What I Learned When Switching from Marketing to Product Design
They’re more alike than you think
Earlier this year, I decided to make a career change. I had been working as a designer in marketing for about five years, but during that time, I had always been drawn to a product design role. I liked the idea of providing people with the best experience possible.
Would my skills and experience translate to this new world? When I asked Matthew, our VP of Design, whether I would be a good product designer, he said, “You’re already doing it.” And he was right — there were more similarities in the two roles than I expected. So I took the leap and learned a few things along the way.
What is the difference between marketing design and product design?
The primary goal of marketing design is to promote a company’s products and services to the people who need and want them. You’re mainly working on landing pages, emails, advertising, reports, collateral, etc.
The primary goal of product design is to provide the most value possible to the end user. This is true whether you’re working on a physical product or a digital one. You’re mainly working on your company’s existing product and future prototypes to always make it better.
I’ve noticed that marketing and product tend to work in silos when they should work hand-in-hand. Those teams should be collaborating and talking often. You can have the best product out there, but you need good eye-catching marketing to engage users. At the same time, you can have great marketing and a terrible, unusable product. Marketing and product should always be working together to deliver amazing experiences. Recently we unified our design teams at The Zebra, and the merge has helped both design and the two different departments align on creative.
Are you a good fit for product design?
Honestly, the answer is probably yes. If you’re in the mindset that you do not design for yourself, but instead you design for your users, then you’re already on your way. If you love being a designer and are drawn to the more technical and methodical part of this craft, you’re probably ready to make the switch.
Side note: Learn the difference in terms
When moving from marketing to product design, you have to re-think of a few words or phrases like: patterns…
Marketing designer thinks of pattern: a cool background with icons for maybe a hero image, you might even put a big headline on top of it.
Product designer thinks of pattern: login, signups, confirmations, errors, etc.
How I use my marketing experience in product design?
User engagement is still the №1 priority. We don’t want people getting confused or bored during their experience with our product. In marketing, we’re always thinking and re-thinking about what will make a page unique, so people engage and convert.
Use your skills and strengths. In marketing, you probably spend a significant amount of time creating icons and illustrations to support stories or suggesting some copy changes. Having the skills to know how to make and place useful icons properly is key to product design.
Writing concise and useful copy is also a big part of UX. If you work at a big organization, you will most likely have a team of copywriters and technical writers, but often you end up writing some copy for your prototypes.
In marketing, you’re an expert in your company’s brand. When you start working with your brand in a different way you may start thinking of new creative ways to apply it like different layouts, or ways to use color in your product that can add some extra personality.
What else do you need to know to start the transition from marketing to product?
- Focus on digital projects like creating landing pages, templates, A/B testing pages, etc. Sometimes in marketing, you could spend a lot of time on non-digital projects.
- Learn and obsess over accessibility.
- Think of design as solving a problem.
- Dissect products and learn from them. Learn the good and the bad. This will help you grow as a designer.
- Be confident while questioning every decision you’re making.
- Treat your design system like the precious thing it is. It needs protection and attention at all times.
- Pay close attention to the elements and patterns in your designs.
- Read books, articles, blogs, etc. Educating yourself is the best way to gain confidence.
- Don’t be afraid of writing. Copy is a big part of UX.
- Learn how to set up your sketch documents correctly, how to use Principle, InVision, or any other prototyping tool, and how to actively participate in user testing.
- Find a mentor or follow people that inspire you daily.