What Is a Product Designer? Salaries, Skills, and More

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Product designers oversee the design process of a product. You'll want to gain relevant skills and build a portfolio if you're hoping to become one.

[Featured image] A product designer discusses design processes with a colleague.

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A product designer is somebody who oversees the design process of a product from start to finish or the improvement of an existing product. A product designer might brainstorm solutions to current pain points, take input from stakeholders, act as a liaison between designers, engineers, and researchers, and help compose mock-ups through wireframes and prototypes. They have an understanding of the bigger goals of the product while being mindful of the details needed to achieve them.

Product designer salary

A product designer in the US makes an average base salary of $81,845 in 2022, according to Glassdoor [1]. Average additional pay such as bonuses, commission, and profit sharing is $14,923, bringing the average total pay for a product designer in the US to $96,768. Compare this with the average total pay for user experience (UX) designers, who earn $98,651, and product managers, who make $127,528 [2,3].

So what’s product design, exactly?

Product design is the process of creating a digital or physical good. The process is generally grounded in research and involves keeping the user’s experience in mind.

Product design has in recent years become associated with digital products like software or apps. But product design can also refer to the design of physical products, like furniture, electronics, and other manufactured goods. This latter type of design is also called industrial design.


What does a product designer do?

A product designer’s job can be broken down into a few key tasks. These include: 

  • Designing: While a product designer might wear many hats, their principal task is still to design. A product designer will use their knowledge of color, typography, detail, and other design elements to create a product. 

Read more: What Does a Graphic Designer Do? (And How Do I Become One?)

  • Thinking of the user:  A product designer will generally fold UX principles into their design. This doesn’t mean just making a product user friendly. Product designers can be expected to conduct A/B testing, email surveys, and other UX research, or know how to build wireframes, prototypes, and journey maps.

Read more: What Is a UX Researcher? How to Get the Job

  • Collaborating across teams: As a person that takes a holistic view to designing a product, a product designer often collaborates with designers, researchers, and business teams. This helps to ensure the finished product aligns with a company’s goals and folds in all the processes necessary to make the product user friendly and well designed.

Product designer vs UX designer: The differences explained

A UX designer usually focuses on a portion of the design process, making sure a product is optimally designed for user experience. A product designer might focus on the entirety of the process, including ensuring a product fits a company’s business needs. UX designers might also work more heavily in the initial design stage of the product, while product designers often work to improve existing products. 

A product designer often works with UX designers and is generally expected to have a good understanding of UX principles. Plus, sometimes the two titles are used interchangeably, which can lead to understandable confusion.

How to become a product designer

A role that wears many hats, there are several ways to become a product designer. Here are a few ways to get the ball rolling.

Gain relevant skills.

  • UX/UI: Understanding what a user wants to accomplish, what their pain points are, and how a product makes them feel is a core component of design. Technical skills to learn can include wireframing and prototyping, conducting research, and testing product features. Prototyping tools can include Framer, Principle, or Figma.

  • Visual design tools: A product that’s pleasing to the eye can delight customers and make for a pleasant user experience. Job descriptions often request you have a sense of aesthetics, and some knowledge of the tools used in visual design. These can include Figma, Sketch, or Adobe Creative Suite.

  • Project management or leadership experience: Having some practice seeing the bigger picture of a process, being able to strategize, and knowing how to execute a vision can come in handy as a product designer. You don’t have to have worked as a project manager, but some experience creating, overseeing, or implementing a project can be useful.

Build a portfolio. 

A portfolio can show employers your past projects, your aesthetic, and how you incorporate business needs into design. A portfolio as a product designer can have an “About me” section to describe your background and strengths. You can build a portfolio through website builders like WordPress, Wix, SquareSpace, or Webflow. 

If you don’t have enough projects to fill out a website, don’t worry. You can start by uploading your projects onto your LinkedIn, and construct a full portfolio somewhere down the line. These can include past work projects, personal projects you’ve created, or work from courses you’ve taken.

Start in related roles. 

The road to becoming a product designer isn’t always straightforward. You can gain related experience by working in roles that expose you to different aspects of product design.

Depending on your skill set, you can try starting out in UX design, graphic design, copywriting, or information architect roles.

Take courses.

Regardless of if you’ve worked in a related role before or are starting from scratch, courses can polish the skills that you have yet to master. See where the gaps in your arsenal of skills are. Here are a few that can be useful to you as a product designer.

  • If you’re trying to familiarize yourself with UX design processes, consider the Google UX Design Professional Certificate. You’ll have the opportunity to put together a professional portfolio, work with digital design tools, and learn the basics of UX research.


professional certificate

Google UX Design

This is your path to a career in UX design. In this program, you’ll learn in-demand skills that will have you job-ready in less than 6 months. No degree or experience required.


(56,918 ratings)

710,201 already enrolled


Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

User Experience (UX), UX Research, Wireframe, Prototype, User Experience Design (UXD), Usability Testing, mockup, Figma, Adobe XD, UX design jobs



Digital Product Management

Implement a modern approach to product management. Master the fundamentals that create great teams and products


(2,615 ratings)

49,384 already enrolled


Average time: 5 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

hypothesis-driven development, Product Management, Design Thinking, agile, Lean Startup, Product/Market Fit, Innovation Pipeline, agile user stories, User Experience Design (UXD), Agile Software Development, Software Development, Usability Testing, Continuous Delivery, agile product management, backlog management, Kanban, XP

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Article sources


Glassdoor. "Product Designer Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/product-designer-salary-SRCH_KO0,16.htm." Accessed October 5, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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