Can UX Designers be Called Product Designers?
There has been an increase in new design job titles these past few years, mainly due to the growing needs of businesses, the expanding field of design to accommodate new subfields, grafting existing roles to cut down costs, designers exaggerating what they really do, and recruiters trying to flatter interested candidates. You go on job-seeking platforms and you find companies posting jobs for “Product Lead”, “Design Architect”, “Business Designer”, “Service Designer”, “Experience Designer”, “Design Thinker”, “Product Thinker”, “UX Manager”, “Principal Designer”, “UI/UX Wizard”, “Design Architect”, and so the list goes on and on. Some are clear and descriptive, others, not so much, and at some point, with so many titles everywhere, it becomes confusing as to what we do exactly.
Recently I’ve seen some product designers in the industrial design sector argue that UX and digital design shouldn’t be termed as Product Design. Their explanation is that UX is not physical and that using the term in the UX field becomes confusing because it has been used in the industrial design space for years. For example, a non-designer might think the UX Designer designs hardware and physical products.
While I can understand this idea about the term being confusing, I believe they are speaking from an entitled, self-important, and emotional standpoint. Ideally, a product is anything physical or digital, or any form otherwise, that people buy and use to solve a problem. Also, to think that a job title is reserved for only a select few in one field of design is childish and arrogant.
By that logic, we might as well say the title of “Team Manager” should be reserved for human resources, and the word “President” be reserved for national leaders. Times change, and so do people and their needs. We cannot design human-centric experiences with the mindset and ideologies of the past. No one gets to “call dibs” on a job title.
Times change, and so do people and their needs. We cannot design human-centric experiences with the mindset and ideologies of the past.
So, what is the solution then? How do we remove the confusion?
Well, the truth is, we can’t. Tell non-designers that you’re a UX Designer and some will think you design logos for a living. Tell non-technical people you are an IT Consultant and some will think you are a hacker. We cannot tell people what to think or what not to think, but we can influence them. It’s what we do as designers. We influence thoughts and actions.
Your job title should be reflecting your skillset, reason, and design approach. UX Designers shouldn’t switch titles to product design only because it sounds cool and more important than UX. They should do so because they see themselves solving a problem that extends beyond the user experience, like business needs, product leadership, product strategy, etc.
If you’re looking to switch from one title to the other, make sure you have the recommended skill set for the new role before you slap that new title on your resume. And as long as the dictionary definition of a product doesn’t change, any designer making products can be a product designer.
Designers and employers should use the role title that best describes what the role is about. They should strip away the blandish, exaggerating, have-a-better-rank words that have nothing to do with the design field or what the role entails.
- What do you really do as a designer? UI? Research? Strategy?
- How do help the user/client? Through physical products? Through services? Digital?
- What is your thought process?
Every design role is as great as the next. If you help users by creating awesome UI, you’re a UI Designer. If you are great at finding out why users click on floating buttons and why hamburger menus are always on the right side of the screen, you’re a UX Designer. If you’re in the industrial design field, you’re an industrial designer. If you love taking charge of the creative direction of a product, you’re a product designer. Either way, your contribution helps a product or a service, which helps people in their everyday lives.
On the issue of design titles, designers don’t conjure manna from the sky or turn water into wine. or look into a crystal ball to look into users’ minds. We’re just fucking good at solving problems in ways most people don’t. We recognize invisible patterns and we make them visible. So, while praise and flattery work for some designers, sometimes it’s best to stick to clarity.
Let’s apply our thinking to solve our own problems by being clear on what we are and what we do, else, what’s the point of being designers?