How To Become a Product Designer (Duties, Skills, Salary)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 28 August 2022
Published 29 September 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
If you're a creative individual and would like to work in a dynamic field that allows you to enhance the user experience by designing and developing a product, then working in product design might be right for you. This career can provide you with many paths, as there are several specialisations you can choose from as you progress. Knowing what it takes to become a product designer is an important step that helps to set your goals. In this article, we explain how to become a product designer, list essential skills and key duties and explore salaries in product design.
How to become a product designer
If you'd like to know how to become a product designer, here are some simple steps you can follow:
1. Assess your skills and product design knowledge
Successfully assessing your skills can help you decide if you'd enjoy working on product design. You may consider making a list of your strengths and confronting that with the key skills of an effective product designer. Typically, employers or recruiters mention the key qualities that they look for in candidates in job descriptions.
You may also consider assessing your knowledge of product design to decide if what you know would qualify you for an entry-level or independent role in the field. If you're currently working towards your design degree, you may consider enrolling in an online course that could help you improve your essential knowledge. Showing your commitment to self-improvement in such a creative profession is a great way to increase your chances of making a great first impression on the recruitment manager.
2. Consider different ways of getting into the field
Like with many other careers, there are several ways and academic paths that can equip you with relevant knowledge of product development and design. Many product designers hold university degrees, Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) or have successfully completed apprenticeships in the field. Although it's a more difficult path, it's sometimes possible to gain hands-on work experience by looking for entry-level or assistant positions where you'd support an experienced product designer with their daily duties.
Considering the pros and cons of each way of getting into the field is one of the best ways to decide which path might be right for you. Regardless of which way of getting into product design you choose, consider focusing on a course closely related to design or technology. It's also useful to pursue a programme in industrial, spatial or 3D design.
3. Research additional courses
If you're currently working towards a degree or you're preparing for getting into product design, you may consider additional online or stationary specialised courses. For example, you may choose to complete a course related to product development, project management or user experience. Typically, aspiring product designers also benefit from courses related to creative coding or interaction design. If you're ambitious to work in product design at a tech company or a start-up, you may also consider combining product design with artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML).
4. Gain work experience
Once you obtain your degree or feel like you know enough about the life cycle of a product, you may want to test your skills in practice. It's usually important that you find an opportunity that allows you to perform various duties and switch from one stage of designing a product to the other to better understand the whole development process. After a few months or even years, you might consider advancing to a fully independent role and even specialising in one of the four key stages of product design work: designing, modelling, prototyping or testing.
5. Network with people in the field
As a product designer, some of your primary duties may include regular client meetings or travelling to client production facilities. It's important that you take advantage of this and network within the field to build and maintain valuable relationships with other product designers and specialists. Networking may result in having the opportunity to advance your career through a referral and work on better-paid projects.
Related: Networking Tips for Job Seekers
What is a product designer?
A product designer is a creative professional who designs and oversees the development of various consumer products and solutions. They're responsible for the user experience side of the project, which is the process of imagining and creating products that solve users' problems. Product designers' daily duties may involve identifying those issues at the user's end, propose solutions, test ideas and evaluate the results for maximum efficiency and user satisfaction. Depending on their speciality, they may do anything from the front end of a website or app to create a packaging design for supermarket products.
Daily duties of a product designer
Working as a product designer requires that you take on many different responsibilities related to creating and developing ideas and products. Here are some example duties that you may take care of in this profession:
creating design concepts and product sketches
presenting concepts and ideas to other team members
participating in client meetings and team brainstorming sessions
working alongside engineers and developers to propose product changes
engaging in product technologies research and market analysis
modifying and revising current products and prototypes to meet client expectations
Key skills for a career in product design
Successful product designers combine creativity with an excellent understanding of various technologies to help clients and companies develop products that meet client requirements and needs. Here are some other essential skills you can improve to make yourself more qualified for working in this field:
Product designers typically need excellent 3D conceptual ability. It's also important that they're proficient in CAD (computer-aided design) software users. Designers use this type of software to design, prototype and analyse machines or devices.
Product designers need excellent communication skills to know how to quickly and effectively share their design ideas and communicate with clients, developers or other design professionals. It's important that they have strong written communication skills because it allows them to create clear, in-depth project reports. Communication skills also make it easier for them to engage in public speaking activities, such as giving presentations during client meetings.
The ability to work under pressure
As a product designer, you may work alongside developers, manufacturers, clients and other designers. It's a dynamic and diverse work environment that often requires you to meet tight deadlines and work under pressure when a client requests urgent project changes or when something doesn't go as planned in the production process. It's important that you can quickly control the situation and know how to prioritise work to maximise your team's chances of delivering work on time.
It's common for product designers who work for international or multinational manufacturers to travel abroad. If your employer requires that you regularly travel to their facilities in other countries, they may pay attention to your linguistic skills during recruitment. They do this to learn if you can understand project specifications that employees from other countries use and easily communicate with them to ensure project effectiveness.
If you're interested in advancing your product design career, you may consider taking on more responsibilities as a product team leader. As a good leader, you can efficiently manage and oversee the work of design and development teams. To make this transition easier and ensure quick adaptation to your new role, consider strengthening your leadership skills. You can do this by working on your assertiveness, problem-solving skills and the ability to delegate tasks.
Average salary of a product designer
The average national salary of a product designer is £45,470 per year. This role is typically for professionals with at least a couple of years of experience in product design or a related field. If you're a recent graduate or you're just starting in the profession, the best option for you may be to look for an entry-level junior position. The average salary of a junior product designer is £29,140 per year.
If you're ambitious about advancing your career as a product designer and dedicated to this path, you may consider a leadership role once you've got some experience as an independent product designer. For example, you may consider leading a company's product department, which allows you to gain expert knowledge and significantly increase your income. The average salary of someone working as a head of product is £74,395 per year.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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