If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the below two.
You're looking to get your first job as a Product Designer. Maybe you're still in college, have a job in a different profession, or are still learning design.
You're already a designer, but you're really stuck in your career. You may have done an internship, or you may have a few years of work experience. You're unable to learn and grow and switch to a better company.
It doesn't matter which of the above 2 categories you belong to. If you really want to make a promising career in this profession, you will have to put in a significant amount of time and effort. Oftentimes, that means you'll have to start from scratch. Anything else you try to do may likely affect your career growth negatively in the long run.
If you're here for quick and fast results, this profession will most likely not provide you with the expected returns.
Product Design has been overhyped and glorified and has been put across as a profession where you can attend a boot camp, watch an online course, or even go to design school to become successful and wealthy in no time. That's the biggest lie ever!
Throughout my career, I've seen so many people regret all the decisions they made because they took the wrong career path. It could be because they didn't have the proper guidance. It could be because they didn't learn the right things at the right time. It could be because everyone else was getting into this profession.
It's hard to show you proof of it because social media only shows success stories. The truth is for every successful designer you come across on social media, there are probably many more designers who aren't able to succeed for many different reasons, and that number is growing. I interact with so many people and hear so many sad stories regularly and trust me, you don't want to be in their position.
Everyone believes that getting started in the field is the hardest thing to do, and things get much easier after you get your first job. The truth is quite the opposite. It's much easier to start as a designer than to sustain and grow in this industry. There is so much to learn in this profession, and it's pretty hard.
And what makes things even worse is that your career's future depends on where you work and who you work with in the early stages of your career.
It's like walking on quicksand. You have to keep running, or else you'll start sinking, and there is going to be a point where you'll get sucked in, and there will be nothing you can do to get out of it.
Unless you have a solid process of figuring things out and your foundations are rock solid, you will find it incredibly hard to progress in your career. If you're still lacking a lot of skills after working for 3-4 years, then you drastically may be reducing the number of opportunities you can access to grow and progress.
This guide is aimed at anyone who has many gaps in their skill set. It doesn’t matter at what stage you’re at in your design journey. If you aren’t able to progress in your career because of these gaps, this is your guide.
There are 2 things that you need to know.
- Understanding how to design.
- Understanding how to navigate this industry.
Module 3 is where you will spend most of your time learning, practicing, and putting your design skills to the test. The rest of the modules are easy to consume. You can consume those when you get time in the order of your choice.
Chapter 1 - Solidify the core foundations of UI Design.
Chapter 2 - Master visual hierarchy and design patterns.
Chapter 3 - Develop problem solving skills.
Chapter 4 - The trophy problem statement.
Chapter 5 - What projects to have in your portfolio.
I’m now going tell you what approach you can take depending on the stage you’re in.
The end-goal is to have a good case study on a good problem statement that will help you get many interviews. Trust me, even getting an interview today is very hard because the benchmark set by companies today is relatively high. But before you start working on the problem statement to add to your portfolio, there is a lot of work to be done.
You first need to make your foundations rock solid. Then build the mindset you need to solve problems. And then finally, work on the main problem statement that you will add to your portfolio.
Starting to work on your main problem statement on the very first day is the biggest mistake you can ever make. Unfortunately, this is what most design boot camps ask you to do. Or they give you an impossible and unrealistic deadline.
This is the case study that got me my first job. Before I published this, I had worked on many more practice projects.
You need to understand that learning how to think and solve problems is extremely hard and requires immense practice. Do you start lifting the heaviest weights on the first day of going to the gym? No, right? Your body needs to slowly start repairing the tiny muscles you tear every time you work out. The same thing applies when training your mind.
Let's assume that you're starting from scratch. Learning design, honing your skills, building the mindset, working on a project, and writing a good case study can take around 3-6 months, depending on the time you can invest daily and the speed at which you execute.
Start with tasks mentioned in Chapters 1 and 2 of Module 3. This should take you a max of 4 weeks to completely finish and become very comfortable using Figma and its core features provided that you are giving a minimum of effective 8 hours per day. Extend your timeline if you only have a limited time.
Remember, it's not completing it that matters. It's completing it correctly that matters the most, or it's a waste of time. The biggest mistake you can ever make is to RUSH things.
Chapter 3 of Module 3 is where things get a lot more serious. Here is where you're going to focus on really understanding how to solve problems. You will start creating tiny user flows to solve small problem statements. For example, designing the feature to send audio messages on discord or designing a feature in Instagram to schedule posts.
Here is where you will learn about interaction design, solving edge cases, creating logical user flows, and slowly understanding the world of product through metrics. Because at the end of the day, you will be designing complex flows and not just individual screens.
Once you’re confident with your product thinking skills, you can move on to Chapter 4, where you will finally work on your main problem statement to add to your portfolio.
The most important thing to do here is to get your problem statement and solution validated by a senior designer before you start designing.
Finishing your main case study may sound like the most challenging part. But in reality, the hardest part is getting constant feedback and fixing it multiple times until it becomes worthy of any recruiter’s time.
Remember, having a poor case study is as good as having no case study.
If you’ve been consuming content through YouTube, you attended a boot camp, or you took an online course, I would still suggest you follow the same approach as mentioned in the previous section, as there are definitely going to be gaps to be filled. However, your timeline to finish each chapter would be a little shorter as you probably have smaller gaps to fill. You’re also going to be a bit faster than others when it comes to thinking and designing.
Now there are 2 situations you might be in even if you’ve been learning design for a while now.
If you’re confident that your foundations are rock solid, you can start directly with chapters 3 or 4 of Module 3 and start working on problem statements. If not, start from Chapter 1.
Here you have 2 options.
- Tear apart your existing case study and re-work the same problem statement.
- Pick a brand new problem statement and work on that.
But again, make sure to get your problem statement validated before you start. Be it an existing one or a new one. Trust me, trying to apply for a job with a broken or poor case study is as good as working out in the gym but not consuming enough protein. No matter how much you work out, you won’t see any results if you don’t eat correctly.
Maybe you want to move from a design agency or a service-based company into a product-based company. Perhaps you're a UX Designer or a UI Designer but now want to work as a Product Designer. Maybe you're in a product company already but want to move to a better one.
In this case, you have even smaller gaps to fill. You'll be decent at many of the skills you possess, but you may not match the industry standard.
In this case, it's up to you to start from scratch in Chapters 1 and 2 or directly start with Chapters 3 and 4. You can choose your starting point depending on how confident you are with your design skills.
Now one thing that's different in your case is that you're going to have to show at least one project that you worked on in your current company, and it has to be good.
A hypothetical or side project is not going to hold much value. You can still choose to include one of them, but it should be something other than your primary project.
So, in conclusion, you can apply whatever you learn from this guide and improve the quality of the case study of projects you worked on in your existing company.
The approach here is very simple. I’ll talk more about design schools in a different chapter but design school is where the least amount of learning happens.
Design school does offer things such as a good network, opportunities, etc. But if you’re studying and hoping that you will learn product design and become industry ready, then you’re highly mistaken. You may be suitable to work in a career line such as UX research or service design with the skills you pick up in a design college. But definitely not hard-core product design.
Even if you do get started with Product Design, you will have a very slow start to your career maybe with an internship. Ideally this is something you want too avoid because you spent a lot of money and 1-2 years in design school. So at the end of your program, you need to be industry ready.
What this means is that you most likely have to start from scratch in Chapter 1.
In the previous chapter, I talked a lot about collecting pieces of the puzzle. That means you need to keep consuming and discovering content regularly. It's okay if you don't get to understand it completely. But keep making a list of things you need to learn and collect resources and links. Trust me when I say this, there will be a time when every piece of information you come across will be helpful, and you will thank yourself.
But the problem is that there is so much online content, and most aren't valuable. So, where do you actually learn from?
Well, lucky for you, I've been collecting the best and no-bullshit resources ever since I started my career, and I'm here to share things from my secret vault. I'll talk a lot more about building a source of knowledge in its own dedicated chapter which I am still working on.
You see, to be a product designer, design is just one of the things you need to be good at. You need to understand the world of product and the world of tech as well. Of course, product managers and engineers will be much more knowledgeable than you in their craft. But because you as a designer need to work a lot with them, you must also understand a lot about their world.
I'll give you a real example. A few years back, when I discovered the concept of design systems, I always wondered why there were dedicated designers who worked on the design system for their company. It's just a bunch of components, colors, icons, and text styles, right? Any designer can do that. Why have a dedicated person?
But as I kept collecting more pieces of the puzzle and started learning more about it and practicing and implementing it in my work, I began to realise why companies have dedicated designers who work just on design systems. I realised that a design system is more than just components, colors, and text styles. I realised how complex it is to maintain and update a design system. I realised that we also need engineers to effectively build a design system.
Basically, I got to see the bigger picture!
And today, we have design conferences dedicated to design systems. That's how complex design systems are!
So if you're a designer with 3-4 years of experience and you don't understand these things, you're limiting the opportunities you have to get into bigger and better companies.
Anyway, in the resources page, I share many videos and articles that really help you understand the world of design, product, and tech. These are resources I have learnt from since starting my design career. Hence, I can guarantee they are packed with a lot of value.
Do remember, there is a lot to discover and learn about. The first step is to stop thinking that product design just about designing interfaces.