Case Study: Product Designer - Paul

What do you do?

As a product designer, I create concepts for mass-produced items, and provide the manufacturing specifications necessary to actually make them. The items I work on can be anything from lampshades to alarm clocks. I usually start by doing research on similar products. Then I come up with a concept, make models of it and present the idea to the client.

Because I run my own business, a medium-sized design company, I also have to co-ordinate a lot of other designers. I also handle most of the contact with our clients.

What is your background?

After studying design, I became a draftsperson. However, I found the work very technical. I was attracted to being a product designer because I could create my own products. I enjoy the challenge of creating products that are both functional and appealing.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in your job?

You should be creative and curious. Companies look to people like me for new ideas and distinctive designs. I'm always observing everyday products and how people use them.

That said, you should also be practical. Products have to look good, but they have to be functional as well. They are, after all, going to be used by people on a daily basis. And you should keep in mind how expensive it is to make the products you design. A design is no good if it's too expensive for people to buy.

What other jobs could you do using the skills from this job?

Certainly your experience as a product designer could be used in any sort of design work, from exhibits and fine art to packaging and advertising. But being a product designer is also good because it teaches you to analyse and solve real, physical problems. You can use that anywhere.

What changes will there be in the future?

This field is really expanding. With so many similar products on the market, companies are turning to good design as an important way to make their products stand out. People like to buy things that look nice. You will, however, have to prove yourself if you're going to make it.

And then there's the computer; the designer's main tool apart from his or her imagination. In the past, most designs were created by hand. Now computers are used almost exclusively. Of course, a good design is still a good design, no matter how it's drawn the first time.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

After putting a lot of thought and effort into creating a design, the biggest challenge for a product designer can be selling the idea to the client. You have to be able to market your idea and yourself, on top of designing good products.

Are there many opportunities to enter this career?

This is a tough field to get established in, but a good designer can do well. Try to find an established designer whose work you like, then do everything you can to work with them. You could even volunteer. This will help you develop a solid portfolio of work; your portfolio is your biggest selling point.

What do you like about your job?

I like the creative aspect of my work. I'm always looking at products around me and thinking how I would like to change them. In my spare time, I'll sit down and redesign products I've seen. Working as a product designer means I can do this for a living.

I also enjoy the responsibility of creating things that people will use on a daily basis. If, for example, I design a new electric shaver, I'm creating a product that thousands of people may use each morning.

Finally, I like seeing products that I designed being used. Recently, I saw someone using a vacuum cleaner that I had designed years ago - it felt great.

What do you dislike about your job?

Too often, companies don't recognise the importance of good design and don't allocate enough money to allow product designers to create, not just good products, but really outstanding products.

Another thing I don't like about this business is all the copying and stealing of design ideas that takes place. Cheap imitations of products I've designed not only look terrible, but they show a lack of respect for my work.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

Working as a product designer, you'll be accepting responsibility for creating products that people will use on a daily basis. You need to learn about how people live, their habits, their environment and the products they use. Then, you can create designs that accommodate the needs of those people and ultimately make their life easier.

A day in the life

9:00 am - 10:00 am

Opening the office and making sure everyone is on the same wavelength with current jobs.

10:00 am - 11:00 am

Checking and returning messages.

11:00 am - 1:00 pm

Designing; creating mock-ups to show clients.

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Lunch.

2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Meeting with clients and showing them the models. I need to explain the thinking behind the design and get their feedback.

4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

More designing: creating detailed drawings of a new product, including measurements and several different views.

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