11 Tips to Advance Your Product Design Career

If you want to advance your product design career, there are a few things you can do to set yourself apart from the competition. In this article, we will explore some of the best tips to help you succeed.

Featured photo

First, let’s take a look at some of the basics that all successful product designers have in common. Then, we’ll move on to more specific tips that will help you hone your skills and achieve your goals.

Attributes All Successful Product Designers Have

a sketch of a mobile wireframe

The most important factor in product design success is having a solid portfolio of work. This applies to anyone in product design, from the junior designer all the way up through the senior design level.

With a portfolio, you can showcase your best designs, and make sure you take the time to learn how to create stunning visuals that showcase your talent. Learning more about the principles of good design will also help you stand out from the crowd.

You should also be constantly learning and updating your skillset. Technology is ever-evolving, so you should always be looking for ways to stay on top of the latest trends and techniques.

Typical Job Descriptions for Product Designers

Product designers are expected to create functional and aesthetically pleasing products. This means that they must have a good understanding of the principles of design, materials, engineering, and user experience.

However, there are some differences in what’s expected between designers at different points in their careers. Let’s take a look at these expectations, briefly.

Junior Product Designer

A junior product designer must be able to take a design from concept to completion, working on smaller projects with minimal guidance. They should have an understanding of basic product design principles, as well as the software tools used for creating designs.

Mid-Level Product Designer

A mid-level product designer should be comfortable working on more complex projects, with some guidance from the senior design team. They must have a good grasp of product design principles and software tools, as well as an understanding of user experience and engineering.

Senior Product Designer

A senior product designer is expected to be a leader in the design process, as well as mentor junior designers. They should be able to manage and lead larger projects, as well as have an advanced understanding of user experience and engineering principles.

Understanding Changing Skill Sets Required As You Advance

As you move up in product design, the skills required change. You will need to become an expert in user experience and understand how people interact with technology and products. Really understanding user needs is key when it comes to creating a successful product design.

You should also start looking into prototyping and experiment with different technologies like AR, VR, and 3D printing. Those skills will become more important as technology advances. 

A greater emphasis will be placed on business and managerial skills as you move up in the ranks. You will need to understand how products fit into a larger business strategy, and how to work with different stakeholders.

Finally, communication and leadership skills are essential for any successful product designer. You need to be able to effectively communicate your ideas and vision so that everyone is on the same page.

We’ll go into more detail about these skill sets now.

Specific Tips To Help You Succeed

Now that we’ve covered some of the basic qualities all successful product designers share, let’s take a look at specific tips that will help you succeed on your journey.

1. Network With Other Successful Designers

Start by networking with other successful designers in your field. Attend events and make connections with people who are already established in the industry; this will give you a chance to learn from their successes, as well as get invaluable advice on how to succeed yourself.

2. Focus On Quality, Not Quantity

When it comes to product design, it’s all about the quality of your work. Don’t rush your designs and take the time to make sure that each one adds something valuable to the overall product experience.

3. Find Your Niche

If you want to stand out from the competition, it’s important to find your niche and specialize in something specific. This could be a particular sector of product design or a specific technology.

4. Stay On Top Of Trends

colorful squares from a photography tools, color checker

Make sure you stay on top of trends in the industry; this will help you keep up with the latest technologies and techniques that are being used.

5. Gain a Better Understanding of Project Scope

Before taking on a project, it’s important to have a good understanding of the scope and objectives. Take time to plan out what will be needed and have a clear idea of how you’ll go about achieving the goals set out in the brief.

6. Develop Your Communication Skills

As mentioned above, communication skills are essential for any successful product designer. You need to be able to effectively communicate your ideas and vision so that everyone is on the same page. Practice your communication skills as much as you can in order to make sure you’re getting your message across clearly.

7. Expand Your Business Education

Product design isn’t just about the technical side. You also need to understand how products fit into a larger business strategy, and how to work with different stakeholders. Take some time to learn more about business and management in order to make sure you have a well-rounded understanding of product design.

This means learning how to competently create a forecast, how to manage resources, and how to understand the financial implications of product design decisions.

You’ll also need to build budgets and communicate with stakeholders. Increasing your business knowledge will help you understand the bigger picture and make better decisions when it comes to product design.

Pursuing additional knowledge on YouTube and through educational books can be helpful as well. 

8. Bolster Your Problem-Solving Skills

Another skill you need to work on as you move up the career ladder is your ability to problem-solve. You need to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to complex problems.

In addition, practice your research skills and learn how to effectively collect data and analyze it. This will help you make evidence-based decisions that will improve the outcome of your product design.

9. Learn How to Be a Real Leader

three women working and conversing together

It’s also important to focus on developing your leadership skills. As a product designer, you need to be able to lead and manage a team of people.

You need to learn how to effectively motivate them and create an environment where everyone can thrive. This means understanding the different personalities within the team and being able to assign tasks and roles accordingly.

It also means knowing how to manage disagreements, resolve conflicts, and keep everyone on track with the overall product goals. Learning how to be a real leader will help you become an invaluable asset to any design team.

10. Consider Formally Continuing Your Education

If you’re serious about becoming a successful product designer, consider formally continuing your education. There are some great online courses and programs available that will help you hone your skills and give you the edge over the competition. An MBA might even be a consideration here.

11. Take Time To Reflect And Iterate

Finally, it’s important to set aside time for reflection and iteration. Take the time to review your designs and note any areas that need improvement. Iterate on these areas to ensure that you’re producing the best product possible. Repeating this process is certain to expand your skills and better prepare you for senior product design positions.

Start Moving Your Product Design Career Forward

Product design is an incredibly rewarding field, but success in this area requires dedication and hard work. Developing a wide range of skills including technical know-how, communication, and business acumen will help you become a successful product designer. 

And taking the time to hone these skills and practice them will ensure that your designs are of the highest quality.  Good luck!