Product Design Today: a discussion about roles, methods and deliverables

Experience Design Academy
6 min readJun 22, 2023

Since the rise of the Industrial Revolution, the discipline of Product Design was considered to be focused on physical products. Nowadays, product designers face new challenges and touchpoints, mostly focusing on the digital environment. It’s not only about having UX/UI skills but also acquiring awareness about social, economic and environmental sustainability issues and managing the whole pipeline: from the definition of the Unique Value Proposition to the delivery of a valuable product where the role of the designer is never done, in a perspective of perpetual improvement.

“Title confusion continues. This is the first year <UX/UI Designer> was included as a default response, which seems to resonate with more respondents than the traditional.” Source: UXTools

With our speakers, we discussed what it means to be a product designer in today’s world and how the role has evolved in practical terms within companies such like a worldwide Design Studio (MetaLab) and a Well-known Consultancy (Accenture Song):

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6maF4tICPs

Product Design as a meeting point between business and creativity — Stefano De Rosa

Let’s start with the goal: the purpose of a product designer is to combine the business needs with those of the user, using technology. The product is the intersection of these three areas. If that wasn’t the case, technology would remain just unusable code that doesn’t find a place in everyday life. The business would not be able to communicate its vision, and the user would not receive support for their needs.

If we zoom in on this intersection, we can see that there are other areas: Visual Design, UX, and Business Strategy. Every product designer interacts with these disciplines in companies, even though they don’t need to be a master of all.

“The product must meet the needs of the user and the business, and it’s crucial for the Product Designer to be able to engage with various other stakeholders. That’s where the figure of Product Designer is validated.”

S. De Rosa

Unlocking the Power: three Key Pillars of Product Design Mastery

  1. Product thinking is how product designers tackle problems. It’s all about understanding what challenges a specific group of people are facing and coming up with a plan to solve them. The goal is to create practical solutions that actually make a difference in the real world.
  2. Stakeholders engagement: when it comes to dealing with stakeholders, it’s important to have good communication skills and be able to bridge the gap between the design team and other development teams. Those people who are always around you can really help you out if you take the time to get to know them and involve them in the design process.
  3. Design process: there are common methodologies to make designer’s life easier such as Design Thinking, Lean UX, and the Agile Method. These are logical models that help designers come up with creative and feasible solutions to user problems while also meeting business needs.

Stefano wraps up his speech by showcasing a case study on customized NFT clothing for Metaverse avatars: discover more about the project

The Warehouse — Genies NFT marketplace

Kill your labels before they kill you — Daniele Bucci

“As designers, we all enjoy creating things that didn’t exist before, things that have an impact on people’s lives.” D. Bucci

Susan Kare had a degree in sculpture and worked at a museum as a curator for exhibits. She invented icons. Another example is Mary Anderson, who was a farmer and cowhand. She invented windshield wipers. She wasn’t an engineer but sought a practical solution to a problem. Both of them ended up inventing some of the most fundamental and revolutionary things of the last century that are still in use today. These may seem extraordinary cases, but they’re not because all it takes is the willingness to try and find practical solutions that support us in our daily lives, and as human beings, we are capable of doing that. Of course, we can also help ourselves by following standardised processes that can be applied to projects across various disciplines.

For example, in 2018 Daniele (an ordinary product designer 😉) designed an entire Gelateria. No one would imagine that the task of a product designer could involve such a project. But all he did was apply the same logic used for products within a space. He designed the lighting, chose and positioned the furniture, created the iconography, and so on. Following the classic iterative cycle of design research, ideation, validation, and implementation.

The core essence of the design process remains unaltered, whether it’s designing an app, a microwave, or a store. All the labels that emerge every year to accompany the word “designer” can sometimes limit possibilities, either self-imposed or imposed by others, while in the end, the logic remains the same. However, the methods and blueprints may vary.

On the flip side, titles can constrain designers. So, it’s not about being a “Product Designer” or an “Interface Designer,” but rather about being a designer who asks the right questions at the right time. What are you designing for?

  1. Design for code: what you design must be feasible and practical. Sometimes, it can be challenging to collaborate with those who will bring your designs to life, but it can also provide a fresh perspective that surprisingly solves the problem.
  2. Design for a goal: Remember who your users are, what they want, and how to meet the client’s requirements. Your design should be meaningful to make a positive impact and bring about change.
  3. Design for all: Be inclusive and don’t just design for the average user but also consider the extremes.
  4. Design for the business: Keep in mind who your client is and how you can strike the right balance between technology and user needs to create a valuable product that serves a purpose, rather than becoming just another unused product.
Winelivery mobile app

Finalizing his remarks, he introduces Winelivery, the app of a young, dynamic, and ambitious Italian startup. They have already established a strong presence in the Italian market and have a well-organized internal structure. See the case study here

These lectures were held during the 31th UX Talk organized for the students of the Master in User Experience Psychology by Politecnico di Milano & Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and of the Higher Education Course in User Experience Design by POLI.design. Follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram to be updated about the upcoming UX Talks, always open to the public.

Curated by Alice Paracolli

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Experience Design Academy

A polytechnic centre of excellence dedicated to User Experience - by POLI.design.