The 13 Roles of a Product Designer

A product designer’s job is to deeply understand customer problems and take on a multitude of roles that facilitate the creation of a solution.

We often assign beautification as the role of the designer. But in reality, there are at least 13 roles that one needs to perform to truly create value.

The roles aren’t necessarily performed in the highest levels at the same time, but rather are areas of specialisation that one designer should partake of.

My hope is that friends, colleagues, and mentees appreciate the hybrid role that we take on, and fully embrace it moving forward.

1. Entrepreneur

• Identify gaps in the market and create ways to fill those needs
• Build teams to get to the end product
• Serve customers through tangible solutions
• Generate inspiration through a vision

2. Product Manager

• Develop an expertise for your customer’s audience
• Do competitive research
• Build the process of feedback synthesis
• Drive product roadmaps, product priorities
• Completely understand the problem space
• Talk to customers, understand the market
• Coordinate and build teams

3. Interaction designer

• Bring visions to life
• Solve problems through existing design patterns
• Or facilitate problem solving through new patterns
• Create mockups and flows for the user interface
• Document how these new patterns work

4. Visual designer

• Mastery and application of color, space, typography, iconography, illustration, and UX laws
• Strong “taste” and aesthetics
• Understanding of brand across different platforms

5. Motion designer

• Design delightful micro-interactions
• Bring personality to the design
• Apply motion to improves a user’s experience

6. Prototyper

• Make products come to life by designing artefacts close to the real thing
• Fluency with prototyping tools like code, after effects, Framer, Origami, InVision
• Implement one’s own flows and interactions
• Test ideas in high fidelity

7. Data Analyst

• Use product usage data for informed decision making
• Create A/B tests, synthesise large volumes of data, discover patterns
• Setup tests and what data to gather
• Understand design impact through data and metrics

8. User Researcher

• Advocate the customer
• Gather insights and feedback
• Conduct ethnographic research
• Evaluate user experience to affect strategy and roadmaps
• Evangelise research in the organisation
• Create deep domain expertise
• Translate customer needs to features and marketing copy

9. Psychologist

• Understand cognitive psychology, heuristics, empirical research, empathy
• Understand behaviour and motivations of users
• Build products based on the mental model of users; whether habit-forming or not

10. Copywriter

• Craft clear, effective, and delightful copy for specific audience
• Possess strong vocabulary and demonstrate proper grammar
• Balance clarity and personality

11. Project Manager

• Take ownership of projects towards completion
• Balance time, cost, quality, and scope.
• Deliver outcomes where everyone is satisfied.

12. Product Marketer

• Understand what needs to be built and how to deliver it to the market
• Do market research
• Create launch marketing materials
• Work with marketing to portray the product accurately in all material
• Work with release plan

13. Customer Support Representative and Community Manager

• Identify and categorise feedback
• Bridge support and engineering
• Be a fixture in the community to accept customers’ raw feedback

Considering these roles, it does seem like there is a higher bar to becoming a designer. I don’t think we start out being an expert in all of these. However, it will serve designer managers well to concoct teams that cover all areas.

What do you think? What roles have not been represented? Let me know in the comments below!

Post inspired from:

Hurff, Scott. Designing Products People Love: How Great Designers Create Successful Products . O’Reilly Media.

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