Product Design

What is Product Design? Definition, History, and Tools

Product design is the process of creating new products or improving existing ones. It involves a wide range of disciplines, including engineering, ergonomics, industrial design, and user experience.

Understanding the basics of product design will serve as a starting point for a deeper study of this area.

What is Product Design?

Product design is the process of imagining, creating, and iterating products that solve users’ problems or address specific needs in a given market. To be successful, product designers must understand the end-user customer; the person for whom the product is being created. Product designers attempt to solve real problems for real people by using empathy and knowledge of their prospective customers’ habits, behaviors, frustrations, needs, and wants. 

Ideally, product design’s execution is so flawless that no one notices; users can intuitively use the product as needed because product designer understood their needs and anticipated their usage. Good product design practices thread themselves throughout the entire product lifecycle. Product design does not exist in a vacuum; it should always be informed by research, strategy, marketing, analytics, and feedback from users. By understanding all aspects of the product development process, product designers can make more informed decisions that will result in better products.

History of Product Design

Product design is a field of industrial design that refers to the décor and aesthetics of physical products such as furniture, appliances, and automobiles. At the very beginning, all stages of production were carried out by an artisan who did almost everything independently. With the advent of manufacturing, a clear division of labor appeared. One of the most responsible niches has always been product design.

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As mass production became the norm in manufacturing, product designers were brought in to make products more appealing to the millions of people who could now afford them. product design agencies specialize in creating products that are not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing.

Today, product design encompasses anything from digital products to physical goods. Product designers use their skills to create everything from furniture to household appliances. And as our world becomes increasingly digitized, product designers will only become more essential in helping us create products that are both useful and visually appealing.

What Types of Vacancies Exist in Product Design?

What different companies think of today as product design jobs might include several roles under different names. For example:

  • User-experience and interaction designers focus on refining a product based on how their research into user behavior suggests people will get the most satisfaction from using the product. UX designers aim to increase users’ happiness. 
  • Graphic designer’s most artistic job within product design is creating the graphics, icons, logos, and other visual elements of the product experience. Their purview is as broad as selecting a color scheme to as narrow as tweaking individual pixels.
  • User research is essential for any product design organization. By conducting interviews, running usability studies, and presenting prototypes and mockups for feedback, user researchers gain invaluable insights into how customers use and interact with products. This data helps to inform the design of future products, ensuring that they are user-friendly and meet the needs of the target audience. 
  • Data analysts play a key role in user research, using their scientific skills to identify ways to improve a product’s layout, feature set, and visual aesthetic. 
  • Prototypers are also vital to the product design process, as they are responsible for bringing the team’s ideas to life through mockups and prototypes. 
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The main stages of the Product Design Process

The design process is essential for any company that wishes to create a new product. Though the steps may vary from company to company, there is a general philosophy or framework that most professionals follow. Cam Sackett outlines these steps:

  1. Empathizing with people.
  2. Defining the problem.
  3. Ideating a solution.
  4. Building a prototype.
  5. Testing the solution. 

It’s important to note that the process does not always move in a linear path. Results from one step may lead the team back to refine or repeat an earlier step. The design process also never truly stops. Even once a product reaches maturity, it must continue to evolve with changes in technology and user interaction.

What Salary can a Product Designer Expect?

A career in product design can be both rewarding and lucrative. With experience and tenure, salaries tend to increase, and location plays a big role in determining earnings potential. In the United States, the average salary for a product designer is around $105,000 per year, while a senior product designer can expect to earn nearly $130,000 annually. A lead product designer often earns in the range of $140,000 per year. However, it is important to note that these are only averages, and actual salaries may vary depending on individual skillset, experience level, and geographical location. No matter where you ultimately end up working, a career in product design can be both financially and personally rewarding.

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What Tools do Product Designers Use?

Product designers use a variety of tools to help them in their work. Among these are:

journey mapping apps, which help designers map out the user experience; 

  • wireframing apps, which help to create prototypes;
  • graphic design apps, which are used to create visuals; 
  • prototyping tools, which allow designers to test their ideas;
  • research and data analytics tools, which help designers to gather and analyze information; 
  • CAD software, which helps with the technical aspects of design;
  • project management apps, which help designers to keep track of their progress. 
  • product roadmap apps provide an overview of the development process and help designers to plan for future updates. 

All of these tools are essential for product designers as they work to create new products.

Conclusion

Product design is the process of conceiving, creating, and bringing to market new or improved products. It encompasses a wide range of activities, including market research, product development, prototyping, and testing. A successful product designer must be able to identify customer needs and find innovative ways to meet them. They must also have strong problem-solving skills and be able to work within the constraints of a budget and time frame.