UX Design, UI Design, Product Design, Digital Product Design; it’s a career that goes by many names. It’s also a career that can be immensely enjoyable and rewarding. That’s once you’ve figured out what it is and how to get into it.
In our increasingly digital world, people no longer accept subpar online experiences. As the expectation for usable, meaningful online experiences has grown, so has the demand for people who can design these seamless experiences. Enter UX Design. Or as we call it at Planes, Product Design.
Knowing where to get started on your Product Design journey can be overwhelming. So, if you’re thinking about it as a career, or you’re just curious, read on for our top tips on how to land your first job in Product Design.
Having a specific degree in Product Design is favourable but not necessary. As a fairly new role, there are not many BA degrees around. Lots of today’s product designers made their start by moving from other roles (like Product Managers or Software Developers) without any formal training.
I never considered myself particularly artistic. I can’t draw and I remember that putting me off even applying for a graphic design course. There was no such thing as a UX or Digital Product Design degree course in 2009.
With the absence of degrees, what you have instead are a lot of online diplomas, certificates, and bootcamps. These are quick ways to up-skill on the basics of Product Design, and can often be enough to get your foot in the door.
My degree subject (engineering) was not the one. While trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, I researched. Engineering led me to Project Management, Project Management led me to Product Management, and Product Management led me to UX Design. I loved the mix of visual creativity and complex analytical optimisation. I did a 6-month intensive course based in the states and never looked back.
However, these shorter courses can range anywhere from hundreds of pounds, to thousands of pounds. So before sinking your teeth into a course, do your research. Read blog posts. Reach out to designers on LinkedIn. Head to YouTube, where there are loads of free courses on Product Design. Learn about common design tools like Figma. Think about what kind of learner you are. All of this can help you make the decision about whether it is worth investing the time and money in a course.
What really got me into the Product Design space was attending lots of meet-ups. I met a lot of people working in the space, joined a couple of Slack groups, and that eventually got me my first Product Design role.
Bonus tip: see the appendix for examples of Product Design courses
Once you’ve done your research and decided Product Design is for you, it’s good practice to start building a portfolio. While it’s not always mandatory, most jobs will require you to submit a portfolio, or at the very least evidence of prior design work. There are hundreds of great articles out there on how to make a great portfolio, but the top details you need to know are:
Only include 1-4 projects: Recruiters are busy; be sure to only highlight your most applicable projects.
Focus on your process, not the outcome: Remember the old saying: ‘It’s important to show your thinking’. Well, it really is. Explain your decision-making at each step of the process.
Don’t spend your time building a portfolio site from scratch: Use tools like UXfolio, Squarespace, Semplice, and Adobe Portfolio to showcase your work.
Include an About Me section: A company will be interested in finding out who you are and what you’re like.
I started out at 13, designing friends' personal blog sites, then figured out how to illegally download InDesign and started designing magazines. So Web Design at university seemed like the right choice. I studied information architecture and usability and applied for a job as a Junior Web Designer at a marketing agency. I truly got into product design when we started creating our own digital marketing tools.
Getting your first job in Product Design can be tricky. So how can you stand out from other applicants? Whether it’s a background in psychology, strong illustration skills, or experience as an animator, showcase the transferable skills that make you stand out.
I went to uni to study Graphic Communication & Typography. We had a UX module but we were advised to use Photoshop and Illustrator. A couple of friends and I learnt to use Sketch instead, and I got really into Framer and coding prototypes for everything.”
Get creative and try to make a strong impression with your application. For example, make a 1-min video showcasing your work while narrating it and explaining who you are. You may not have a wealth of experience, but this will help you catch the attention of an employer.
I accidentally applied for one of my first jobs, by writing to the founder with a bunch of product feedback. They asked me if I'd be interested in working with them to actually implement it…
Bonus tip: you can read more tips about landing your dream job here.
Remember, you don’t have to be a multi-talented wiz in all facets of the field to land your first job.
Product Design is a multidisciplinary field that incorporates aspects of art, design, psychology, data science and more. This broad scope means that people from a variety of backgrounds already have skills that lend themselves really well to Product Design. Someone with a base in psychology or marketing could have just as much of an advantage as someone with a background in art or design.
If you have any more questions on the subject, you’re welcome to contact firstname.lastname@example.org