Have you ever considered what it's like to transition from architecture to…product design? Our product designer, Léa Abboud, did exactly this. Her experience highlights the unexpected aspects and challenges of moving between these two creative worlds.
“No one really prepares you for the real-world hurdles of the job. The learning process involves trial and error, mistakes, and improvements.”
Are you contemplating a shift into product design? We're unveiling five crucial insights our product designer, Léa Abboud, wishes she knew before starting her product design career. Dive into the detailed realities of her product design journey!
1. Embracing the fluidity of roles
Transitioning into product design, Léa quickly realised that the role's responsibilities were far from static. This fluidity in job expectations mirrors the adaptable nature of product design itself, emphasising the importance of being versatile and open to new challenges.
When I first got into this field, I quickly realized that the expectations and dynamics of the role weren't set in stone. Each workplace seemed to have its own unique flavor of what being a product designer meant. From one company to another, the scope of responsibilities, the collaborative dynamics, and even the tools used varied widely. It was like stepping into a diverse universe where the rules of engagement were constantly shifting.
- Dive into the company’s ecosystem; learn the content management systems and technical platforms to become an effective contributor quickly.
- Proactively seek to understand your evolving role within the organisation, aligning your efforts with both immediate and long-term company needs.
- Collaborate with diverse teams to grasp their needs, challenges, and expectations regarding your role.
2. Holistic understanding of your role
In architecture, every design decision impacts the overall structure, functionality, and aesthetics of a building. Similarly, in product design, understanding both User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design is crucial because every choice affects how users interact with and feel about the product. A holistic approach ensures that designers can create products that are not only visually appealing but also highly functional and user-friendly.
To build a successful career in product design, dive into every stage of the design process—from problem framing to crafting solutions. Understanding each step helps you discover your preferences. A skilled product designer has a broad understanding of the entire process. As you gain experience, explore every aspect of product design.
- Participate in projects that require you to work on both UX and UI aspects. This could involve conducting user research, creating wireframes, and then designing the visual elements. The goal is to see a project through from conception to completion, understanding the rationale behind each phase.
- Dedicate time to learn about fields related to product design, such as psychology for UX and graphic design for UI. This broader knowledge base will inform your design decisions, making them more empathetic and visually coherent.
- Regularly prototype your designs and conduct user testing sessions. Use tools like Sketch, Adobe XD, or Figma to create interactive prototypes. Gather feedback not just on the usability (UX) but also on the visual appeal (UI) of your prototypes.
3. Mastery of communication
The essence of product design lies not just in the creation of visually appealing and functional products but also in the ability to effectively communicate the thought process behind these designs. Léa's transition into product design underscored the critical role of communication, revealing that the true value of a design is often realised only when its purpose and development process are clearly articulated to stakeholders.
I've learned firsthand that to secure buy-in, effective communication is crucial. It's not just about having a great design; it's about being able to convey the "why" behind it.
- Develop the art of storytelling to make your presentations more engaging and memorable. Use narratives to connect stakeholders with the user's needs and emotions, helping them understand the 'why' behind your design choices.
- Effective communication is a two-way street. Practice active listening to truly understand the concerns and feedback of stakeholders. Empathizing with their perspectives can help you address their needs more accurately and build stronger relationships.
- Different stakeholders have different interests and levels of understanding regarding design. Customize your communication based on your audience. For example, technical details might be crucial when discussing with developers, whereas business impacts would be more relevant to executives.
- Consider taking workshops or courses in communication skills specifically tailored for designers. Topics can range from public speaking and persuasive communication to negotiation and conflict resolution. These skills are invaluable in presenting and defending your design choices effectively.
- Seek opportunities to present your work, whether in formal settings like design reviews or informal ones like team meetings. After each presentation, reflect on what went well and areas for improvement. Peer feedback can provide insightful perspectives on your communication style and effectiveness.
4. Cross-functional collaboration
Léa’s experience underscores the importance of extending collaboration beyond the product team. Engaging with various departments enriches the design process, bringing in diverse perspectives that can significantly enhance the final product. There's a wealth of knowledge to be gained from colleagues in customer success, sales, marketing, and more. Don't shy away from setting up one-on-one sessions; they always prove to be enlightening.
Now, working with different teams and getting feedback is a big part of my job. This collaboration has broadened my view and given me a deeper understanding of our products. It's a journey that adds depth to my work as a designer.
- Initiate regular 1-1 meetings with key stakeholders from each team.
- Inquire about their challenges, daily routines, and pressing priorities for problem-solving.
- Establish recurring meetings for continuous check-ins on progress.
- Conduct workshops to deeply understand needs in specific areas and collaboratively address them as a team.
- Collaborate with the product manager to align collected insights and decide on the next steps.
- Organize workshops that not only address specific design needs but also foster a sense of shared ownership and collaboration in the product’s success.
5. The power of challenging
The courage to challenge is rooted in a culture, where asking "why" becomes a fundamental part of the design process. It's about digging deeper into the reasons behind existing practices, design choices, and user behaviors to uncover opportunities for improvement or innovation. This approach encourages designers not to settle for the first solution that comes to mind but to explore a variety of options and rigorously test their assumptions.
Challenging ideas isn't just a duty; it's a path to growth and innovation. Going from hesitation to proactive questioning taught me the importance of fostering a culture that values curiosity. As product designers, creating an environment where ideas are openly challenged propels continuous learning and drives us toward excellence.
- Encourage an organizational culture where all team members feel comfortable voicing their thoughts and questions. This involves creating a judgment-free zone where curiosity is rewarded, and every question is valued as an opportunity for learning and growth.
- Approach each design challenge with the mindset that the first solution is not always the best solution. Use design thinking methodologies to explore multiple avenues and iterate on your ideas. This process should be underpinned by a deep understanding of user needs through research and empathy.
- Arm yourself with data and user insights to back up your challenges to the status quo. Whether it's user feedback, analytics, or case studies, having concrete evidence can make your arguments more persuasive and facilitate productive discussions.
- Establish direct channels for receiving user feedback, whether through usability testing, surveys, or direct interviews. This ongoing dialogue with users can reveal shortcomings in existing solutions and inspire new approaches that better meet their needs.
- Invite team members from different backgrounds and disciplines to contribute their viewpoints. This diversity can uncover biases and assumptions that might not be apparent from a single perspective and can lead to more innovative and inclusive design solutions.
- Demonstrate the courage to challenge in your own work. By openly questioning assumptions and proposing alternative solutions, you set a precedent for others to follow. Share your thought process and the outcomes of your challenges, whether successful or not, to encourage a culture of continuous improvement.
Extra point - Continuous growth and learning
Both our exploration and Léa’s personal narrative emphasize the never-ending journey of learning in product design. The field’s dynamic nature requires a perpetual commitment to growth, exploration, and adaptation.
- Dedicate specific hours each week exclusively for learning new design skills, tools, or theories. This could be through online courses, webinars, or reading design-related books and articles.
- Engage in regular design challenges like the ones found on platforms like 99designs or Daily UI. This not only sharpens your skills but also keeps you updated with current design trends and practices.
- Become an active member of online design communities such as Dribbble, Behance, or LinkedIn Groups. Participate in discussions, share your work for feedback, and learn from the projects of others.
- Regularly attend design workshops, webinars, and conferences. These events are great for learning from experienced professionals and can provide new insights into the evolving landscape of product design.
- Regularly seek feedback on your work from peers and mentors. Consider finding a mentor who can guide your professional development and offer insights based on their experiences.
- Stay updated with the latest design tools and technologies. Experiment with new software and tools to understand how they can enhance your design process and output.
- Regularly review and reflect on your past projects. Identify what worked well and areas for improvement. This reflection is crucial for understanding your growth trajectory and learning from your experiences.