Becoming a Product Designer: What you REALLY need to succeed

“Product designers and graphic designers are basically the same, right?” 🤦🏼

We hear that a lot. There are loads of misconceptions about the product design role 😅 Most of these assumptions come from the fact that a lot of people don’t really understand what the Product Designer role entails. Unlike graphic designers whose main focus is aesthetics, UX designers are focused on users and how they interact with the product. If people knew about the amount of collaboration and research this role requires, then they probably wouldn’t see it as only designing. 

We touched upon this topic a bit in the past, but we felt we needed to delve deeper. We sat down with our Product Designer, Basit Masood, to break down some of the skills you actually need to succeed in this role (Spoiler alert: It’s not JUST design skills 😄) 

Technical skills are great, but communication skills are even better

Being a product designer means you’ll be doing a lot of deliberation with people from different departments. This can even sometimes include very senior people, like Product Managers, Marketing Executives and sometimes even the CEO. Your goal is to make sure every stakeholder understands why you’re advocating for a certain design. Being able to speak and write clearly is therefore paramount to this role. 

This is necessary to make sure that your hard work comes to life exactly as you visualised it. You’ll also need to explain the business value of each design decision to each stakeholder. To do this, it’ll be important for you to be able to communicate to people in their language. For instance, when you’re defending your design while speaking to tech teams, there may be times when you’ll need to be able to use the technical language they use so they can understand your point of view clearly. 

The fact of the matter is, technical skills can be taught and refined. Don’t get us wrong, that certainly doesn’t mean they’re not important, but it’s far more challenging to improve communication skills over time. 

Product designer = problem solver

Honestly, this is probably the most exciting part of the product design process. Here at SadaPay, before we even start designing, we put a lot of effort into understanding the problem and coming up with the best solution. Seriously, people do not understand how much of a product designer’s time should go into the research or “discovery phase” as it’s called. Although there’s no fixed process for this, here’s a bit of insight into what it could look like:

First, you engage in research sessions with your users to understand their needs and bring these learnings back to the team. Then, you get the team together and collectively go over your research to gain an even deeper understanding of the problem and the potential solutions. This is done by asking thoughtful and relevant questions like why are we designing this? How will it help the userr? What are the success metrics? Through this process, the Product team can come up with the best possible solutions to the problem.

Say goodbye to working in a silo 

If you want to become a product designer, then you better get ready to make “collaboration” your middle name 😂 You’re looking to make your design impactful and you can’t do that alone. That’s why product designers should be involved in every step of the process. From discovery to implementation to testing to post-launch analysis; you’ll be working in close collaboration with various departments including engineering, customer experience, marketing and many others.

Since our approach to designing is so deeply entrenched in collaboration, we prefer those candidates who not only have a strong understanding of this, but have also engaged in collaborative projects in the past. 

Fall in love with getting context 😍

A supremely understated aspect of being a product designer is the need for context. If you want to become a successful product designer, then you basically need to become context-obsessed. This includes having context on the user; who are they, what are their pain points and what kind of solution they need. This also includes having context on how the developers are planning on implementing your design; what software they’ll be using and what overall choices will be the best for your business.

It also includes having context on the domain you’re working in so you can have a thorough understanding of the needs and challenges within that domain. To make intentional design, you need to know how each design decision you make impacts the entire product. This allows you to create products that people actually need. 

A customer-focused approach 😄

People view product designers as just “designers”. Here’s the thing though; it would actually be more accurate to view them as “customer representatives”. That’s really what this role is all about. You become the representative of the customer and the onus falls on you to speak up for customer needs and explain those needs clearly. 

To do this, you need to be able to empathize with the customer on a deep, emotional level. Having a strong sense of empathy and a desire to learn will be super helpful in walking in the shoes of the people you’re trying to provide solutions for 🥰

Train your brain to be both creative and systematic 

At the end of the day, you need to make a product that is so intuitive, fun to use and simple that it keeps your users coming back for more. You want that when they use the product or feature you’ve designed, it feels magical ✨That’s where your creativity comes in. At the same time though, you also want to make sure that what you’re designing isn’t alien to the app as a whole. Your work needs to be in line with the existing design system. That’s where your systematic or technical skills will come into play. 

It’s definitely difficult finding the sweet spot between the two and working within certain design limitations, but as you refine your skills as a product designer, being able to switch between your creative and technical side will become second nature to you! 

There’s still SO much more that a product designing role entails, but we hope this little insight helped give you a more holistic view of what it means to be a product designer ✨If our Product department sounds awesome (which it is) and you’re interested in applying for a role there, head to our careers page to check out our open positions! We’d love to hear from you.