Product Design Skills: Definition and Examples
Updated 20 June 2023
Product designers imagine concepts for new products and prepare technical plans to create them. They may work in a wide range of industries, including mechanical engineering, technology and manufacturing. If you're interested in becoming a product designer, learning about the skills these professionals use in their work can help you in your career development. In this article, we define product design skills, list seven examples of key skills and provide tips for developing and highlighting your product design skills.
What are product design skills?
Product design skills are the creative, technical and interpersonal abilities that product design professionals may use in their work. These professionals may use their skills to identify potential market opportunities, create design plans, render images and work with the product development team to create prototypes. Some of these skills are hard skills, or technical abilities, that a product designer may learn in a formal educational programme, like a degree or certificate programme. Others are soft skills, which are professional abilities, like communication, that are valuable in many career fields.
Examples of product design skills
Here are seven skills that you may use in a product design job:
Market research skills
Product designers use market research skills, like reading and data literacy, to evaluate a product's potential. When a project design team works on a new prototype, a designer or other team members often perform market research to identify a target audience. They may research buying trends to understand consumer behaviour for a certain product or conduct surveys to identify what their current customers may want to purchase. During the product design process, a member of the team may lead a focus group, where they ask a group of customers for their opinions on different versions of the product.
UI, or user interface, design is a key part of product design that concerns the way an interactive screen looks to the user. Product designers who work for companies that produce technology use their UI skills to create interfaces that are visually appealing and easy to use. For example, a product design team for a company that makes microwaves may design a new product with a touchscreen panel. A designer chooses the microwave options and decides on the sequence of buttons the user pushes to make a selection, and a programmer creates the technology to support the design.
Product designers use their communication skills to discuss concepts and plans with developers, programmers and other colleagues. They may direct meetings in person or via video-conferencing software where they share their ideas with their teammates and collect feedback about prototypes and designs. If they work for a product design consulting agency, they may also communicate with their clients by email or phone to provide updates on their projects and learn more about the client's priorities.
Product design professionals may use a wide range of software and other technical tools to create product designs and prototypes. Depending on the industry they serve, they may use computer-assisted design (CAD) software to create three-dimensional models of devices and manufacturing parts. Typically, product designers in software and application companies work with programmers who code the products and prototypes, but a product designer may have some basic coding skills they use in their design process. Often, product designers learn how to use new software products throughout their careers.
Product designers use their innovative skills to create plans and prototypes for new products or to add additional features to existing ones. Their ability to design unique products can help their company attract more customers and establish the company's brand. They may also use their innovation skills to redesign existing products to meet their consumers' changing needs.
Often, companies create products to solve a specific issue facing their customers. For example, a company that makes a banking application may create features to reduce security breaches, which helps their clients ensure data safety. As a key part of the product development team, product designers use their problem-solving skills to design products that meet their customers' needs. They may analyse consumer feedback about competitor products to identify a new solution, which they design.
Senior product designers may lead teams to create new prototypes or adjust existing products. Their ability to manage strategic projects ensures their team can create the requested product while staying within their budget and meeting their deadline. They may use project management software to assign tasks, store meeting notes and organise materials relating to the project, like product schematics and market research.
How to improve product design skills
Here are three ways you can improve these skills:
1. Pursue education
You can develop your technical and design skills in a degree programme for information technology, programming or a related field. If you're interested in becoming a product designer for a manufacturing or industrial company, you may also pursue a degree in engineering. These programmes can teach you how to use CAD software, create technical drawings and build prototypes. Advanced programmes in these subjects can also help you develop your project management and problem-solving skills. Some senior product design positions require candidates to have a graduate degree in an industry-related field.
2. Participate in certification programmes
There are many certification programmes that can help you improve your technical and interpersonal skills for a career in product design. Some certification programmes include coursework and instruction time, allowing you to learn from an expert in the particular skill you're developing. If you hope to become a product designer in a technological industry, you may take a certification course in a specific programming language or software platform. Certification programmes in project management can help you prepare for a senior-level product design position, where you lead design teams to create innovative products.
3. Gain work experience
Soft skills, like communication and organisation, often improve with practice and experience. As you advance in your career, you may volunteer for leadership positions where you can build your skills further. You may also find a career mentor, like an experienced product designer or product development manager. A mentor can be a valuable resource as you build your skills as they can recommend specific certification courses or degree programmes. They can also teach you effective ways to communicate with team members and organise product design materials.
Product design skills in the workplace
Here are some ways you may use your skills in the workplace:
Identify opportunities for new products. Using your market research skills, you may analyse data about purchasing trends in your industry. Then, you may use your innovative skills to develop ideas for new products based on consumer interests.
Create plans and 3D renders. You may use your innovation and technical skills to design a new product or feature for an existing product. Using CAD software, you may create technical specifications and rendered images, which predict how the completed product may look.
Lead a project team. You may direct a team of researchers, designers and engineers to create a new product. Using your project management and organisational skills, you may determine project goals, collaborate with team members and evaluate the results.
How to highlight product design skills
Here's how to emphasise your product design skills during your job search:
Product design skills for a resume
Consider creating a skills section on your resume, where you can list your relevant skills for a product design position. While you may also mention your skills when you describe your past jobs, including a skills section allows you to add keywords to your resume and helps hiring managers see your skills easily. You may browse product design job listings while you create your resume to identify key skills that hiring managers expect from candidates. Create a list of skills or responsibilities that you see in multiple listings and add them to your resume.
Product design skills for a cover letter
In your cover letter, you can discuss your skills when you describe your professional experience. When you describe a prior job, include information about the skills you used to complete your work. You can also provide details about successful products you designed or projects you led to give evidence of your skills. If you have strong technical or language skills, you may add a paragraph after your experience to list some of your relevant competencies. For example, if you know several coding languages and can use popular CAD software for your industry, you may mention these skills.
Product design skills for an interview
During your interview, you can demonstrate your communication skills by maintaining eye contact with your interviewer and answering their questions calmly and confidently. When they ask you questions about your skills, provide examples of times when you used your skills to create a compelling product design or lead a team. You can also include information about the software or other technical tools you used. For example, you may describe a new smart appliance you designed using CAD software and explain how you used your communication skills to work with the engineering team during the design process.
Explore more articles
- What is a Character Reference Letter? (With Tips and Samples)
- How to List Projects on a Resume (With Example and Tips)
- How to Show Your Ability to Meet Deadlines on Your Resume
- How to Write a Cover Letter for Legal Jobs (With Example)
- What Is a CV? Curriculum Vitae Definition, Template and Example
- How to Respond to a Recruiter Email (With Templates)
- Motivation Letter vs Cover Letter (Differences and Elements)
- How To Write a Cover Letter For Internship (With Example)
- How To Write a Career Change Cover Letter in 7 Steps
- How to Create a Data Analyst Resume (With Important Skills)
- 23 Examples of Primary School Teacher Resume Objectives
- What To Include in a Resume: 7 Important Components