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Skills you need to be a Product Designer

5 minute read

If you’ve been reading our article on how to become a Product Designer, you’ll already know that if you choose this as a career path, you’ll always be in demand.

If you’re thinking of pursuing this exciting career, there are a few skills that will help you make a success of it.

Everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t worry if you’re new to all this. You can gain these skills either by taking formal qualifications, completing online courses or taking part in work experience.

There are even some skills you might be lucky enough to possess naturally already!

Technical knowledge

The technical knowledge you’ll need as a Product Designer might seem daunting at first, but it’s often stuff you’ll pick up as you go along.

Whether you’re taking a dedicated product design course or shadowing a more experienced Product Designer, you might be surprised by how quickly you pick up knowledge of the practical side of product design.

Concepts such as user experience and interface design and sound and motion design  may sound unfamiliar right now, but you’ll find it won’t be long before you’re developing an understanding of how to design great digital products that people enjoy using.

That includes the process this involves – such as creating wireframes, prototypes and other deliverables.

Underpinning your technical knowledge, it’s useful to be aware of the psychology behind how people use digital products.

That means understanding things like customer journeys and pain points, and how the look and feel of a design influences how it’s perceived and used by customers.

On the practical side of things, a high level of computer literacy is a must, including knowledge of how to use specialist design programmes such as Adobe Illustrator.

Problem-solving

Product design encompasses numerous different disciplines, but at its heart, it’s about solving problems.

As a Product Designer, it’s your job to find the best solutions to users’ needs, so you’ll need great problem-solving skills on a day-to-day basis.

Research

You’ll need to know how to conduct the research for your product, from understanding your target audience and competitors to performing ‘SWOT’ (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analyses on your ideas.

You’ll also need to be able to conduct user interviews, run focus groups and develop personas.

Business acumen

As a Product Designer, you’ll likely have a hand in the strategy surrounding your product as well as the nitty gritty of designing it.

That’s why it’s useful to understand what to think about when running a business, so you can work through the whole process, from spotting an opportunity to designing and launching a product that’s fit for market. If you have entrepreneurial leanings, even better.

Knowledge and skills in related areas

Building a successful career as a Product Designer is about more than just knowing how to design products. The best Product Designers are able to see their designs within a bigger picture, which is why it helps to have knowledge in related areas such as:

  • Coding – you don’t necessarily need to be able to code to be a Product Designer, but having at least an understanding of what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ and having some knowledge of how your designs can be realised will help you understand what your developer needs from you
  • User testing – this is the process your design will go through before it can be launched, which you might well be involved with once you’ve created a prototype
  • Copywriting – among other things, product designers are responsible for the look and feel of a product, and the copy – from the text on the buttons to the words required to explain or sell the product – is part of that, so understanding the basics of copywriting (in particular writing persuasively) is helpful
  • SEO – for a product to sell well, it needs to be found in search engines, so the ability to build in search engine optimisation considerations effectively from the start is invaluable
  • Marketing – this is an essential part of launching a new product, so the marketability of your product should be a key concern from the word go
  • Analytics – the ability to analyse how your product performs once it’s launched is essential to refining it and growing its success.

Soft skills and other useful attributes

Finally, as with any digital job, you’ll need a number of ‘soft skills’ to help you succeed in the workplace. These include:

  • Creativity – product design involves coming up with new ways of doing things, so having some creative flair is essential
  • Attention to detail – every aspect of a product’s design can have a big impact on people’s experience of using it, so attention to detail is critical – as are having high standards in your work
  • Decision making – every stage of the product design journey involves making decisions about how something should work or look, so you’ll need to be able to weigh up pros and cons and choose the best course of action
  • Teamwork – as a Product Designer, you fit into a wider team that includes numerous other job roles, and in particular web developers, so the ability to work effectively in a team is essential
  • Communication – you’ll need the ability to communicate clearly both with people on your team and with colleagues in the company as a whole – as well as with customers
  • Project management – product design can be a lengthy process, and depending on the size of the project you may either be working with project managers or managing the project yourself
  • Time management – you’ll need to be comfortable managing your own time and working under the pressure of a deadline.

Different product design jobs may have different requirements to those we’ve listed here, but these are the skills you’ll see cropping up on Product Designer job descriptions time and again.

If you think you have what it takes, find out more by reading our article on how to become a Product Designer.

Feeling inspired? Take the THIS IS HOW quiz to find out more about what you’re good at and possible job roles that could be a match for you or have a listen to our podcast with Carl, Lead Product Designer at YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP.