What is product design?
Product design is kind of an umbrella term that also includes other design branches like consumer product design, packaging design, furniture design, toy design, Digital product design or industrial design. Basically, it means solving a problem by creating products that are delightful to use for consumers.
But in the Indian context when you say product design, in the market it means physical consumer products like household appliances like mixer grinder, television, refrigerator or furniture etc. There are two variables of product design, form and functions. A good product must fulfil a need of the user and also be aesthetically pleasing.
What are the skills required to become a successful product designer?
For consumer product design, you must be able to understand the user needs to conceptualise a viable solution. You need proper visualisation skills to understand the problem from the user’s perspective and think of a comprehensive solution. Sketching skills are handy to put down your thoughts quickly on a piece of paper and explore other viable solutions.
CAD modelling skills are essential for creating a digital prototype of the product. Rapid prototyping is done to create a quick physical prototype based on digital renders. Ability to create a fully functioning prototype along with the designed form is a very essential skill for this career.
Some additional skills will come handy and valuable as you progress in your journey as a product designer like carpentry, welding, operating 3D printing machine or Laser cutting machines, Lathe machine etc. Having these skills are optional and you can always rely on others who are masters of these skills. But you should have the ability to explain your concept clearly and coordinate with other people who can help you bring your design to life.
What are the opportunities and future of product design?
I would say product design has a bright future in India. As the number of middle-class people grows the demand for household products or comfort products will rise exponentially. When people have more money in their hands they will buy nicer things in life. As you can see, so many consumer product companies have become successful in recent years in India. And the e-commerce revolution is also a big help in expanding the market quickly. India is a very fast-growing economy. A very high skilled product designer will have no problem in finding the desired employment or business opportunities.
But in the market growth in consumer product design is relatively slower than software product design. So many people switch fields to digital product design mid-career for faster growth in the corporate ladder. Many designers have successfully opened their own product design firms and acquired businesses from global MNCs to design their products.
According to payscale.com average product designer salary in India is about 6.11 lakhs per annum.
But people working in global brands earn much higher salaries as they rise on the corporate ladder. Many famous product design firms which operate in India are Frog design studio, Elephant design, Desmania design studio etc.
Who are the famous personalities in product design?
Jonathan Ive – He is one of the most celebrated product designers in the world. He was the in house designer of apple devices for most of his career and have designed some iconic and most successful consumer products ever created in the market like iPhones, MacBooks, iMacs etc.
James Dyson – Dyson consumer products are the class-leading products in their markets not just because of form, but excellent functionality. His most successful product is Dyson hands-free vacuum cleaners.
Satish Gokle – He is the head of product design at his design firm called Design Directions. He is an alumnus of the National Institute of Design Allahabad. He is the visiting faculty at many reputed universities like NID, IITs, IISc etc. He is also the founding member of the Association of Designer of India (ADI).
What does a day in the life of a product designer look like?
A product design life cycle starts from the user research and analysis of the feedback on the current product. Also, market analysis to find out in which category of product there is a gap in the market. A product designer will work at all stages of the product life cycle from research to prototyping iterations to making it into a manufacturable product.
A usual day would depend upon at what stage the project is at. At the ideation stage, a lot of exploration of ideas is done, either through post-it notes or rough sketches.
Then a mind map is created to understand the user’s motivation and problems and also the environment of the user. A lot of collaboration and brainstorming sessions happen to access the best path to move forward before creating detailed digital renders and 3D models using solid/surface modelling software.
Usually, your work or the concept that you are working on would be reviewed by your superiors or by your colleagues. You can get quick feedback on how the concept can be improved for the user so that you can start working on your next iteration of the design.
Consumer product design is a lot of hands-on work which includes sketching, CAD modelling, Rapid prototyping, Crafting sample prototypes, Testing, Design for manufacturing etc. It is always about solving problems, making regular products more convenient for the user, by removing slight hurdles or pain points which the user usually gets accustomed to.
Technology is a big part of innovation. Regular products are becoming smarter through IoT. But the user should always be the centre of your design and innovation. Will this solution make the user’s life easier? This is the question that will keep you on the right track as a product designer.
The prototypes are also tested with the actual regular users using focus groups. In these groups, regular people who would buy the product give feedback on each concept after using them, which helps to iterate on the design which is liked by most users and also iron out the small pain points which users may have faced while using the product. This iterative process makes the design very user-centric and it becomes ready for production.