What Does the Product Designer of the Future Look Like?
Well, for starters it’s probably someone with 3 years of experience or fewer. Any more, and you simply wouldn’t be the designer of the future. And frankly, there are more than enough companies looking for designers with 7+ years in experience, so I’m going to go the other way and say the inexperienced designer is the future.
But this designer isn’t a dummy. They are sharp and pick up things quickly. They don’t pick up new trends fast — they figure which trends are worth even picking up. Today, all designers need to have visual design skills. And any designer can pull up Dribbble and rip a hot trend. But not every trend is worth copying and the best trends have something bigger behind them. The designer of the future can see through the noise while staying ahead of the curve.
The product designer of the future cares more about the impact and outcomes of their design than the design itself. This designer knows that design isn’t art, but rather serves users and businesses.
Tomorrow’s designer isn’t afraid of critique, both from fellow designers and stakeholders with no design background at all. They realize “Product” is a team sport, and while designers can help you with finesse, other teams can help your design 10x.
The product designer of the future understands that product design is bigger than UX. It’s about conversion, marketability, and retention. It’s also about designing the right thing, more than it is about designing the thing right. Product design is about small iterations as much as it is about big concepts. And while tomorrow’s product designer doesn’t need to be expert in all these areas, they need to understand how they all fit together.
This designer has soft skills like communication (verbal and written), presenting, comprehension, and negotiation, and for any skills they lack, they seek to learn. The future product designer is reading books about business and self-growth as much as they read Medium posts with hot takes on design controversies.
Above all, this designer understands that the ultimate value of design is strategic, but that the way to get there is tactical. Every designer wants to be strategic, and most want to lead. But few designers understand that you unlock next-level strategy by putting in the hard work and pushing pixels. The world’s greatest architecture still needs to get built for people to enjoy it. The designer of future respects the process.
The designer of tomorrow is brave, yet smart enough to know what risks are worth taking; humble, but self-aware enough to know what they’re capable of; curious, but wise enough to know when enough is enough; assertive, but patient enough to know that a brilliant career takes years to develop.
If this is you or somebody you know, get in touch with me. I’m always looking for designers of the future — if not for my agency, then for the amazing clients we serve.
I lead design at Innovatemap, a digital product agency based in Indianapolis.