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

Written by Coursera Staff • 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.

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 the following: 

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

  • 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.

  • Collaborating across teams: As a person who takes a holistic view of 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

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.

Product designer salary

According to Glassdoor, a product designer in Canada earns an average salary of $85,150 [1]. Compare this with the average pay for user experience (UX) designers, who earn $77,356 per year, and product managers, who make $99,779 [2, 3]. Keep in mind that factors that influence your salary include company, industry, years of experience, and location.

How to become a product designer

There are several ways to become a product designer. Here are a few ways to get started.

Gain relevant skills.

  • UX/UI: Understanding what a user wants to accomplish, their pain points, 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 create a pleasant user experience. Job descriptions often request that you have a sense of aesthetics and some knowledge of the tools used in visual design, such as Figma, Sketch, or Adobe Creative Suite.

  • Project management or leadership experience: As a product designer, having some practice seeing the bigger picture of a process, strategizing, and executing a vision can come in handy. You don’t have to have worked as a project manager, but some experience in 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 the 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 profile 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 whether 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 on Coursera. You’ll have the opportunity to put together a professional portfolio, work with digital design tools, and learn the basics of UX research.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Article sources


Glassdoor. “Product Designer Salaries in Canada, https://www.glassdoor.ca/Salaries/product-designer-salary-SRCH_KO0,16.htm.” Accessed May 3, 2024.

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