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Life as a Product Designer

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

Credits: absurd.design

This article is part of the series (2/5) 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 does a typical workday look like for you (pre-quarantine)?

Kenji Kaneko: Product designer at Duo Security

7–8 — I get in 1 hour of deep work, usually design work that I want to get heads down 8–9 — I go for a run 10 am — Standup with my team Other than that will be different. Some days I have more meetings, some days I have interviews with customers. I’ll usually squeeze in some time for design as well and usually will be done around 5.

7–8 — I get in 1 hour of deep work, usually design work that I want to get heads down

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

It varies. I have a highly flexible schedule. I work with a lot of people based in Europe. So, my days start very early — 7 am on most days and I’m done by 3.30 or 4 pm

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

I spend the first few hours of my day on current design-related tasks, which could be anything from refining color palette choices for a new application, to conducting comparative analyses for a new feature, or assembling high fidelity mock-ups for stakeholder feedback and/or user testing. Throughout the day I might have one or two meetings to discuss technical requirements with software developers, provide design feedback to my UX intern, demo my projects to prospective faculty users, or gather with other UX designers for larger team meetings. In the afternoon I either continue doing design work or switch to implementing the frontend code for a different feature using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Raymond Su: UX Designer at Telenav

There is no set routine. My workday changes from day-to-day. I usually get into the office around 9:30 am and leave after 6 pm. There can be early morning meetings or late-night meetings because we have offices in multiple locations globally.

Raden Tonev: UX Designer at Microsoft

Kinda depends on the day, but typically I reserve a 2–3 hours of design time block in the morning, which ensures that I have focused time to work. Then in the afternoon, I have a combination of meetings and small pockets of free time. During the free time, I address email and other smaller tasks. Critiques would fall somewhere in those meetings, usually a few times a week.

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

I leave for the office at around 8:30 am. Before leaving for the office I make sure to get at least 10 minutes of meditation so as to prepare for the day. I reach the office at 9 and start looking at the things I need to work on. I keep the first half for urgent tasks and try to get most of them done in the first half. We usually have a lot of meetings so it’s better to get that stuff out of the way. The meetings are mostly with the product team to understand requirements or with other designers to critique designs.

Ruta Gokhale: UX Designer at Thomson Reuters

It differs. There’s no set routine. Sometimes it begins with meetings, and sometimes with design work. I have a brief check-in with my manager sometime in the day to either update him or get his opinion or help on something that I’m working on.

Olivia Patercsak: User Experience Architect at Esri

Every day, the design team has a 15 stand-up meeting at 10 am to review what we worked on the day before, what we’re working on today, and if we have any blockers. The rest of the day is a mix of meetings, whether that be regarding internal/external projects, administrative stuff, or department meetings, as well as a mix of heads downtime for designing and researching.

Question: What is 1 skill that you think is the most important to be a good product designer?

Kenji Kaneko: Product Designer at Duo Security

Curiosity. The field is always changing so you have to want to keep learning and expanding your knowledge. Also, it’s important to be curious when interacting with users to uncover their needs.

Deepak Krishnan: UX Designer at SAP

Presentation skills

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

One very important skill to be a good product/UX designer is the ability to translate user and/or client needs into optimal solutions. Product designers need to listen to and observe others closely in order to pick up on subtle ideas, requirements, and opportunities, compile and transfer those things into an intuitive design/concept, then iteratively refine it from all angles through regular feedback and testing until they arrive at a solution to meets or exceeds expectations.

Raymond Su: UX Designer at Telenav

To clearly understand users’ needs and intent, and then successfully translating them into a solution that matches users’ mental model. It is an elusive fundamental skill that every Product Designer should have.

Raden Tonev: UX Designer at Microsoft

Very tough to pick one skill. The basics are knowing how to prototype and understanding the core UI patterns. Beyond that, I would probably pick knowing how to use data effectively. Sometimes you have gaps in your knowledge, and you have to be able to navigate that. Other times the direction could be completely based on incorrect assumptions, so in general, that ability to recognize the quality of your data and act upon it is probably key.

so in general, that ability to recognize the quality of your data and act upon it is probably key.

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

Being comfortable with designing. In other words, not being afraid to jump in and start designing something from scratch.

Ruta Gokhale: UX Designer at Thomson Reuters

The ability to identify the actual problem that you are solving or designing for. It’s important to nail down the core user need and business goal based on the user research or product requirements that are available to you.

Olivia Patercsak: User Experience Architect at Esri

Resourcefulness. Often you don’t have all the pieces or answers, you need to be scrappy and figure out how to find them and what resources you can take advantage of or seek out.

Question: What is the most challenging aspect of being a product designer?

Kenji Kaneko: Product Designer at Duo Security

Time. Getting heads downtime for design is key and if you have many meetings it can break that up.

Deepak Krishnan: UX Designer at SAP

Convincing stakeholders why Design is so important in a system

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

The most challenging aspect of being a product designer is operating well under external constraints. School assignments give you a good introduction to the tools you’ll have at your disposal once you graduate, but they don’t force you to balance conflicting requirements or problem-solve under difficult circumstances. In the real world, there are going to be things you as a designer can’t control, whether it’s a tight deadline that requires you to skip certain steps in a normal design process, a mandatory business goal that goes against what’s best for the user, or an unavoidable technical limitation that disrupts your user flow. All of these things will challenge you to think and work more creatively given the time, priorities, and resources you have. It’s hard, but it can also produce more innovative and satisfying work.

Raymond Su: UX Designer at Telenav

It can be overwhelming at times having to constantly improve oneself by picking up new skills and keeping up with design news/trends on top of a full-time job. I view it both as a blessing and curse to have access to a stream of new ideas and new works from other designers at fingertips. No doubt those resources have inspired me to do better and do more. But on the other hand, those are also the same things that have resulted in me burning out or feeling the Imposter Syndrome.

Raden Tonev: UX Designer at Microsoft

Aligning with other stakeholders, such as designers, engineers, and product managers. Since I work in a pretty big team, I have to constantly negotiate and collaborate with quite a few people. I would this is definitely a tough thing to get effective at. Getting your designs built is always difficult and requires a lot of effort beyond just the design.

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

Making sure that your design solves each and every use case.

Ruta Gokhale: UX Designer at Thomson Reuters

Having difficult conversations or having to disagree with non-design stakeholders.

Olivia Patercsak: User Experience Architect at Esri

Having to juggle multiple priorities and producing quality output for all of them while on a deadline.

Other articles in this series

Introduction: Meet the designers

Life as a Product Designer (this article)

  • 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

  • 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?

If you’d like to become an expert in UX Design, Design Thinking, UI Design, or another related design topic, then consider to take an online UX course from the Interaction Design Foundation. For example, Design Thinking, Become a UX Designer from Scratch, Conducting Usability Testing or User Research — Methods and Best Practices. 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.

If you’d like to stay connected, follow me on Twitter, Dribbble, or Linkedin.

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Jatin Gupta

Jatin Gupta

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