Advice for new Product Designers

Jatin Gupta
UsabilityGeek
Published in
6 min readMay 10, 2020

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Designers share learnings from a 2-year long product design career

Credits: absurd.design

This article is part of the series (3/5) in which I asked a bunch of designers their learnings from a 2-year long product design career. If you haven’t read the intro article, you can check it out here.

Question: What is 1 UX skill/course from the University of Michigan that translates directly into your work?

Kenji Kaneko: Product designer at Duo Security

I guess SI 622: Needs Assessment and Usability Evaluation. But TBH I found courses that I engaged with outside of UMSI to be more helpful.

Deepak Krishnan: UX designer at SAP San Ramon, Oakland, CA

What I learned in SI 606: Personal Informatics Design was highly useful in my career — especially in presenting my design and why it is so useful

Nathan Magyar: UX Designer at the University of Michigan Center for Academic Innovation

SI 520, the graphic design course, gave me knowledge and techniques that I use every day in my work. Without a good understanding of Gestalt principles (similarity, continuity, proximity), color theory, and general visual design, I wouldn’t be able to produce high-quality, visually pleasing mock-ups.

Raymond Su: UX Designer at Telenav

SI 588: Fundamentals of Human Behavior

Raden Tonev: UX Designer at Microsoft

SI 582: Introduction to Interaction Design

Jatin Gupta: Product Designer at Sprint (now T-mobile)

SI 622: Needs assessment and usability evaluation

Ruta Gokhale: UX Designer at Thomson Reuters

Apart from the UX skills that I learnt in multiple classes, an important one was learning to give and receive feedback, which I learnt in Erik Hoffer’s Social Computing class — SI 699.

Olivia Patercsak: User Experience Architect at Esri

SI 622: Needs Assessment and Usability Evaluation

Question: What advice would you give to product designers starting their career?

Kenji Kaneko: Product Designer at Duo Security

Keep learning and pushing yourself.

Deepak Krishnan: UX Designer at SAP

  • Be flexible and patient. You might work on really crappy projects starting out but that’s okay.
  • Also, always keep your portfolio up-to-date.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Find a mentor and learn as much as you can for them. Even if that means you are doing their work for them. You will learn faster and become better sooner.

Nathan Magyar: UX Designer at the University of Michigan Center for Academic Innovation

Find a job and organization that offer a culture of learning and growth for their employees. After graduation, I still felt like I had a lot to learn about user research, design, and development. Fortunately, my current employer strongly values professional development, so I have been able to spend a few hours each week learning new skills on my own and attend several conferences. It has been extremely valuable to be given these opportunities, and I am a better designer for having had them.

Raymond Su: UX Designer at Telenav

Beyond UX, read up as much as you can about other topics that interest you. i.e. anthropology, psychology, economics, philosophy, blockchain, or whatever that interests you. I cannot emphasis enough the value of being a generalist in this highly interdisciplinary field. This extra knowledge will define you and give an edge over other candidates.

Raden Tonev: UX Designer at Microsoft

Focus on quality work and learning skills, rather than strategies to get hired. The rest will follow.

Jatin Gupta: Product Designer at Sprint (now T-mobile)

Get really good at prototyping in Sketch/Adobe Xd/Figma, whichever is your weapon of choice.

Ruta Gokhale: UX Designer at Thomson Reuters

The UX industry is increasingly becoming saturated, so within the universe of design, try to find out the niche that excites you, be it qualitative research or doing motion design animations, and then pursue it.

Olivia Patercsak: User Experience Architect at Esri

Keep learning. Especially at the beginning, say yes to working on different projects with different people, taking on new responsibilities, and continuing to explore.

Question: What is 1 thing you look for in a product design portfolio?

Kenji Kaneko: Product Designer at Duo Security

Include your team and give credit where it’s due but tell me what YOU did. Too often you run into “this is what we did”, “then we did this next”

Deepak Krishnan: UX Designer at SAP

Leadership experience or any independent work — for a client

Nathan Magyar: UX Designer at the University of Michigan Center for Academic Innovation

The #1 thing I look for in a portfolio is a strong visual aesthetic; clean and simple, with good color and typography choices. Most of the time I am able to discern the quality of a candidate’s project work just by looking at their site’s homepage. If the portfolio itself is well designed and constructed, that sets a positive first impression for the rest of the person’s work.

Raymond Su: UX Designer at Telenav

Being able to articulate your design intent and how it solves a specific problem that the user faces. To go above and beyond, make sure you also have all the design details in your case studies. For example, show the design progression so you can clearly explain what you’ve tried, and then explain why you end up with your final design. Be prepared to go deep on certain discussion, like why you choose to go with a list view vs grid view. Or what are some advantages to have user scroll left to right vs top to bottom.

Raden Tonev: UX Designer at Microsoft

Good storytelling and depth

Jatin Gupta: Product Designer at Sprint (now T-mobile)

Clear framing of problem, constraints, and solution.

Ruta Gokhale: UX Designer at Thomson Reuters

I think a good portfolio case study should explain, what was the problem you set out to solve, what was the end result, and the WHY behind your design process.

Olivia Patercsak: User Experience Architect at Esri

A showcase of your thought process and decisions for any given project, as well as what your learned and took away from the experience.

Other articles in this series

Introduction: Meet the designers

Life as a Product Designer

  • What does a typical workday look like for you (pre-quarantine)?
  • What is 1 skill that you think is the most important to be a good product designer?
  • What is the most challenging aspect of being a product designer?

Advice for new product designers (this article)

  • What is 1 UX skill/course from the University of Michigan that translates directly into your work?
  • What advice would you give to product designers starting their career?
  • What is 1 thing you look for in a product design portfolio?

Tips to grow as a Product Designer

  • Please share some resources (communities, blogs, or specific designers) that you use to keep yourself updated about product design?
  • Is there something (preferably related to design but anything creative) you are learning nowadays? If yes, what is it?
  • Is there a product you have come across that you thought was designed really well? Why did you think so?

Get help from these Professional Designers

  • Is there something that you want to promote (personal website, Instagram, dribble)?
  • Where can people reach out to you?
  • What should people reach out to you?

Want to learn more?

Want to get an industry-recognized Course Certificate in UX Design, Design Thinking, UI Design, or another related design topic? Online UX courses from the Interaction Design Foundation can provide you with industry-relevant skills to advance your UX career. For example, Design Thinking, Become a UX Designer from Scratch, Conducting Usability Testing or User Research — Methods and Best Practices are some of the most popular courses. Good luck on your learning journey!

Hi! My name is Jatin Gupta. I am a product designer currently thinking about how to grow as a product designer.

Please comment below as to what you found useful from the article or if you have any suggestions for topics that I should write about.

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Jatin Gupta
UsabilityGeek

Indian living in Virginia. http://jatingupta.co. Quote: Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.