Employment of product designers — also known as commercial or industrial designers — is projected to grow 6 percent from 2020 to 2030. The increasing demand for individuals in this role is not surprising given the consumer demand for the latest and greatest products. Think about the things that you use every day; your car, your phone, your computer, etc. The designers who had a hand in creating these products, did so with you — the user — in mind. That’s because the job of a product designer is to identify the problems of real people and create products and usable experiences to solve those problems.
Does that sound like something you want to be a part of? If so, check out these steps to get started on your path towards a career in product design:
Product Designers follow the five-step design process of define, ideate, validate, design and develop, but often do so after being handed the product by a UX designer. Product designers work to improve existing products with new features, better resolutions, and solutions based on data so that product updates continue to enhance and improve the user experience.
Product designers work closely with UX designers, company leaders, UX researchers, and more to create a final product that aligns a company’s project goals with an optimal user experience. The product designer is proficient at research, brainstorming, problem solving, and design. They are able to communicate their ideas, lead a team, as well as test and edit the work of that team. Their diligence results in a final product that meets the needs of the user in an accessible and aesthetically pleasing way.
There are three types of design that must be considered in this field: system design, process design, and interface design. The product designer works with front-end developers, UX and UI designers, IT operators, and more on these three areas and ensures that they all work together to create a final product.
These three types of design are planned through the five stage design process through which decisions are made based on extensive research by the product designer and the team as well as systemic testing and revision.
In order to remain competitive, product designers must keep up to date with new trends in the field and be able and willing to learn new tools and their implementation quickly.
Product designers work in teams to collaborate on the creation and revision of a final product. They must also work with business leaders to present ideas, communicate changes, and align the product with the mission of the company. The nature of this field requires that the product designer has both hard and soft skills like the ones listed below.
The best way to acquire the necessary skills to become a Product Designer is by earning a degree in product or industrial design. Degrees in graphic design or computer engineering could also provide some of the fundamental skills required to enter this field. Additionally, taking courses in business practices and sociology could come in handy since product designers work collaboratively with stakeholders on a regular basis.
A product designer must be able to take what the UX designer creates and make it even better. They are also in charge of the workflow and project management timeline, so they must be able to effectively communicate with UX and UI designers and researchers.
One of the main interview questions you might be asked when applying for a position as a Product Designer includes being able to articulate your design process. You must be able to highlight how you perform in each of the 5 stages of design: define, ideate, validate, design and develop. This includes your methods and tools that you would use.
Portfolios are what make you stand out in interviews in this field. Previous work and work completed in internships or during previous coursework are great examples that can be used. You can also take an existing design and work to improve it and explain your changes. Your portfolio should highlight your knowledge of the 5 stage design process and also include work samples that are relevant to the industry you are looking to enter.
If your bachelor’s degree is in a different field, a product design bootcamp is a great option. Bootcamps focus specifically on the skills needed for this role. Even if you do have a bachelor’s degree in Product Design, bootcamps can help you to fine tune your skills, provide networking and internship opportunities, and help you develop your portfolio.
A Master’s Degree in Product Design is a way to stand out among other designers. Through the master’s degree process, you will work on becoming a true expert in this field. This higher level degree will also allow you to be further considered for a senior leadership role, such as Senior Product Designer.
While a Bachelor’s Degree in Product Design is one of the most direct paths to this career, people who have earned other degrees can consider working on their UX and UI skills and attending a product design bootcamp. Bootcamps are offered in-person, online, and through hybrid opportunities. They work to teach the specific skills needed to enter this field, as well as pair students with appropriate internships, networking opportunities, and ways to build their portfolio.
Depending on your educational path, it can take four to eight years to become a product designer. If you are considering enrolling in bootcamp to help you achieve your goal of becoming a product designer, a list is provided at the bottom of the page.
Even though the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics does not list a job outlook for this specific field, they do anticipate a 6% increase in jobs from 2020 to 2030, which is about average.
While some professionals enter the profession directly, others begin in graphic design, UX design, UI design, or even web development or computer science fields. Companies from startups to large corporations are in need of product designers. According to Indeed.com, companies including Netflix, Disney Parks, Spotify, Salesforce, Microsoft, and more are looking for people to fill this role. Also, many jobs are offered remotely at this time.
According to Indeed.com, product designers can expect to make an average of $98,067 annually in the United States (as of October 2021). As salaries differ based on experience and geographical location, a table with some of the nation’s top tech hubs and their average salaries in this profession are listed below.
|Tech Hub||Average Salary (as of October 2021)|
|New York, NY||$113,509|
|San Jose, CA||$97,419|