Ask DN: What's the role of a Product Designer?

over 8 years ago from , Designer at Mashape

I find a lot of people calling themselves product designers for doing buttons, ui for an app, another email client, or the interaction of an app, but I'd like to think this isn't a product designer, or is it?

I'd call myself product designer in the moment I've created a product from the initial idea to the final execution.

What do you think, guys?


  • Ian SilberIan Silber, over 8 years ago

    Speaking digitally, as opposed to a physical Product Designer:

    A Product Designer (PD) is generalist by nature. A good PD is involved in product strategy and definition early on and assists with ideas, sketching, wireframes, etc. A Product Designer should help lead the conversation from a user-experience perspective. A PD helps with user research to validate assumptions, test prototypes, etc. After the early sketching stages, Product Designers typically get into the nitty gritty and build visual mocks, as opposed to handing it off to a "visual designer". More technical Product Designers prefer to get into HTML/CSS as soon as possible. I think this last part is becoming more and more of a trend. Who knows, within 10 years it may be expected that every designer knows how to do front-end development.

    A Product Designer typically has a healthy mix of four areas:

    1. Product Sense
    2. Visuals
    3. Interactions
    4. Technical Skill

    Each designer will index differently on these points. Some may be more technical, some more focused on product strategy, but the generalist nature is what makes one a Product Designer and not a Visual Designer, Interaction Designer or UIE.

    8 points
  • Max SchultzMax Schultz, 8 years ago

    I've seen this most recently as a mix of UI Designer and UX Designer. Wireframing + Photoshop + Product Strategy.

    7 points
  • Aaron SagrayAaron Sagray, over 8 years ago

    A product designer (physical and software) helps define the way a product works, usually based on features provided by the business team or a product manager. In software, it really differs from web design in that you should be more focused on how stuff works vs how stuff looks.

    This is a really important distinction. Although visual appeal is extremely important, it is even more important to get the user flows and interactions right.

    4 points
    • Jitachi Garcia, 8 years ago

      I agree with you.

      The interactions & Flows make the difference, but that is an Interaction Designer. I think as the guy with the kirby avatar mentioned:

      Product strategy is the difference.

      0 points
    • Samihah ASamihah A, 8 years ago

      You explained this so much more eloquently than I did. This is exactly what I wanted to say.

      0 points
  • Samihah ASamihah A, 8 years ago

    While there are certainly product designers who design physical goods, I think for software it can be used as more of an umbrella term (or as Max S. mentioned, a mix of UI and UX). Designers are still creating products in software. Path is an app, but it's a product. Facebook is a product. Dropbox is a product. Designers at these companies are working on designing products - they're just not tangible products. However, if we're referring to a company's marketing website, a designer for the marketing website is not a product designer since the website is not a product, and rather it's owned by marketing (typically you'll see this with b2b companies. Example: https://stripe.com/ <--marketing site, and their product is an API).

    3 points
  • Nick WNick W, 8 years ago

    I personally think a product designer is basically what the mythical "UX Designer" should be or is best as (for the record, I think the title "User Experience Designer" is a term that's inappropriately used, as most of the time IA, IxD or UI Design is much more appropriate)

    Speaking in the digital realm obviously, a UX Designer is a more 'holistic' position whose job can be wide ranging and isn't just limited to the visible UI. We all know things things like IA, IxD and user research are involved. The general overarching theme is that since a UX designer understands these areas, they can produce a better /experience/ for the user, since there's less breakdown between staff.

    As Max S stated, I think the key of what a product designer is is the product strateegy portion. I often view Product Designers as being a UX with Product strategy responsibilities. To give a practical example, a UX or UI designer is typically given a project with defined product vision, possibly a feature list and told to work from there (some what of a closed problem). Product designers define the product vision and can define what the actual project is (much more of an open problem). Many user "experience" issues are related to things that are hard to change as a UI designer and a product designer can potentially help create said change

    1 point
    • Samihah ASamihah A, 8 years ago

      Well said - but I'd also add that a Product Designer should also know how to do the visuals as well. Or at least have a good understanding of it, especially since visual/ui design can have an effect on the overall UX and product strategy/metrics. I guess another way to define Product Designer is that they're sort of a cross between a designer and a product manager.

      0 points
  • Pasquale D'SilvaPasquale D'Silva, 8 years ago

    Designing functionality.

    1 point
  • Kyle A Kyle A , over 8 years ago

    I think of a product designer as someone who designs for physical products. For example, someone that designs how a pen should be shaped and colored. I personally create UI, icons, logos, and layouts. Therefore instead of "UI Designer" or "Branding Designer" I just consider myself a "Visual Designer". UI and icons are what I sell myself as in my portfolio, but I feel that title is less constraining and prompts clients to ask "Can you do this?" or "What types of work do you do besides UI and Icons?"

    1 point
    • , over 8 years ago

      True. I've worked as a physical product designer before, now I'm working digital products, however a digital solution can be a product too. Your email solves your communication problems, that's a product. Dropbox solves the file transfer problem, that's a product.

      I like how the term has evolved to "Visual designer" that's cool, but when you work in the "How it works" part (e.g. flows, interactions, user cases) I think its not more "visual designer".

      1 point
  • , 8 years ago

    Thanks for all the answers, guys :)

    0 points