How do you get started on the path of a successful product design career?
It’s an intimidatingly broad question, but one I get a lot. I’ve gotten questions from contractors wondering how to get a full-time gig, engineers or product managers wanting to make the leap to a user experience career, and recent design students wondering how they should approach their first few years in the workforce. There’s no single answer, of course, but after thinking on it, I’ve identified three essential steps for anyone just starting out in design.
1. In the beginning, focus on improving your craft and execution skills.
This means that you should be able to design clear, interactive flows that also look visually attractive. My strong opinion here is that you need to be good at both interaction design and visual design. If you can only do one, you’re at a disadvantage. As a product designer, you want to paint an inspiring vision of the possible future of your product. The hottest aesthetics can’t overcome a UI that’s confusing, and let’s be honest — nobody gets excited looking at a bunch of wireframes. So when you are just getting started, just focus on sharpening these foundational skills. Develop your eye for what good visuals look like. Get familiar with what makes things simple to understand and what makes things confusing. Know how to quickly put together a high-fidelity prototype. If you can get to the point where everything you make looks great and makes sense, you will not have trouble landing a design job.
2. After that, focus on improving your product thinking.
Strong product thinking means that you understand what a good outcome is and how to design an experience that would lead to good outcomes. The better you are at this, the bigger and more ambiguous the problems you can take on, starting from simple interaction prompts like “design a flow that allows people to create an account on this service” to meatier challenges like “design a new user experience that helps people understand the value of this service so that they come back again the next day.” The latter requires a much deeper understanding of human motivation and comprehension. If you can solve those kinds of problems, companies will be tripping over themselves to hire you.
3. Work on your influencing skills.
You can consistently produce the best design work in the world, but if you can’t get other people to see your perspective or want to help bring your vision to life, your impact will be capped. Once your hard skills are in a good place, work on your soft skills: communicating clearly, pitching a compelling vision, knowing what matters to whom, and collaborating well. Those skills are critical for growing your leadership in every profession, not just product design.
This article was adapted with permission. Read the original here.