Episode 71

CAREER:

How to become a digital product designer

The number one question I get asked on a weekly basis is how to move from a marketing, branding or advertising role into a digital design or product design role. Its a tough question and I’ve found that there are PRETTY MUCH NO resources out there to help people figure it out. In this episode, we will explain the difference between marketing and digital design, what they have in common, what is different and what you need to learn to be able to move into digital product design.


Listen now:


The number one question I get asked on a weekly basis lately is how to move from a marketing, branding or advertising role into a digital design or product design role. Its a tough question and I’ve found that there are PRETTY MUCH NO resources out there to help people figure it out. This is a journey I have gone through in my career coming from advertising and moving to digital.

A lot of people think digital design is about just learning the tools or knowing how to use an iPhone but it is so much more than that. I’ve taken some time to do some research, talk to some other design and figure out what I think people need to know to make this transition. In this episode we will explain the difference between marketing and digital design, what they have in common, what is different and what you need to learn to be able to move into digital product design.

Marketing design vs. product design

We all have different personalities, different wants and needs, and different ways of showing our emotions. Navigating through this all takes tact and self-awareness – especially if we hope to succeed in life. This is where emotional intelligence becomes important. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your emotions, understand what they’re telling you, and realize how those emotions affect the people around you.

Let’s start with some basic terms so we are all on the same page with what we are talking.

What is marketing design?
• Is about connecting
• The objectives of marketing design is to educate and convert customers

What is digital product design?
• Is about building
• The objective of product design is to solve an unmet need and create value.

While it may sound like these two things are very different, in some ways they are the same. Thought the delivery of the message is different both about thinking about what people need and how to connect with them.

Process basics

Self-awareness is the first step to having better emotion intelligence. Self-regulation is then your ability to control emotions and impulses. Self-regulation is important because you don’t want to become too angry or jealous, or make impulsive, careless decisions. You need to think before you act because creative people are more affected by but also prone to emotional outbursts.

Let’s start with the basics and talk about process. I say this is it is the basics because your process is just the foundation for your work. It is also important because design has evolved and has become a lot more complicated. As I’ve said countless times before – start with a problem and use a methodology.

Some parts will feel similar some are very different:
1 – Define the product vision and write requirements
2 – Conduct product research
3 – Brainstorming and ideation
4 – Design and prototyping
5 – Test and validate
6 – Launch
7 – Start over

3 things that make a successful product designer

Why am I saying product design and not just design? Because design has evolved and gotten a lot more complicated. When I sat down to think about it I think that great product designs have three key things. (there are more I am sure but I think these are the 3 biggest)

1 – HOLISTIC APPROACH TO AND UNDERSTANDING OF DESIGN
2 – BUSINESS SAVVY.
3 – EMPATHY.

1: Holistic approach to design

The act of designing when it comes to digital product design is complicated. I think there are three parts you need to focus on when it comes to design – your craft, palette and inspiration.

YOUR CRAFT
• Understand tools
• Working low fidelity to high fidelity through prototypes in an iterative process
• Designing dynamic systems not comps.

YOUR PALETTE
• Consume experiences from a lot of different sources to be able to expand your thinking and have a way to judge your work.

YOUR INSPIRATION
• To be successful you are going to need to find your own voice and find ways that your style will be different, better, more refined or something from everyone else.
• You are also going to need to draw inspiration from a lot of different sources that aren’t just copying what you see on social media. Use it starting out to learn but make it a point to quickly evolve past it.

2: Business savvy

I am often asked what should designers learn after they start to master their craft. A lot of people say learn to code but I say learn business. Business will define your budgets, timelines, ability to add team members and ultimately will define what of your work sees the light of day. I’m not saying go get an MBA – but I am saying there are a few basic things you are going to have to understand to be successful – value, data, and influence.

VALUE
• Design is fun but these days it has to answer for more and it has to show its value.
• Creativity is problem solving
• Design is the visual expression of the solution

DATA
• As it applies to your work
• As it applies to business priorities

INFLUENCE
• You can just do design or you can see a larger picture and see how the creative process can apply to everyone you work with so they are a part of the process and so they all become more creative.

3: Empathy

You need empathy to understand the people you design for, but also to understand the people that surround you during the creative process – your colleagues, your teams, your investors, your customers, etc.

CUSTOMERS
• For your customers walk a mile in their shoes
• Too many people think because they have used a product they can empathize with their customers. As soon as you start to design the product and consume it you lose objectivity.
• But that isn’t enough – you need to make them the source of truth for your work.

PROCESS
• For your co-workers you have to have empathy for them too and have an inclusive creative methodology

4 things that make a great product

Express that all three dimensions in your work through these 4 things.

  1. The best of new and old
    The best products solve an unmet need and the best designs combine familiar interaction patterns in new ways.
    • Designs and products need to be easily understood which is about consistency, clarity and familiarity.
    • Consistency is not copy what everyone else does but it means breaking the rules consistently and with logic.
    • Clarity in that I know what do to without a ton of exploration or text explaining it to me.
    • Familiarity in that it feels like something I have used before but presents it in a new way.
  2. Has value
    • Every product has to have a clear value to customer – not just to the business.
    • Every product needs to solve an unmet need and if it does that then it will have value.
  3. Trust
    An unspoken part of product design is building trust. This comes from being transparent, consistent and following conventions.
    • Transparent in things like telling me why you need information, what you are going to do with it and what I am going to get out of it.
    • Consistent in that the product looks, talks and acts inconsistent ways that follow standard conventions.
  4. Delight
    The product idea alone isn’t enough. Your product and your brand need to have personality which are brought to life through the way they are executed.
    This is watching the car travel to pick you up in Uber, exploring the neighborhoods you might want to stay in with AirBnB, the Google Doodle on their search page, and more.

Final thought

I don’t think there is a magic formula to becoming a digital design, product design, UI design, UX designer or whatever other title you want. The key is that you start with the basics of your tools, having an iterative process, putting customers are the center of it and knowing you are always going to be learning.

Check out TheCrazy1.com in the essentials section for all the apps, sites, books and more I use for people on my team and in my work.

Subscribe now

You can listen and subscribe now on Apple iTunes, Google Play MusiciHeartRadio, SpotifyPocket CastsStickerTuneIn and on all other major podcast platforms.

Join the community

Ask questions, suggest topics for future shows and connect with other Crazy One listeners. Check out the Facebook page.