A product designer is the wizard who take an idea and converts it into a product.
Let me clear it up for you with an example. What if you could make chairs better by solving a problem? Hypothetically, let’s say you hate the fact that you can’t put your drink anywhere when you are sitting on a chair. So, you decide to create a chair with a built-in cup holder. Now, this is product design. This is also under the subcategory of redesigning, since the parent product (chair) already existed. If you create a new product from scratch, that’s called radical designing.
There may be some overlap between the two concepts (isn’t every new creation an invention?); but I hope you got my point despite the terrible example. Consider product design to be a perfect marriage between art and science.
Important concepts in this line of work are Ergonomics, Design Process, Strength of Materials, History of Design, Green Design, Sustainable Design and System Design.
Job Profile (A Day in the life of a Product Designer)
A product designer is responsible for the design and development of consumer products. Duties of a product designer include improving existing product designs, and analyzing working concepts launched by competitors of similar products to match quality and performance.
Depending on the industry and company, product designers may progress to a senior, executive or managerial role. Relevant work experience is preferred and successful candidates often possess a strong knowledge of computer assisted design (CAD) (examples are Blender, Photoshop, Illustrator) and excellent concept-to-launch capabilities.
Other beneficial skills include good research and competitor analysis skills and an understanding of your particular industry’s trends and market conditions. Due to the nature of the work, the physical ability to sit for long hours in front of a computer every day is required.
There’s lot of web work, and you need to switch between multiple design applications throughout the day. Design work is always done in a team abroad. But in India, most small companies can’t afford design teams. Hence, in smaller companies and start-ups, it’s usually a one-man job. You have to do the ideation as well as the execution at that level.
The work-life balance is great, and the actual work is also enjoyable is you love to mess around with new designs and radical ideas.
Salary of a Product Designer in India
Starting salary is around 30,000 rupees per month. But the good news is that it can double within one or two years. Growth prospects are good, with positions such as HOD Design up for grabs a few years down the line; at that level your monthly salary would touch the six-figure mark.
Yes, a degree in design [B.Design] is required. Science in class 11th is required by some colleges (The IITs).
One thing to love about being a Product Designer
“It’s a cross discipline between art, design and technology.”
One thing to hate about being a Product Designer
“Designers tend to be pretentious and hypocrites. They believe that they can change the world. It’s nonetheless a marketing strategy and selling point of designers. Indian design culture is nothing like the developed countries. They just market it.”
National institute of Design, IITs, Symbiosis Institute, MIT Institute of Design.
Resources and Tips
- Want to leave what you are doing right now and become a product designer? Watch this TED talk.
- “The Design of Everyday Things” as well as “Simple Theory of Sketching” are two of the most recommended books in this field.
- Check out the YouTube channel of Asli Aditi to get an Indian perspective on things.
- The biggest resource is the products around you. Take a look at them, and try to see and visualize ways of making them better.
Step-by-step guide to becoming a Product Designer
One thing to note is that there are two kinds of paths into product design. One is the technology-oriented or the product-oriented path, and the other is the design-oriented path. While both paths are not solitary, that is, you would need a sense of design if you go down the product path and vice-versa, but the IIT tag ensures slightly better pay for you if you go down the product path. Some colleges (mainly IITs and IISC) offer BDesign degrees to only science students, so keep that in mind.
- Take science in 11th grade. If you don’t have the option or the willingness for it, no need to worry. Most other colleges don’t put restriction on stream.
- Score decent marks in your board exams. Most colleges require you to have scored above 50% or 60% in your board exams. Then, you would have to sit for the test of each institution as most have their own entrance exam. Read this article from the Mindler website. Some of its information regarding career paths should be taken with a pinch of salt, but overall it is very in-depth and research-backed.
- Do your degree, and start networking right from college itself. Do as many internships as you can. Learn as much as you can about computer assisted design programs.
- Use your campus placements or LinkedIn or your network to get a job. Work your way up.
- If leadership positions are something you want, doing an MBA might help, but there are no hard and fast rules here.
Industrial Designer, Graphic Designer, Mechanical Engineer