what does a product designer do?

by Luke Farrugia • 11 November 2020

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To solve is to collaborate. As designers, we embrace our collaborative nature and set out to understand user needs and solve problems. The spectrum of the title ‘designer’ and a designer’s focus area is ever-growing. Understanding what designers do on the day to day, our thinking process, and how we arrive at user-centred solutions can be confusing.

This is post 1 of a 2 part series which aims to demystify this and how we design within our cross-functional teams. If you haven't seen post 2, you can find it here, thinking like a product designer.

what is a product designer?

While the title is shared by designers of physical products, in the world of tech a Product Designer is someone who works on digital products and shares a keen interest in the end to end delivery—from strategy to the implementation of a release.

As Product Designers, our role is to ask questions, stay curious and champion the user. At the heart of this, it’s our responsibility to empathise with our users in order to craft accessible, usable and engaging experiences that are based on people's genuine needs. But there’s still more to the balancing act than just this. We also endeavour to balance user needs with business goals and technology. There is no point in building the most amazing user experience if it takes years to build and doesn’t match the business goals.

Within cross-functional teams, we have a keen role in facilitating effective collaboration. These teams generally consist of representatives from Engineering, Product Management, Marketing and Design. Our roles within the team tend to bend and flex. We often find ourselves acting as the glue that holds all of the details of an initiative together, as we balance user needs, business goals, tech limitations and marketing requirements.

At our core, we have a unique skill set and can balance both user experience and user interface design. Which means we can think through a problem decisively while crafting rich visuals to guide users through a journey.

user experience design

At its core, User experience (UX) is the experience a person has when interacting with a product or service (digital or physical). As each person's experience is subjective, we observe user interactions and extract insights that inform the iterative process as we work towards creating an optimal experience.

user interface design

Both UX and UI have a similar goal of providing a positive experience for people. While UX focuses on user needs, User interface (UI) design focuses on visual communication and the usability of an interface (digital or physical). UI designers craft sleek interfaces using visual design principles with a focus on layout and hierarchy, ensuring that the key messages and information is accessible for all.

To conclude, we as Product Designers, pull from a UX, UI and strategy skillset, simultaneously juggling the notion of making things happen and getting things done. There is no one-size-fits-all method to collaboration and process; often, we need to modify our approach based on time, budget and resources. That's okay, but having a base process that we can iterate on serves us well. To gain a deeper understanding of how Product Designers think, see the following post which explains one of our key frameworks, the double diamond.

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