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What does a product designer do?

Last updated

22 April 2023

Reviewed by

Jean Kaluza

The tech industry is continuously evolving, so there are many career options in this field. Tech roles include UX designer, customer experience architect, user interface designer, interaction designer, information architect, and many more.

Product design is vital for the success of any product in the market. It involves creating a product that attracts customers, meets their needs, and earns a company a competitive edge.

Product designers are at the forefront of driving product success. They oversee the design process from start to finish by studying customer needs and creating a solution to deliver the best experience.

What is a product designer?

A product designer is responsible for creating new products and improving existing ones. Their primary role is to oversee the visual product creation process. This involves initial visualization, planning, testing, and ongoing product evaluation.

Product designers are responsible for designing a product, from brainstorming on initial concepts through to handing over the visual design elements to developers. They also understand customers’ habits, behaviors, preferences, and pain points and find ways to solve their problems.

What is the difference between a UX designer and a product designer?

The terms “UX designer” and “product designer” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they have distinct differences. The main difference is that product design is concerned with usability, customer experience, and the end goals of the business, while a UX designer’s role is focused on the design itself.

A product designer’s key responsibilities

A product designer is tasked with making a practical and functional product attractive and artistic for a consumer. Their day-to-day tasks include the following:

  • Discussing client needs

  • Conducting research to identify gaps in the market

  • Reporting ideas to a project’s key stakeholders

  • Investigating how an existing product works

  • Testing and evaluating designs

Product design artifacts

Product designers work with design artifacts to deliver functional, friendly, and affordable solutions. Design artifacts are crucial for developing and testing ideas to generate innovative concepts. Some of these product design artifacts are discussed below.

Journey maps

A journey map is a visual representation that depicts processes that users follow to achieve their goals. They help product designers empathize with the user to be able to understand their experience relative to the product they are creating.

This tool is important in painting a clear picture of the user’s motivations, needs, pain points, moments of delight, feelings, and thoughts.


A wireframe is a two-dimensional blueprint of the design framework. It contains the visual representation of an application’s functional behaviors.

When transitioning from paper to digital, wireframes are the first artifacts used by the designer. They are low-fidelity mock-ups used to conceptualize with teammates, discuss and iterate quickly, and sometimes even conduct early testing with users.


Prototypes are used to test more formalized ideas before committing to the digital process. They can range from freehand sketches to fully functional models.

Testing with a prototype prevents the company from spending resources like money and time unnecessarily. 

High-fidelity designs

These are valuable artifacts used for user testing and obtaining stakeholder feedback during the later stages of product design. They closely match the final design and are represented by production-ready, pixel-perfect, and interactive prototypes.

High-fidelity designs convey the look and feel of a finished product and help the production team understand what they want to produce.

Three types of product design

There are three core types of product design. They all have different purposes but are integral to smoothing out the user experience.

1. System design

System design relates to a product’s defining elements—such as architecture or interface—based on its specification requirements.

2. Process design

This type of product design focuses on the series of steps a design team follows to produce a product.

3. Interface design

This type of product design focuses on a product’s aesthetic journey. It has a human-first approach where the interface is a touchpoint between the product and the user.

How can you become a product designer?

Here are the skills and qualifications required to become a product designer.


Product design is a skill-driven career. Here are some of the skills you need:

  • Coding (or at least an understanding of the concepts of coding): Product designers may understand coding languages like CSS and HTML.

  • Visual design: This includes understanding vital elements like color theory, layout, and typography.

  • Innovation: These skills allow a product designer to find innovative ways to improve a product.

  • Teamwork: Product designers work with various stakeholders and professionals, such as product managers, developers, and researchers. Collaborating effectively as a team is vital.

  • Eye for detail: Having an eye for detail guarantees that you’ll spot design flaws before a product’s launch.

  • Research: Product design is research-oriented, so you should have the skills to transform research results into actionable ideas.

  • Communication: You will need to be able to confidently present ideas to clients and team members to ensure helpful feedback.


To become a product designer, you are expected to have the following qualifications:

  • A three-year undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline, such as UX/UI design

  • Expertise in design programs such as Sketch, Adobe Creative Suite, Axure, and InVision

  • The latest prototyping knowledge

  • Real-life experience with UX processes

What to expect when working as a product designer

Working hours

Most product designers work for approximately 40 hours per week. You might be required to work overtime to meet production demands or approaching deadlines.


The range of salary packages is quite broad. Pay depends on your experience level and location.

Here are the average yearly salaries you can expect from a career in product design:

  • Entry-level: $50,000

  • Junior-level (1–3 years of experience): $65,000

  • Mid-level (3–8 years of experience): $95,000

  • Senior-level: $120,000

How do you get started in a product design career?

The following are some of the steps you can take to get started in a product design career:

You may want to solidify your understanding of design concepts to get started. You could do this by earning a degree in the field.

There are some free, beginner-friendly online courses available that can give you an overview of UX design as well as prototyping. You can also take Figma tutorials.

The knowledge you gain through study will enable you to communicate effectively about product design topics.

Step 2: Understand industry-standard design tools

Familiarize yourself with common design tools. Figma and Adobe XD are the most popular in this field. Gaining a strong understanding of these design tools will help you grasp design principles such as color theory and typography.

Many employers will want to review your skillset, so you’re putting yourself at an advantage by gaining an understanding of how to use these tools.

Step 3: Do some research and read about product design

Do some research about product design and the related fields, including customer service, marketing, and even business.

YouTube is an excellent resource to help you build your career and understand how to meet client expectations.

Highly recommended books to read include Refactoring UI (by Adam Wathan and Steve Schoger), Don’t Make Me Think (by Steve Krug), and The Design of Everyday Things (by Don Norman).

Step 4: Build your portfolio

A compelling portfolio is a great way to document your past work experiences in the design industry and help get you noticed by hiring companies.

Don’t worry if you only have limited experience—you can include design projects you completed in college.

A great way to get better results is to come up with your own product ideas and practice. Remember, practicing will also augment your portfolio, giving your potential employer a taste of your skills and talent in the field.

Another practice opportunity is rethinking poorly executed products and finding ways to improve them.

Remember to stay up to date on current design trends so that you can learn, practice, and adapt your approach accordingly. You can achieve this by signing up to Slack channels, finding local talks or community meetups, and reading blogs by product design professionals and businesses.

Step 6: Find a design community

Joining a community of like-minded people will provide you with an opportunity to get valuable feedback. Attend design conferences, get recommendations from members, and access job opportunities in the field. Examples include Designer Hangout, Friends of Figma, and Adobe Creative Career Discord.

Step 7: Apply for entry-level roles and internships

After completing the six steps, you are ready to apply for internships and jobs. Submit a resume highlighting all your qualifications, relevant skills, and work experience.

Don’t forget to submit your current contact information in case the hiring employer has follow-up questions.

Get started today

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