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The role of a Product Designer: A look into the year’s most in-demand position

product designer

In our latest infographic, we named product designers as the number one, most in-demand talent for 2016.

The decision to put this particular digital creative talent at the top of our list was based off a number of trends we are seeing across our markets. Mainly, the ability to connect with the end user of a product is becoming an increasingly significant competitive advantage for companies. That means that design is becoming more deeply integrated into the product development process–especially in regards to online and mobile offerings–and the role of a modern designer is rapidly evolving. This, of course, has made the need for their talents greater than ever before.

According to recent research by Opinion Matters, more than 85 percent of companies have a backlog of digital products, with about 50 percent having a backlog of anywhere from 10-20 products. Worse, the study found that only 6 percent of companies have the digital development talent they need to complete these projects.

Why is this number so low? Most likely because the process to staff up seems overwhelming. Companies looking to launch or update a digital product might need to find and recruit a team which includes:

  • A UX Designer to understand users behavioral patterns and design functions that streamline their use of your product or answer any problems they might have with using it.
  • A Graphic Designer to create the aesthetic design of your product and to define the style guide that all other team members will reference.
  • An Animation Designer to create appealing drop downs menus and transitions that make your product appealing to use and keep users coming back.
  • A User Researcher to determine exactly what it is that users need and what they are looking for in a product that might address this need.
  • A Data Scientist to perform A/B testing on prototypes and to analyze massive amounts of data to determine which design is the right design to move forward with.
  • A Prototyper to take the team’s ideas and develop them to the point of testability.
  • A Business Strategist to determine the value in the product for your organization, and to make sure the team creates a product that can drive business.

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into a holistic approach to the design behind new digital products. And while larger and more complex product initiatives will still require a team of design professionals, such as those listed above, the product designer has essentially become the digital creative do-it-all.

Product designers are a unique breed of digital creatives that are well versed in every aspect of product ideation, development and deployment. But that description alone is a bit of an oversimplification of their many skillsets.

There’s perhaps no better description of the breadth of knowledge that these professionals carry than the one detailed in Facebook Product Designer Eric Eriksson’s medium post on the subject. According to Eriksson, product designers:

help you identify, investigate, and validate the problem, and ultimately craft, design, test and ship the solution.

Present a Product Designer with a solution, and they will tell you what’s wrong with it.

Present her with a problem, and she will go to Analytics and gather existing user data. She’ll assemble a cross-functional team from every corner of the business and brainstorm as many solutions as possible. Then, she’ll talk to User Research and make a test plan. She’ll work late and churn out wireframe after wireframe, exploring the vast realm of possibilities. She will throw together prototypes of the most interesting ideas and put them in front of users for quick validation.

Then she will give you several fully formed concepts that all perfectly solve the problem at hand. With clear strategy for how, when, and what to A/B test, and ultimately what the build and release plans should be. And she’ll support the developers through launch. She’ll work with marketing to ensure the story is consistent with the product. She will care for the product long after the first version has shipped, following up on data and metrics to keep validating the design.

A product designer will design the solution, until the problem changes.

With the obstacles facing companies that are trying to add digital products to their list of offerings, product designers–although relatively new to the digital space–present tremendous value to organizations.

Not only can they dramatically decrease the number of team members you might need to complete your product development, but they are key to making sure that team is cohesive and efficient.

Unfortunately, talent of this caliber can be difficult to find on your own, but we can help. Contact Onward Search today and one of our industry specific recruiters can put you in touch with the product design talent we work with every day.

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