How to Get into Product Design—An Addition of Encompassing Strategy

Volume 82 - three minute read

Apr 20th, 2018

A question I get asked often from folks I mentor and interact with deals with any tips I have for people getting into Product Design. As someone who has worked on products the past 5 years, it’s easy to forget where this change in mindset instills itself and what aspects remain important in my work today.

I’ve been thinking about this randomly over the past few weeks and think I found what really helped me move from Graphic Design to Product Design. It all comes down to an almost constant encompassing strategy in my work. Before Product Design, design elements were still very much present; composition, color, typography, balance, etc. but deeper levels of multiple industry aspects came into play when I made the shift.

Product Design requires a plethora of additional disciplines including but not limited to accessibility, user-centric UX, business goals, empathetic decisions, web and app technologies, consistent pattern decisions, public speaking, and others you wouldn’t think of at first glance. Through these disciplines I am better able to make quicker overarching decisions in design and code work because they become almost second nature for me.

Design decisions that impact other aspects of a product/business become integral in my workflow. Instead of my design work solving one problem but possibly creating others, I can better think about what levels of impact there are based on decisions I am making and adjust as needed.

When I was first transitioning from traditional design to product work, it was a learning curve for me to take on methods and strategies that truly made a great product. My early product work was terrible; I had trouble grasping decisions based on a user’s experience over what had great typography or spacing I was proud of. I didn’t understand why something as simple as text arrangement or a screen composition could cost a business money or frustrate a user profoundly.

If there is one bit of advice that I could give someone wanting to get into Product Design, it would be to move your mindset from focusing solely on how things look and feel over to how decisions impact the product, business, and users outside of design. While making a product delightful and beautiful are still important, focusing on this realm can lead to products that aren’t profoundly useful or don’t meet the goals a business or research has otherwise targeted.

Learn and read about entrepreneurship, psychology, different cultures, and seemingly irrelevant industries. Take interest in other people and their backgrounds, pick up a new hobby, try things you’re passionate about outside of design. Being a well-rounded person can really help you not only make better-informed decisions, but also help you work better with others and on teams. Having tried and learned about a various amount of disciplines has personally led to much better work, profitable side projects, new friends, more happiness, and new opportunities I never would have imagined starting out in the Product Design world.

Lastly: have fun, take your time, and good luck! Product Design and how it works in the realm of business is a never-ending learning experience. I’m still constantly learning and have a long way to go but that’s what makes it so enticing and passion-driven as a career choice.

If you ever have questions or need advice, feel free to reach out on Twitter or book a mentoring session with me!

Dennis Cortés
Product Designer at MetaLab. I also code, illustrate, write weekly articles, and produce music. Hispanic. Pokémon Master.
www.cortes.us