The Design industry is rapidly evolving, and there are many career choices in the space. You've got UI/UX Design, Product Design, Interaction Design, Motion Design, and more.
In this article, I will discuss a roadmap that will show you how to become a self-taught Digital Product Designer without a college degree. It will also help you prepare to land an entry-level role in Product Design.
This post was greatly inspired by the AJ&Smart. 👋
What is Product Design?
According to the Interaction Design Foundation,
"Product Design is the process designers use to blend user needs with business goals to help brands make consistently successful products.
Product designers work to optimize the user experience in the solutions they make for their users—and help their brands by making products sustainable for longer-term business needs."
What is the Difference between UX Design and Product Design?
This is a tricky question because these two roles are often talked about interchangeably. Some companies even combine the job descriptions of these two roles into one because of their significant similarities.
Let’s look at the definition of User Experience (UX) Design.
Interaction Design Foundation defines User experience (UX) design as
"The process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users.
This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, and function."
I will be using the terms Product Design and UX Design interchangeably in this post.
How to Get Started with Product Design
Let's go through the steps to get you started.
Figure Out your "Why"
Whether you are switching careers or are getting started in your career, figuring out your "Why" is a crucial step.
A popular misconception about design is that designers are born not made – but this is not the case. Design is a skill that you can learn, but you have to do the proper research to know if it's something you really want to do.
A great way to find out if UX Design is something you would love to do is by taking a 6-day free UX Design from Career Foundary. This is an email-based course, and you will receive course content daily for six days.
From it, you will learn what you will be doing as a Product Designer, what job opportunities are out there, and salary expectations in the field. And if you have further questions, you can email them directly.
If your answer is yes, let’s move to the next step.
Take a Course
I recommend enrolling in a structured course to learn the principles, theory, and fundamentals of design. I will link to some great free courses below.
- Introduction to User Experience Design: This is a 4 week beginner-friendly course by Coursera. The syllabus includes an overview of UX Design, requirement gathering, designing alternatives, and prototyping. It’s totally free (except if you want to get a certificate after completing the course).
- Digital Skills: User Experience: This is a 3 week introductory course by Accenture. They take you through the foundations of UX Design, UX basics such as visual design and interactive prototyping, tools, and testing.
- UI Design with Figma: This is a self-paced 10-hour Figma course that will teach you how to use the tool for UI design. You'll learn everything from creating shapes to using drawing tools, creating websites, and more.
You don't have to take to take all three courses – one is okay.
- Coursera – Google UX Design Professional Certificate
- Udemy – Master Digital Product Design: UX Research & UI Design
Learn the Major Design Tools
The next phase is to learn some industry-standard design tools. Two of the most popular and cross-platform tools are Figma and Adobe XD.
- Figma: This is a web-based tool that is free for individuals. It also has a desktop version you can download on your machine.
- Adobe XD: This is a paid tool, I believe, but you have a free trial period of 7 days.
Some resources on tools:
- Learn how to use Figma to design websites
- UX/UI Design tutorial in Figma
- The Figma 2021 Crash Course by Example
- Learn Adobe XD in 2021 by Example (Crash Course)
Read Books about Design
Reading books about design is a great way to gain more insight into design principles, design patterns, design guides, and generally in-depth knowledge of the psychology of design.
Here is a list of recommended design books:
- The Design of Everyday Things ~ Don Norman
- Don’t Make Me Think ~ Steve Krug
- Refactoring UI ~ Adam Wathan & Steve Schoger
- Sprint ~ Jaka Knapp
Build a Solid Portfolio
An impressive portfolio is an excellent way to document your work and show your competence in the design industry.
Your portfolio should be well organized and should feature your best work. Your work should show your design process and problem-solving skills.
Here is a guide on how to create a product design portfolio in 8 steps to get you started.
And here are some tips about how to create portfolio-worthy work so you can showcase your best stuff.
Note: It's best not to include course projects in your portfolio.
Another good project idea to add to your portfolio is to take an existing poorly designed product and do your research to discover the users’ pain points. Then rebuild the product and write about your entire design process.
Check out this tweet for ideas on how to build your own portfolio.
Writing an article about your work and how you were able to solve a particular problem is an excellent way of showing your skills, documenting your journey, explaining your struggles, and helping others learn in the process.
Practice Practice Practice!
This is the only to get better and get ahead in your career, regardless of your field. Be creative with the knowledge you’ve gained and build solutions. We get better by doing – remember, practice makes better, not perfect. Strive to be better.
A good way to practice is to redo existing products that you think are poorly designed and make them better.
Join Design Communities
A design community is where you get to connect with people who share your interests. A design community is there to provide support at every stage of your career.
Some of the perks of joining a design community include:
- You get to attend meetups and conferences
- You get access to resources and job opportunities
- You get to share your work and receive valuable feedback from senior designers
- You can get recommendations from community members
Design communities are not all perfect, so you should be mindful of the communities you join. Here are some great design communities you can join.
- Friends of Figma
- Adobe Creative Career Discord
- Designer Hangout
- And other local design communities that are close to you.
Start Applying for Jobs
At this stage, you are ready to start applying for entry-level roles or internships. This is not to say that you must follow the aforementioned step chronologically before you start applying for entry-level jobs. I mean you can start applying for roles when you have a couple of impressive projects in your portfolio and are confident in your skills.
Here are some UX Design jobs on Glassdoor.
The following are some of the best YouTube channels that focus on everything design.
And that's a wrap! In this post, we covered the steps to get you started in your Product Design journey.
See you in the next one.