In my research for this post I came across several quotes like the one above. Between them all it would seem you don’t have to be good at much to make it as a Product Designer. If these statements weren’t so often followed by some other super profound shit that you actually do have to be good at, this might be welcome news for a generation with no shortage of people who aren’t particularly good at anything.
In the case of web or mobile app design, hard skills like drawing and coding (or whatever else: typography, etc.) are of course great skills to have. They can give you a leg up in certain sub-disciplines, and at minimum, they make cross-functional collaboration that much smoother, but as Engle points out, they’re not the real asks.
Take Material for example, Google’s all encompassing compendium of design principles that govern the aesthetics and interactivity of Google applications. Material was undoubtedly the product of a vast hoard of artists, developers, and geniuses of every other sort you could imagine, but all their efforts would have been for naught without the following:
- A deep familiarity with design principles and the challenges of responsive design;
- An adept understanding of the interplay between digital and physical space;
- The critical and strategic thinking needed to create and perfect solutions that could be applied across an unfathomably wide range of scenarios; and…
- An acute sensitivity to user needs and behaviors and those of the designers who create these experiences.
If you’re considering a career in digital product design and are perhaps lacking in hard skills, the good news for you is that these are all areas in which anyone willing to put in the work can contribute.