Product design work is challenging and satisfying in equal measure. This article deals with some of the skills and areas of knowledge needed in order to progress in this competitive field.
Not all products involve electronic design, but you would be hard-pressed to have a varied product design career without at least some knowledge of basic electronics. Electronics are crucial to the functionality (and often form) of millions of products. Learn how to build circuits and integrate electronics into the aesthetic fluidity of your designs.
If you want to become a successful electronic product designer and brush up on your circuitry skills, you could do a great deal worse that heading over to Octopart, acquiring some components and experimenting. If you want to head into the design industry, you need to seek education on basic electronics. There are lots of extremely informative guides to electronics theory online.
You need to be highly aware of material properties if you are going to successfully design physical products. Appropriate material selection is not just reliant upon choosing the most optimal material for the job – there are other factors at play. Unit price, for instance, is often dependent upon the materials that a product designer earmarks for production. A good product designer will be able to create hardy and practical prototypes that also demonstrate affordability to the commissioning company.
You need to know who you are meant to be designing a product for and what role your design may fulfill in the target audience’s lives. Working for large corporations, you will be given an extremely detailed brief that details the extensive market research your employers have (hopefully) conducted. Working on your own inventions or for small startups can be quite different. Be prepared to do lots of your own research regarding the market you are designing for.
Almost every product designer spends a large portion of their time working with Computer-Aided Design software in order to create practical component blueprints. Thorough knowledge of the most popular CAD software is absolutely essential if you want to enter the product design industry. Computer-Aided Design can also be used as part of the prototyping process with the help of 3D printers.
Designing products for any kind of commercial market requires a high degree of aesthetic awareness. Products partially sell well based on how they look. Capturing the aesthetic zeitgeist of the age can help your invention truly explode in popularity. A great example of this aesthetic importance comes in the form of the original Apple iPod. The iPod might not have been the most spacious or technically proficient early MP3 player, but its looks propelled it to the forefront of the market. The sleek and simple user interface and curved edges of the iPod positioned it in line with the refined futurism of top Y2K design paradigms. The designer of the iPod, Jony Ive, has become somewhat of a legend in tech and product design circles.