Product Designer: Job Duties, Outlook and Education Info

Product designers require some formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Product designers create manufactured products that are often sold worldwide. They are typically required to have a bachelor's degree in industrial design or a similar field. Students in these programs build design portfolios to help them secure employment after graduation.

Essential Information

Product designers may also be known as commercial or industrial designers. Using their knowledge of art, engineering and business, product designers create innovative, safe, functional, stylish products for consumers. Most specialize in designing a specific type of product, such as appliances, medical equipment, automobiles, toys, furniture or housewares. They need at least a bachelor's degree in a field such as industrial design or engineering, and the program should include some art and design courses.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% for industrial designers
Median Salary (2015)* $67,130 for commercial and industrial designers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Product Designer Job Duties

When taking on a new project, a product designer will generally first research the target customer and purpose of the product. Research may be done through market studies, meetings, attending trade shows or reading industry publications. From the information gathered, product designers can determine the specifications needed for their product. They can then create concept sketches, either by hand or on a computer, to present to their creative director and other team members for approval. Product designers usually use computer-aided design (CAD) programs to create their final product renderings.

Throughout the design process, product designers must present drawings or prototypes to clients, creative directors, engineers, accountants and cost estimators for feedback. Consumers may also evaluate prototypes for usability and safety. Changes may need to be made to improve the design or quality, reduce the cost or increase the safety of the product, as well as to increase efficiency of production. Once the final design is complete, product designers may work with marketing teams to plan marketing campaigns for the product.

Product Designer Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of industrial designers is expected to grow slower than average at 2% over the 2014-2024 decade. Those who have strong backgrounds in CAD are expected to enjoy the greatest employment prospects. Consumer demand for new, easy-to-use products will fuel the need for more product designers. Although some companies will outsource their work to employees overseas, most companies that do not specialize in high-technology products will remain based in the United States.

Product Designer Education Information

The minimum education requirement for product designers is usually a bachelor's degree. Common majors include industrial design, engineering and architecture. Many programs require that students complete one year of basic art and design courses, such as principles of design and sketching, during their freshman year. Other courses may include CAD, industrial materials and processes, production methods, engineering and 3-D design. During their undergraduate years, students can build a portfolio of work and gain experience through internships to enhance their employment prospects.

Product designers conduct market research, sketch conceptual ideas, and ultimately generate designs for products to be manufactured. They should be creative and have the ability to use computer-aided design programs. The median annual salary for commercial and industrial designers was $67,130 in 2015.

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