Three practical things you need to do to land that job

Three things, guys

I get a lot of questions from friends and students about becoming a Product Designer.

“Is this Expensive Fancy Boot Camp worth it?
Do I need to go back to school or take The Big University Extension class?
What do you think about The Tech Company’s Conference?”

There’s a growing number of educational options promising everything from certificates to six-figure salaries. It’s a struggle to navigate what’s worthwhile and what’s a waste of time. Where do the different types of classes fit in with what it really takes to become a product designer?

Before you choose a school or course…

I probably wouldn’t have graduated college on time if the first iPad hadn’t been released one month before our senior portfolios were due. In 2010, my graphic design peers were hand-sewing the bindings of their beautiful, pristine portfolios. I had zero confidence in my book-binding skills. I got in frequent fights with my Canon printer. And every poster I mounted with spray glue for a critique was guaranteed to have bubbles.

But it just wasn’t the manual aspect of graphic design school that made me feel like this career wasn’t the right fit. …

Melody Kim, Jim Dowd, Sam Ryan, and me at a client’s company offsite in Montana. We were walking up the stairs to watch a rodeo 🇺🇸

The most common challenge for Design Sprint facilitators (both experienced and newbies) is getting time commitment from the right leaders. Planning a Design Sprint is rough — not only do you have to earn buy-in from the organizational leadership who may be skeptical, but you also have to book a whole week on the calendar with the critical team members you need to participate.

Scheduling the first Design Sprint can be an uphill battle at every stage. I have climbed that hill dozens of times over the last four years. To help you get up to the summit and beyond…

Design Sprints are powerful recipes that produce impactful results, but they’re not for everyone or every type of project.

I’ve had people tell me about a successful “sprint” they ran, where they removed the Prototype and Test days, shortened the Map and Sketch phases to two hours, and told everyone it was a hit. Hey man, that’s not a Design Sprint — that’s just an organized and efficient meeting!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about hitting a certain number of hours or rigidly following one process. But if you want to know if the Design Sprint process — a…

A Short List of Helpful Reminders for Design Sprint Facilitators

Xander Pollock is a design sprint facilitator and product design consultant.

Jake Knapp giving a talk at Bloomberg Design Week in San Francisco about Google Venture’s work with Savioke

I met Jake Knapp almost five years ago while we were both working at Google.

My company had just been acquired, and I was looking for some help navigating Google and understanding my new job as a designer at a big company. My gifts and interests didn’t line up with the other designers I was meeting. Making mock-ups was fun, but I was really interested in how design can help businesses grow — that’s why I started a company.

We found a lot in common over lunch and bonded…

Short stories about Product Design Pro students

I personally teach product design because friends started asking me to help them become better designers. They had a lot of questions. All the same questions I had when I was learning product design, like:

  • Am I doing this right?
  • How do other designers work?
  • Will someone please give me some good feedback?
  • I don’t have a process. How do I learn process?
  • Something feels off, but I don’t know what. What am I missing?
  • What are the best ways to become a better designer?
  • How do I explain what I do is important to other people at my company?

Talking like a designer to the Fitstar team during a five day design sprint

As of today, I’ve individually taught 24 students Product Design.
It’s been a diverse group…

  • 77% are minorities
  • 71% are new to doing Product Design

… but one thing they all have in common is wanting to learn how to fit in.

Why is it that even though I’m doing Product Design work, I don’t feel like a designer?

Some of that is just time.

It takes time to feel like you’re part of a community. It takes time to decipher a community’s rituals, understand their heroes and history. …

Five reasons this might be your next career move

Drake: From Actor to Rapper. Mr. Started from the bottom now we’re here.

I haven’t always been a product designer. And most product designers I know haven’t always been one either. The path is a bit unorthodox, the role isn’t always clear, and the short answer to your aunt at Thanksgiving when she asks what you do is somewhere between “evil genius” and “computer person,” depending on which aunt you’re talking to.

But there are so many reasons why switching to product design is a worthwhile decision. Here are my top five:

1. It’s a role where your diverse skillset matters

I heard a recruiter tell a designer buddy that no one wants…

Looking closely at what it means to be in one of today’s most exciting (and nebulous) designer jobs

The elusive product designer caught in the wild

When I was at Google, they didn’t even have a name for product designers. It fell in that deep canyon between Interaction Designer, Visual Designer, UX Researcher, and Helpful Co-worker. Now I see listings for product designers* left and right, but I frequently meet people in the tech industry (including designers) who secretly confess they don’t know even what the role really is. From my experience as a startup co-founder, designer at Google, workshop facilitator, consultant and design teacher, here’s what I’ve learned: a product designer thinks like an architect, acts like a researcher, and works like a founder.


This is a gas station in Redwood City.

The words they wrote on the building are helpful because they explain what you can buy inside.

When driving by, I read the closest part first because it’s the largest.

“Coffee Ice Cream” (yum!)

Then I read the next part.

“Snacks” (mmm gas station snacks)

and finally I read the longest phrase.

“Tobacco Water Candy”

As delicious and kid-friendly as that sounds, I know for a fact that its not a real thing and they don’t sell it.

What’s the issue with their sign? Hierarchy.

All the red words are the same…

Xander Pollock

I help graphic designers become product designers

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