If you are a problem-solver, empathetic, and have a great imagination then a career in product design may be for you! As the Curriculum Designer for the Product Design Bootcamp at Flatiron School, Siana Altiise knows what it takes to become a product designer and then how to ascend up the product design career ladder to senior roles. Learn the eight traits that make a successful product designer in today’s tech workplace, and find out how to launch a product design career in just 15 weeks at Flatiron School.
Product design is a dynamic field that innovates both digital and physical products to create functional, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing product experiences that enhance people’s lives! As technology evolves, product design sharpens its attention on creating user-centered solutions that balance function, ease of use, and form to create a seamless user experience.
As designers have started to bring real focus on accessibility and inclusivity, the goal is to design products that remove access barriers and consider adaptable needs of the user. Advancing technologies have opened the doors for designers to gain more insight to user preferences, pain points, and accessibility needs, even more concisely, to make more effective and even more efficient products. And now, in 2023, it’s not only important that product design focuses on, accessible, but also imperative that products and their design are environmentally sustainable.
Product design and UX design are related, but unique from one another. They both focus on creating a positive user experience, but they have different goals and approaches.
Product design focuses on the overall design and development of a product, including functionality, features, and aesthetics. Product design considers everything from the initial ideation and conceptualization of a product to the final design, and if it's a physical product, the manufacturing stages. Product design considers a wide range of factors including market research, the range of user needs, technical abilities, and client business goals in order to create a successful product.
UX design focuses specifically on designing the user's interaction with the product or service, ensuring that the user’s experience with a product is intuitive, efficient, enjoyable, accessible and inclusive. UX design typically focuses on user research, information architecture or wireframing, prototyping, and usability testing.
These are the five design software tools that product designers typically use on the job:
Product designers may be using Figma and InVision as prototyping tools as well as Marvel, Proto.io, and Axure. For user research, product designers may use tools like UserTesting, Qualtrics, and Survey Monkey.
Product designers should be familiar with project management tools, like Trello, Asana, Monday.com, Jira. Collaboration tools like Slack and Zoom are also relied upon for meetings and project work.
Product design and UX design are often lumped together, so companies do not typically stick to one job description for any of these roles. Keep in mind that salary depends largely on location, industry, and level of experience.
Entry-level product design roles also include product design intern, design apprentice, design associate, and product design assistant.
What does an entry-level product designer do?
As an entry-level product designer, it's not expected that you be a frequent and high-level contributor to the process, but that you learn and grow as a designer through the process. An entry-level product designer’s key responsibilities may include:
Entry-Level Product Design Salaries
💰 According to Indeed, the typical salary for entry-level product designers is $88K.
Mid-level product design roles also include design strategist, lead product designer, and senior product designer.
What does a mid-level product designer do?
A mid-level product designer’s key responsibilities may include:
Mid-Level Product Design Salaries
💰 According to Indeed, the typical salary for mid-level product designers is $115K.
Senior-level product design roles also include principal product designer, design director or design manager.
What does a senior-level product designer do?
A senior-level product designer’s key responsibilities may include:
Senior-Level Product Design Salaries
💰 According to Indeed, the typical salary for senior-level product designers is $150K.
How long does it take to go from entry-level to mid-level to senior-level product designer?
It depends a lot on the individual product designer and their experience, leadership, and desire to advance. Some people are gifted in creating digital or physical assets and advance quickly on their own. Other product designers may work with design agencies that build a large portfolio from multiple clients and projects that promote them faster. Some designers work with one company and build only one type of product over time and might take longer to advance, and others freelance. On average, it could take 6-8 years to grow from an entry-level to senior-level product designer.
Flatiron School offers an immersive learning experience that prepares learners with the skills and mindset needed to succeed. On our team, we focus on hands-on learning, collaboration, and building real-world experience with projects– this allows our learners to develop their practical skills, identify their specializations, and prepare them for a career in this rapidly-growing industry. Our approach builds learner experience and grows their confidence with systems, processes and gives them experience with actual tools they will research, prototype, and design with, when they are solutioning for clients after graduating and once they’re hired.
Is there an ideal student for Flatiron School’s Product Design bootcamp?
Ideal students are self-motivated, creative, resilient, open to challenges, innovative, empathetic, and those that don’t give up after the first fail – there will be many moments of frustration. But there will also be support both from instructors, alumni, and colleagues. A bootcamp is not a spoon-fed experience, and the structure for our live course is 8 hours a day for 15 weeks. This can seem grueling, but as a choice to challenge yourself to pursue your passion, and it can be incredible. You get out what you put in.
Do you need to have any prior design experience to excel in the Product Design bootcamp?
Absolutely not! Any previous experience learners have can be used as a product designer because our experiences add to how we can meet user needs. For example: one of our Flatiron graduates was a barber before learning product design and now she creates digital products for barbers! Once you can hone the ability to translate an experience as a product designer, it’s smooth sailing from there.
More important than having previous experience as a product designer going into the bootcamp is a willingness to learn. That mindset is the important key to developing skills as a designer.
How does Flatiron School prepare students for today’s product design jobs?
Flatiron School has an entire career services department that prepares students for their interviews, makes sure their resumes and LinkedIn profiles are ready, and prepares them for their technical interviews.
The product design team at Flatiron School also prepares students to be able to present themselves as a confident product designer, with a glowing resume and prepared portfolio upon graduation. Our goal is to see our graduates win. Students may get hung up by the challenging feelings of impostor syndrome, for example. We beat them to it by making sure that they have support from their instructors in the form of 1:1’s, as well as creating support systems for current students and alumni to cheer one another on through the program and beyond. We have adopted the phrase “lift as you climb”, as an illustration for students to stay in touch with one another throughout their journey to becoming a product designer.
Flatiron graduates spend quite a bit of time practicing design thinking — to dig deep into curiosity and critical thinking in a collaborative environment. During the bootcamp, students learn to communicate with both their cohort and others in Slack, to gain users for studies or surveys, to test out prototypes and iterations, and to receive feedback, which are imperative to thriving on the job. Plus, Flatiron School students graduate with a portfolios that showcases their skills in:
The portfolio also includes their capstone project, which is a case study of what they're working through to solve business needs. They have three different projects that they complete by the end of the bootcamp, and these are also fitting as case studies because they're solving business problems.
Find out more and read Flatiron School reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Flatiron School.
Jess Feldman is the Content Manager at Course Report. As a lifelong learner, Jess is passionate about education — She loves learning and sharing insights about tech bootcamps and career changes with the Course Report community. Jess received a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of New Hampshire and lives in southern Maine.
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