How to Break Into: UX & Product Design

In this edition’s Weekly Cheeky Tip, we put on our French berets and our best impression of the “I am artiste!” meme to deep dive into the world of UX and Product Design.

So, what exactly is UX and what is Product Design?


Putting “design” at the end of these roles is actually quite deceiving because both UX and Product Design go far beyond the aesthetics of a product.


UX Design: “The process to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users...entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability and function” - Interaction Design Foundation.


Product Design: “The process to blend user needs with business goals to help brands make consistently successful products...optimise the user experience...and make brands sustainable for longer-term business needs” - Interaction Design Foundation


Sounds similar, huh? Fair enough.


Both UX designers and Product designers follow the Design Thinking Process, focus on the end-user and they might even use the same design tools!


The key difference between the two roles is scope. While both UX’ers and Product Designers need to put the user front and centre in order to create something great, the Product Designer also needs to consider the business requirements as well such as the broader design direction and strategy of the organisation.


Don’t just take it from us though. We chatted to two superstars, Gloria Lo (Canva) and Penny Talalak (Servian, Pocketi) to pick their brains on what design means and some tips on how to take your first steps in the space.


Read on to see what they said!

Gloria Lo

  • Product Designer at Canva

Previously:

What are you working on these days?

Recently I’ve been working on creating some exciting new features and products in Canva which you will hopefully see very soon! As a Product Designer, I get to wear multiple hats which means my day-to-day will never look the same. I could be conducting user research for a product on one occasion, or deep in the weeds prototyping and designing the UI (User Interface) of a new feature the following day.


The best part about Product Design is that I get to dip my feet into multiple parts of the design process – from research to product management, data analysis to marketing and of course, design itself!


To learn more about what Product Design involves, you can read about it in my article here.


Why UX/Design? What is it that fascinates or excites you about the space?

What I find most fascinating about a career in Product Design is the ability to create products that solve real-world problems which could also have a huge impact on shaping our societal behaviours and attitudes. Have you ever wondered why your digital voice assistants — Alexa, Siri and Google are all in female voices? As designers, we need to question whether we should be allowing these old school gender norms to be translated into the products we create. As designers, we must ensure technology recognises us all.


To learn more about the impact of design on society, you can read about it in my article here.


Any tips to share with our readers who want to break into design?

A framework that I’ve found extremely useful for self-development that applies to anyone looking to advance their career, is what I like to call the Learning Framework. The Learning Framework is comprised of three parts:

  1. Exposure. If you’re new to the field, start by soaking in as much information as needed to understand what the career is about and the types of things you’d be getting yourself into if you were to pursue this. You can achieve this by reading books, watching videos, attending events or even just by talking to people in the industry.

  2. Experience. Practise, practise, practise. Start a project, write a blog, get experience or participate in a hackathon. Do something that requires you to apply what you’ve learnt in theory. If you’re a UNSW student, I would highly recommend applying for the Product Design Program founded by UNSW Digital Hub. You get to learn how to design a product from scratch and receive guidance from industry mentors!

  3. Credibility. Build a portfolio, get a certification, become a freelancer or apply for a job. Work towards something that will give you some level of credibility to prove to others that you’ve successfully consolidated your theoretical knowledge and practical experiences.


To learn more about how to break into design as a self-taught designer, you can read about it here. If you’re starting to build a portfolio, I’ve written an article here with some examples and tips.

Penny Talalak

Previously:

What are you working on these days?

Currently, I am a UX/UI Design consultant at a Government agency. I work on end-to-end processes leading the design part from user research, information architecture, user testing to wireframing, prototyping and creating a design system. I also mentor and teach UX/UI Design to University students so that they are experiencing real-world work situations outside of textbooks.


I also work on my e-commerce business, Pocketi, coming up with new designs and strategising business in terms of marketing and operations. Occasionally, I do food photography and blogging on the weekend too!


Why UX/Design? What is it that fascinates or excites you about the space?

I love my job and think that I have the best job in the world. I chose UX/UI Design because my work makes people happy, makes business better and the opportunity to get my design recognised by millions and billions of people. I can say that “I DESIGNED THAT!” and that motivates me to be in this job every day. UX/UI Design does not make me a designer but it taught me marketing, psychology, business, data and tech. As an entrepreneurial-minded person, I was able to utilise my UX/UI design skills for innovation and business strategy.


Any tips to share with our readers who want to break into design?

Step 1: Know yourself, what you like and don’t like, what you’re capable of. I find that a lot of people want to get into UX/UI because of the ‘trend’ or because ‘it pays well.’ My job involves a lot in presentation, standing up for my own design, managing relationships with high profile stakeholders/clients, rapid designing/prototyping that I had 1-2 days to do, documentation, sometimes coding and working with developers to bring my design to life.


Step 2: What to study to get into UX/UI? If you’re a university student, a degree such as psychology, any design degree, computer science or information system/information tech will probably touch on UX/UI a bit. Ultimately, I don’t think you need a specific degree to become a UX/UI Designer. You can teach yourself these skills yourself and seek a mentor to validate your work (that’s what I did).


Step 3: Know the roles that UX/UI play in different industries. There is a difference between UX designer, UX researcher, visual designer, product designer, UI designer and UX/UI design consultant. Although they all sound very similar and what we have in common in ‘design thinking skills’, your everyday work is actually different and also the culture within the company. I have been a UX/UI designer in a tech company, in corporate, and now as a consultant. My role has been different every time (but I still get to design).


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