“Product designer” is the title of a position that is often confused with other roles in the design field. Generally, the responsibilities of designers often overlap, and they often need to be competent in multiple areas of their practice.

Product designers are in demand worldwide. They are hired to work on anything from creating physical products to designing applications for grocery stores. As of September 2021, on LinkedIn, there were over 30,000 job offers for the position of product designer in the USA; 4200 in Germany; 6100 in the UK; 3000 in Canada; 5000 in India. And these are just the job offers on LinkedIn!

Depending on experience and industry, a product designer in the USA can earn between $50,000 and $128,000 annually. The broad range of responsibilities offers additional opportunities. It is expected that over the next decade, the demand for product designers in the USA will increase by 4%, and they will be sought after in practically every industry.

But what is product design? What does a product designer do? We will answer these and other questions in this overview. You will learn:

What is product design?

Product design is the process of creating a product that provides a solution to a problem in a given market. Effective product design addresses both business and user needs, encompassing digital tools, user experience design, and physical products.

The fundamentals of product design stem from the ideology of design thinking, developed as a customer-oriented method that integrates the needs of real users with technological and business requirements. This has enabled companies to solve complex problems.

The design thinking process often used in product design includes five user-centered steps:

1. Empathize: Product designers first conduct research to understand their target audience.
2. Define the problem: Based on the needs and opinions of research participants, the designer can precisely define the problem.
3. Ideate: Before developing a solution, product designers and their teams analyze a wide range of potential creative ideas.
4. Prototype: The chosen idea from the ideation stage is developed into a prototype (or several prototypes) for testing purposes. Prototypes help designers see tangible evidence that they are heading in the right direction and stimulate the emergence of new ideas.
5. Test: Designers turn to users to ensure that their design works as planned. The gathered information is then used to improve the product until it becomes perfect.

Who is a product designer?

The role of a product designer is often confused with other positions in the design field (e.g., with a UX designer). A product designer uses the same design thinking process, the same human-centered approach, the same market research, and programming tools as a UX designer, but their functions differ.

The primary task of UX and product designers is to solve user-centered problems, but their priorities are different. A product designer focuses on creating a profitable product that is popular and easy to use. A UX designer focuses on the user experience with an already profitable product.

If you are interested in the product itself rather than its business aspects, you may consider other similar positions:

1. Experience Designer (XD)
2. Information Architecture Designer (IA)
3. Interaction Designer (IX)
4. Interactive Experience Architect (XA)
5. User Interface Designer (UI)
6. User Experience Designer (UX)
7. UX Research Specialist (UX)
8. UX Writer (UX)

In some cases, a product designer may perform some functions of each of these positions, depending on the size of their team. However, typically each of them represents a separate position in the design field.

What does a product designer do?

A product designer is responsible for the user experience and business goals of the product. They apply design thinking to conceive and create a solution that meets user and business needs.

The product designer position is not universal. In different companies, their duties may vary from designing user experiences to the full range of a designer’s functions. Here are the responsibilities that may be included in their job description:

1. User Experience (UX)
2. User Interface (UI)
3. Coding
4. Project Management
5. Decision-Making
6. Team Management
7. Planning and Conducting Tests
8. Creating Wireframes
9. Collaboration with Developers
10. Marketing Support
11. Communication with Clients
12. Prototyping (sometimes in an automated design system)
13. Data Collection (when necessary)
14. Presentation of the final product

A product designer is responsible for the product. They ensure that it solves the problem, is profitable and functional, and that stakeholders are satisfied with the final result.

What skills should a product designer have?

A product designer must possess both interpersonal skills and be an expert in their field. The position requires communication with various teams and stakeholders, as well as presenting ideas at every stage of the work process. Problem-solving within established deadlines is another skill that a product designer should master.

It is crucial to maintain a balance between applying technical knowledge and creativity. In this profession, a sense of style and spatial imagination must combine with an understanding of the commercial aspect of the project. A product designer needs to know how to create a product that looks good, functions perfectly, and is viable for business purposes.

To bring their ideas to life, they use programs such as Sketch, Figma, Adobe Illustrator, and XD, as well as prototyping software. To justify their decisions and present their design concepts, product designers create journey maps, conduct user research, draw wireframes, and create medium and high-fidelity prototypes.

Many job descriptions assume that a product designer should have experience in UX/UI design, be familiar with commonly used software, and possess teamwork skills. Knowledge of a foreign language will be a significant advantage when applying for positions in international companies.

Summary

In summary, product design is the process of creating products (digital tools, user experiences, and physical goods) that solve user problems and contribute to achieving business goals. A product designer leads the process of their creation, applying design thinking, clear communication and problem-solving skills, as well as programming tools.

Although this position is similar to others in the design field, such as the role of a UX designer, it differs from them. To succeed, a product designer, in addition to design experience, must demonstrate excellent business acumen. It is the right position for UX designers who want to take on more responsibility and potentially earn more.

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Łukasz Ślusarski
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