Top 5 Most Important Hard Skills for Product Designers
#1: Design Thinking
According to IDEO’s Tim Brown, the design thinking methodology has five core tenets: empathy, integrative thinking, optimism, experimentation, and collaboration
Although it can be a bit of a buzzword in the industry, design thinking is much more than that. Expect not only to be asked interview questions based in design thinking, but also to apply it to your work once hired.
“Design thinking is not just for designers,” says Designlab mentor Andrew Wilshere. “It’s an approach for understanding problems and developing solutions, and this is required in many jobs—whether you’re any administrator, engineer, or even a medic. Design thinking gives us a deeper description of a problem, enabling us to prototype a range of potential solutions rapidly, and identify the right solution robustly.”
#2: UI Design
Often UX and UI are bundled together in courses and job titles, but it’s important to understand that there is a difference.
UI design is focused specifically on how a user “interfaces” with a product. It’s about designing effective screen layouts and transitions between steps in the user’s journey. UI is about the fine detail of how the user will reach their goals, not the overall user experience.
If the job you’re applying for includes UI in the title, here are some of the activities you’ll be expected to complete:
- Design each user touchpoint
- Determine User Interface behavior
- Craft visual appearance of interface
- Decide on color and typography
- Design visual hierarchy
- Create enjoyable interactions
- Develop a consistent visual language
“As well as making you more versatile within a product team, the ability to create pixel perfect designs quickly and systematically will free up time for research and prototyping,” explains Designlab mentor Patrick Multani.
#3: UX Research
UX Design isn’t just all about the look and feel of products. It’s also about usability and how a product can help users reach their goals. So without UX Research, it isn’t truly UX design.
Hiring managers want to hear about both the thought process and the research data behind your design decisions. Because UX design is concerned with every part of how a user interacts with a product, all UX designs should be rooted in research.
“UX requires empathy and user research—so a background in human psychology can be an asset,” says Designlab mentor Allegra Poschmann.
#4 Information Architecture
Expect companies to be curious about your Information Architecture (IA) knowledge.
IA is about the structure and organization of information in a website or app. In UX design, IA tends to refer to the process and techniques used to organize content. This is particularly evident when designing a navigation system that makes sense to the user, and allows them to find the functions that they need.
“UX requires excellent communication skills to convey information architecture, so a communications background can also be helpful,” says Poschmann.
#5 Design Software Proficiency
This hard skill may seem like the most obvious, but companies need to know that you’re proficient in a variety of design software.
To help our students pick up the basics of industry-standard software, we’ve put together a series of free introductory email courses. We offer free week-long courses in Figma, Sketch, and Photoshop.
“It’s important to remember that, however elaborate a piece of software is, it’s still just one aspect of the creative problem-solving process that we call design,” says Wilshere. “Ultimately, any piece of software is a design tool that can be learned and used.”
Good luck on your job hunt!
Interested in becoming a product designer? Check out our UX Academy program, which prepares you with a full set of both UX and UI design skills, and at least four substantial projects for your portfolio. Find out more