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Product Design

What is Product Design?

Definition of Product Design

As a process, product design covers the end-to-end creation of goods that solve a specific problem for the user. The role of Product Designer is responsible for understanding and empathizing with an audience, before building a product that suits their needs.

In a successful product design timeline, the finished product will meet the specifications of the business, help build the brand and bring in a profit, solve the users' problem, and provide aesthetic value wherever possible, too. 

Of course, great product design requires a deep understanding of the user. The better the designers understand their audience, the more effective and relevant the product design outcome will be. 

Poor product design, on the other hand, generally falls into one of three categories: 

  • The product does not solve the problem efficiently

  • The product causes additional problems instead

  • The product is too expensive or inaccessible

To avoid these pitfalls, those working in product design will need to study the habits, preferences, frustrations, and limitations of the end-user. While aesthetics do play a role in product design, they are not as important as the above considerations.

History of product design

Every product we ever interact with has been designed by someone; the phone in your pocket, the clothes on your back, the car in your driveway. 

And while product design is often viewed as a fairly recent industrial development, its history can be traced back to four key historical periods:

The Industrial Revolution

Beginning in 1750 and ending in 1850, the Industrial Revolution is when the first mass-produced and automated products started to hit the market. These products (such as tools for weaving and pottery) marked a move away from hand-crafted and individually-produced goods. 

The Great Reform

Starting in 1850 and finishing in the early 1900s, the Great Reform was a period of artistic revival within the industrial sphere. During this time, the first modern designs for products (such as furniture) met the first pieces of modern technology (the lightbulb and the microphone). 

Modernism

Starting in the 1940s and continuing through to the 1980s, this is the period when designs from the 1800s began to look more like their contemporary counterparts. Automobiles moved away from carriage designs, and miniaturization led to products like the Sony Walkman.

The 1990s to today

Over the last thirty years, products have become less constrained due to miniaturization and digitization, which allow products to take on nearly any form imaginable. The result is experimental and iterative designs, a shift to digital products, and an overabundance of choice in many sectors!

What does a typical product design process look like?

Product design begins with Problem Definition and Idea Creation. During these early phases, a team of designers will seek to better understand the issues facing users, then come up with solutions (some feasible and some not) that will solve the customers' needs within the constraints laid out by the company. 

Next, the designers focus on Feasibility. This includes determining the cost of the product, the potential problems it might face, and how difficult it is to manufacture. A prototype is developed before the end of this stage. 

Lastly, the prototype enters Testing. During this phase, the designers finalize the product through continuous improvements. Customers are brought in to test the product, more changes are made, and eventually, the product is ready for the market. 

General FAQ

What is product design?
Product design is the process of imagining, developing, and commercializing a product that solves a user's problem. While product design is traditionally physical, modern product design encompasses digital products (such as websites and apps) too.
How much does a product designer make?
Product designers make an average of $90,000/year ($63,000/year is among the lowest, and $120,000/year some of the highest). This amount will vary depending on where you live (San Francisco, Seattle, and Austin are some of the best-paying cities for product designers) and who you work for (Facebook pays up to $200,000/year).
What is product design engineering?
Product design engineering is the counterpart to product design. Rather than focusing solely on the design of a product, product design engineers consider how a product will be mass-produced, what its lifecycle might look like, and approve or deny designs from product designers.
How to get into product design?
Getting a bachelor's degree in design is important for getting your foot in the door of the product design industry, but it’s not essential. Many product designers can build their careers by creating a strong portfolio, honing their communication skills, and working other jobs that can transition into a product design role.
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What is Product Design?
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