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How to become a Product Designer – with Theo Davies

25/02/2020

The creative world is huge, and there are so many routes out there for you to take. We caught up with Theo from Bang Creations who works as a product designer. He wanted to share 8 tips for making it as a product designer…

1. Make sure you’ve got the right attitude

If you don’t have a genuine interest in how things work and how they’re made, then product design is not for you. You have to be curious and want to know more about people and the world around you.

2. Don’t forget the technical and commercial side of things.

“At school, I never really enjoyed the maths side of things, but now that I’m working out real problems, I can see the relevance and it actually becomes interesting! I enjoy working out the geometry and perfect angles. If it’s not right, then it won’t work and if you told me at school that I’d be saying this now, I’d have laughed!”

Product design is more than just making things look nice – it’s about making things that work. It’s important to give the technical and commercial side of things equal emphasis. Not just things that look pretty!

3. Be open to learning

From art and design BTECH to a degree in product design, all of these courses can help you to understand the creative process and what steps to take. 

You can find your own route, just don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

4. Practice sketching and time yourself

“Sketching in product design is more about communicating ideas quickly – often over the table” – the quick bit is the important bit. Mostly this comes with practice and putting the time in.

Test yourself with weekly design challenges. Instagram has a load of weekly prompts that you can try out – take a look for “Design challenge” and “Green Design”. It’s good to test yourself and keep learning.

5. Have a go at writing briefs

Communicating with clients, managing expectations. Design is never a linear process, with an expected route it’d take. 

Often, you don’t really get a brief and have to write it yourself. If you’re working with start-ups or small businesses, they tend to come with an idea, but haven’t solidified it. You have to write the brief yourself. It’s such an important step to get right because if you don’t, the product will be wrong.

6. Design exhibitions are a great way to practice pitching

“For me, it led to freelance work, and from freelance work, it gave my current employers the trust to hire me”

My final year exhibition piece gave me a chance to talk more confidently about my work. Whilst a lot of the people I was talking to there were the mums of other designers, 1 in 10 were people that could help. Practicing with the mums helped for pitching to that 1 in 10.

7. Ask questions of others and listen

When you’re creating something for someone else, it’s so important that you involve them throughout. There’s nothing worse than getting locked into a design that doesn’t work, and then having to scrap loads of work further down the line. Rather than getting to that point, gather feedback throughout. It means you’ll be able to design something more accurate and suitable to their needs.

When you’re looking at the same things for so long, it’s easy to get stuck going down one route. Sometimes a fresh perspective can breathe life into a design.

Take the time to do your research and test things out with real people.

8. Stay critical of yourself

As a product designer, you might spend days and days working on concepts only for 9 out of 10 of them to be shot down. You have to be okay with that! You can’t always be precious of your work – it’s all part of the process! 

“It’s only through creating failed designs that you learn how to make it better,” The whole point of product design is improving on the shortcomings of others. It’s vital to do the same thing for yourself.

Theo Davies is a Product Designer at Bang Creations in Bristol

PAPER Arts offers support for young creatives on how to build a creative career and navigate Bristol’s art scene. For more information about the work we do, please email hello@paperarts.org.uk