Product Managers' Guide to Design Fundamentals

At dualoop, we know that a strong foundation in design can make all the difference for a Product Manager (PM). Recently, one of our top consultants noticed a recurring theme among the PMs he was coaching. They often struggled with aspects like communicating with designers and providing effective feedback. As time went on, Guillaume recommended a plethora of resources to help them overcome these hurdles. What started as a few helpful tips eventually blossomed into a robust database of invaluable content. Today, we’re thrilled to share this treasure trove with you. Let’s dive in and boost those design skills!

What You'll Learn in This Article

This article is split into three parts, each packed with valuable resources. If you truly want to enhance your design skills, dive into these resources 100%:

1. The Importance of Design Basics for PMs

2. Principles & Rules to Follow When Designing

3. Developing Your Hard Skills Around Product Design

By following these steps and leveraging the resources provided, you'll be well on your way to becoming a more effective Product Manager. Let's dive in and boost those design skills!‍‍

The Importance of Design Basics for PMs

Grasping the basics of design is essential for any Product Manager. While you don’t need to be a design expert, understanding design principles can significantly enhance your role. Here are some top-notch resources to help you understand why design skills are vital and what the fundamental principles are:‍

Why It's Important for PMs to Grow Design Skills

This insightful article highlights the importance of design knowledge for PMs and how it leads to better product development and team collaboration. By understanding design principles, PMs can effectively bridge the gap between different teams, particularly designers and developers. ‍This understanding allows PMs to provide more constructive feedback, ensuring the final product not only meets business goals but also delivers a superior user experience. It emphasizes that while PMs are not required to become expert designers, having a basic understanding of design can greatly improve the overall workflow and product quality. Read more.‍

Design Basics for PMs

Dive into this comprehensive guide covering essential design principles every PM should know. This includes an overview of visual hierarchy, which helps prioritize elements based on their importance; typography, which involves selecting readable and aesthetically pleasing fonts; and color theory, which is crucial for creating visually harmonious designs. By mastering these basics, PMs can better understand the design process and contribute more meaningfully to design discussions. Explore the basics.‍

The Relationship Between a PM and a Product Designer

Effective collaboration with Product Designers is crucial. This resource explores the dynamics of the PM-PD relationship and offers practical tips for seamless teamwork. It discusses how PMs and PDs can work together to align on goals, iterate on designs, and ensure that the final product meets user needs and business objectives. Successful collaboration hinges on clear communication, mutual respect, and a shared vision. Learn about PM-PD collaboration.‍‍

Principles & Rules to Follow When Designing

Creating user-friendly and visually appealing products means following some established design principles and rules. Here are some fundamental resources to guide you:‍

Laws of UX

Discover the psychological principles that influence user experience and behavior. Understanding these laws can help you design intuitive and engaging products. These principles include:‍

Aesthetic-Usability Effect

Users often perceive aesthetically pleasing design as more usable.‍

Fitts’s Law

The time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and size of the target. This helps in designing buttons and interactive elements that are easy to reach and use.‍

Hick’s Law

The time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices. Simplifying choices can enhance usability.‍

Jakob’s Law

Users spend most of their time on other sites and prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.‍

Law of Proximity

Objects that are near each other tend to be grouped together.‍

Miller’s Law

The average person can only keep 7 (plus or minus 2) items in their working memory. This law underscores the importance of simplifying information.‍

These laws collectively help in creating designs that are not only visually appealing but also cognitively easy for users to navigate and understand. Discover the Laws of UX (UXD Institute) (Maze).‍

Principles of UI Design

This guide covers the essentials of user interface design, such as consistency, feedback, and simplicity. Key principles include:‍


Ensures that similar elements behave in similar ways, reducing the user's cognitive load and making interfaces easier to learn.‍


Immediate and clear feedback for user actions helps in understanding whether an interaction was successful or not.‍


Simplifying the interface by removing unnecessary elements helps users focus on what’s important.‍Applying these principles ensures that the user interface is predictable, efficient, and easy to use. Read the principles.‍

Principles of Product Design

Focused on product design, this resource offers insights into creating products that meet user needs and stand out in the market. Important principles include:‍

User-Centered Design

Keeping the user at the center of the design process ensures that the product meets their needs and solves their problems.‍

Iterative Design

Continuously testing and refining the design based on user feedback helps in improving the product incrementally.‍

Visual Hierarchy

Organizing information in a way that guides the user’s eye to the most important elements first.‍By following these principles, you can create products that are not only functional but also delightful to use. Learn the principles.‍


This platform provides detailed case studies and practical examples of effective product design. It's a fantastic way to see these principles in action. ‍Growth.Design explores real-world examples of how companies use design principles to solve problems and enhance user experiences.

The case studies include:‍

Dropbox’s Onboarding Process: Leveraging the goal-gradient effect to encourage users to complete the onboarding process by showing progress.‍

Uber’s Wait Time Display: Using the goal-gradient effect to keep users engaged by showing the wait time for their ride.‍These case studies provide practical insights into applying design principles effectively in various contexts. Explore Growth.Design.‍

By following these design principles and utilizing these resources, you can create products that are not only visually appealing but also highly functional and user-friendly.‍

Developing Your Hard Skills Around Product Design

Building hard skills in product design will enable you to contribute more effectively to the design process. Here are some top resources to help you build these skills.‍

Wireframing Academy

Wireframing is a crucial skill for visualizing and planning your designs. The Wireframing Academy by Balsamiq offers extensive resources to help you master wireframing. Their courses cover everything from the basics to more advanced topics. ‍

For example, the "Rapid Wireframing with Balsamiq" course guides you through creating wireframes quickly and effectively, perfect for presentations, user testing, and team alignment. This course, led by UX educator Billy Carlson, teaches you how to transform ideas into wireframes, create interactive prototypes, and polish your designs for presentation or user testing. By the end of the course, you'll be confidently using Balsamiq Cloud to bring your ideas from concept to clickable reality. Start learning wireframing (Balsamiq Wireframes) (Balsamiq Wireframes).‍

UI Elements Glossary

Understanding the key UI elements and their functions is essential for effective design. CareerFoundry's UI Elements Glossary is a handy reference for understanding the building blocks of UI design. This glossary covers various UI components, such as buttons, menus, and input fields, and explains their roles and best practices for using them. By familiarizing yourself with these elements, you can better understand how to design intuitive and effective user interfaces.

Explore UI elements.

Final Thoughts

As we wrap up, it's clear that a strong foundation in design is invaluable for any Product Manager. This article has provided a wealth of resources aimed at enhancing your design skills, from understanding the importance of design basics to mastering specific principles and developing hard skills in product design.

By diving into these resources, PMs can bridge the gap between design and development, fostering better communication and collaboration with designers. This not only improves the overall product quality but also ensures that the end product meets both business objectives and user needs. Remember, while you don't need to become a design expert, having a solid grasp of design principles will empower you to provide more constructive feedback and make more informed decisions.

As you continue your journey, keep these principles in mind and leverage the tools and guides we've shared. Whether it's grasping the essentials of visual hierarchy, typography, and color theory, understanding the psychological principles behind user experience, or building hands-on skills in wireframing and UI elements, each step you take will make you a more effective and well-rounded Product Manager.

We hope these resources inspire you to delve deeper into the world of design and apply what you learn to your daily work. Here's to creating products that are not only functional and user-friendly but also a joy to use. Happy designing!

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