What Does a Product Designer Do?

Learn more about the roles, responsibilities, and salary of a product designer.

product designer

What is a product designer?

A product designer makes sure the user experience of a product meets the needs and expectations of the end-user.

This article covers several key aspects of this well-compensated position, including the following: 

  • Why they are significant
  • What they do
  • What makes them unique
  • Common tech skills
  • How much they earn

Altogether, we trust this will at least get you started with answering questions like: What does a product designer do? What do you need to be a product designer? How much does a product designer make a year?

Hint: the answer to that last question is “a lot” because they are in high demand. Read on for more information about this exciting new role!

Looking for information on how to become a UX designer? Visit our comprehensive career guide series here.

Why is product design important?

Product designers provide an integral capability to their teams and this reality is reflected in their handsome compensation packages. Product designers are important because they are in charge of creating good experiences for the end-user which ultimately impacts how customers interact with products. Products serve a function, but that does not mean they do not carry meaning. It is a product designer’s role to effectively communicate this meaning to the end-user.

One of the primary jobs of product designers is to keep things simple for end-users even as systems increase in complexity week after week. Unfortunately, as more and more features are inevitably added to a product, the user experience usually gets more complicated. It doesn’t have to, though, when thoughtful decisions and elegant interactions are applied through user-centered design practices.

Product designers serve a vital role in product teams. Without them, UX researchers and engineers would have a missing link, as this important connection between user advocates and technologists is as crucial as the keystone in an archway. Delivering outstanding user experiences would be extremely difficult, and almost impossible at larger companies, without product designers.

What does a product designer do? 

Oftentimes, a product designer is essentially a UX designer operating under a different job title but with even closer ties to development and business functions. It sometimes entails a bit less focus on research and more effort collaborating with cross-functional product teams and engineers.

This means product designer roles can be more technical than UX design positions, with some requirements aimed at understanding front end development. Holistically, job descriptions typically include the following responsibilities:

  • Partner with other members of the product team to establish key objectives and measurable outcomes
  • Lead or contribute to the process of evolving inspirational ideas into well-designed products
  • Help gather and transform user needs and functional requirements into sketches, concepts, wireframes, and prototypes
  • Task or work with UX researchers on exploratory studies (e.g., user interviews, ethnography, surveys) and iterative testing (e.g., usability testing)
  • Flex a mix of visual and interactive design skills, using standard tools of the trade, to build beautiful and easy-to-use experiences
  • Lead various UX and design projects from end-to-end
  • Work with branding, style guides, and design systems to ensure smart and consistent applications throughout user journeys
  • Participate in design feedback and critique sessions

What makes product designers unique?

Product designers, as with UX designers, are highly adept at collaboration because most of their job involves teamwork. Effectively presenting their designs, delivering tactful critiques, and patiently receiving feedback are three attributes that distinguish them from many peers.

Their weeks consist of a lot of meetings with smatterings of time in between to do heads-down work, which means they must be excellent communicators, multi-taskers, and quick at thinking on their feet. 

Additionally, more and more people every day are propelling their careers forward with product design courses like online UX/UI bootcamps. Since this is such a multidisciplinary field, many successful 

What tech skills do product designers need?

As you’ve probably assumed correctly by now, given their similarity, technology skills for product designers are virtually the same as for UX designers. Key differences lie in a heavier understanding of what’s needed to collaborate more effectively with engineers (see last two bullets):

  • Standard office software (word processing, spreadsheets, email, instant messaging, etc.)
  • Web conferencing for meetings and moderated studies
  • Design tools such as Invision, Sketch, Adobe XD, Marvel POP, and Figma
  • Survey software
  • Project management tools
  • Ticketing, project management, and workflow tracking systems 
  • Familiarity with front-end coding and development

How much do product designers make?

So, how much money does a product designer make? On average, product designers with 1-3 years of experience make $77,500 according to Glassdoor. Senior-level product designers report on average of $139,000 per year.

Although slightly lower on average, their salaries are very close to the incomes of UX designers and offer more than enough to make a decent living despite not needing an advanced graduate degree!

Ready to switch careers to UI/UX Design?

Springboard offers a comprehensive UI/UX design bootcamp. No design background required—all you need is an eye for good visual design and the ability to empathize with your user. In the course, you’ll work on substantial design projects and complete a real-world externship with an industry client. After nine months, you’ll graduate with a UI/UX design mindset and a portfolio to show for it.

Check out Springboard's UI/UX Design Career Track to see if you qualify.

Not sure if UI/UX design is the right career for you?

Springboard now offers an Introduction to Design course. Learn what designers do on the job by working through a project with 1-on-1 mentorship from an industry expert. Topics covered include design tools, research, sketching, designing in high fidelity, and wireframing.

Check out Springboard’s Introduction to Design Course—enrollments are open to all!

This post was written by Rylan Clark, the COO of The UXology Group, a leading UX Research firm. Rylan is also a Springboard mentor and UX subject matter expert.

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