perspective and provides real insight into the world of product design. And if you’re curious about the differences between product design and UX design, we’ve got answers.
Whether you choose to focus on UX design, product management or even software engineering, you’ve got a future in tech.