How to be a Product Designer.

My new and improved portfolio.

I might be a Product Designer now, but I didn’t always know that’s what I would be when I started my career. Let me start at the beginning of my journey. I went to college for Fine Arts and had found my way to where I am through a lot of trial and error. So I wanted to talk about the process and how each and every single thing you do, will ultimately lead you on the right path.

I started out as a Fine Arts major and in my mind I was going to be a College Professor teaching drawing or painting. I had taken every studio class my school had to offer and was pretty good at all of them. I took drawing, painting, etching, sculpture, screen printing, photography, and so on. But I never truly loved any of them. I was on track to graduate early when I decided I would try the ‘dark side’ of art school, aka graphic design. At that point, I had never even touched a Mac, let alone heard of Adobe. I showed up to my first class way in over my head. We started to learn the fundamentals of design, the importance of concepts, and the history of graphic design. As more projects came in, I discovered that not only did I really enjoy what I was doing, but I excelled at it. The graphic design program at my college was very much so a traditional program. We focused primarily on branding and print design and hardly did any digital based projects. I ended up working at a small boutique design studio in the area for two years. There I worked on publication and magazine design. Once I graduated college, I had my mind set on New York City and the digital world.

I starting applying to different agencies around New York and landed a few interviews. Oh, man was interviewing back then rough. I had no experience and I was trying to get myself into the digital space with no real digital portfolio pieces. I wanted to get into digital because I felt like that’s where my future needed to be. I was hired at my first job, not based on my digital work, but based on my strong knowledge of the fundamentals of design. The first agency I worked for exposed me to many different types of digital design projects. I was able to work on websites, branding campaigns, apps, and even social media campaigns. It opened my eyes to what digital design had to offer. It also taught me what I did and didn’t like to work on. One of my favorite projects there had been working on an app where were tasked with creating a new look and feel without altering the structure, aka strictly a UI re-design. I loved it.

From there I knew that I wanted my next job to only be about apps. Again, I worked at another full service agency. This time however, I was allocated to one client and tasked with overhauling their app. I was on a team that consisted of UX Designers, Visual Designers, Project Managers, Business Analysts, and Copywriters. It was a key point in my career where I was able to understand each piece of the puzzle and really grasp what a product was. I was in brainstorming sessions, user story grooming sessions, meetings about business requirements and helped with the initial mapping out of the app. Even though I primarily took care of the UI of the app, I collaborated very closely with my UX partner to create personas, user flows, wireframes, etc. It was the first time I was exposed to UX design and the logical thinking that comes with it. I knew this was the space I needed to be in.

I then took a Senior Designer position where again, I was allocated to one client and had a UX partner. This time, the line between my partner and my roles was very blurred. We both thought through the product from start to finish and were responsible for all of the decisions made on the platform. I was involved in every aspect of the project from road mapping sessions to launch. Little by little my knowledge of Ux and UI design grew.

In my current position I’ve transitioned into an in-house role. Here, I’m responsible for the design thinking behind all of the digital platforms my company has to offer. I’m working directly with Developers on the daily, strategizing with Product Owners, and thinking long term about where design can take the product.

I went from not having ever touched a mac computer to being a Product Designer who would be lost without one. The journey might take a while, but harness what you’ve learned at each point in your career and use it to your advantage to get to where you want to be.

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