Why a Job in Design Might Be Right for You

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A job in design might be right for you if you would be interested in all that competitive new product design (NPD) entails in the new paradigm of the twenty-first-century business world and economy.

The world of NPD has changed. It is no longer seen as just some marketing tool or as the packaging of a new product. It is now recognized as the element that makes or breaks any product development in the entire product conception, design, and production chain. This ''fuzzy front end of innovation,'' this phase zero, is where everything starts.

Today's product design needs people who know how to make deeper connections with the human factor in marketing and business. Once upon a time this was a niche relegated only to marketers, but today the global economy is being driven more and more by creativity instead of just knowledge. In fact, there are people who take on jobs in design who first get or already have degrees in psychology, anthropology, and business.

In 2007, the Harvard Business Review wrote: ''We investigated fourteen large companies with an annual sales volume from $500 million to $10 billion. We discovered that only four of them had managed to meet plan in terms of timing, functionality of new products and market share. In five cases companies designed new generation's products which were positively evaluated by experts, but at the end these products failed. As it turned out, every time when in an NPD process difficulties occurred, the roots of problems could easily be found at the stage of early planning, when the company had to decide what design the new product will have.''

Jobs in product design today ask you to come up with ways that new products can satisfy more and more people who have an endless array of products to choose from to meet a particular need already. Research has shown that in the developed world 60% of adult people say that they already have everything they need; now what they look for are things they desire. Market research has also shown that people are more interested in buying an experience, not just a new product. Therefore, to be successful in the marketplace, a new product or brand must be as amazing, exciting, thrilling, and complete for its niche as possible.

Selling cannot be done just on price alone; for in any industry or niche, there can be only one company that has the lowest price; all competitors have to work on better product design. Furthermore, people are more willing than ever to pay more for something that can deliver them that experience and totality that they now have the luxury of being able to desire. People only look for the best price on the needful things that, again, over half already say they have all taken care of.

Research has also shown that more than 90% of all new products put on the market—and there are 30,000 of these every year—fail in the marketplace despite huge expenses poured into research and development. Virtually every time they fail is because the product design phase, the first stage, was not done right.

Part of the great difficulty of a job in product design is actually finding out what people really want, because the vast majority of them do not know or have only a vague idea about it and cannot articulate it. So this job is technically and conceptually very demanding; if you love meeting such challenges, a job in design may be perfect for you.

Typically, if you are qualified for a job in product design, you will have skills and knowledge including:
  • Fluency in all of the common product design tools which today include Photoshop, Illustrator, 3-D Modeling, After Effects, and Expression Blend, among others. You are also probably going to need superior Web technology and interactive design skills such as capability in Flash.

  • Ability and capability to design and implement prototypes, mock ups, usefulness studies, task analyses, user flows, style guides, wire frames, personas, affinity diagrams, and navigational structures.

  • Creativity in presenting and selling design ideas to the product manufacturing divisions.

  • Understanding of consumer and client motivations and desires; and integrating these desires into your NPD concepts to enhance end-user features and functionality.

  • Consultancy to production team leaders and perhaps a managerial role with regard to outside design and production resources.

  • Facilitation of ''fuzzy front end'' think-tank sessions with brainstorming, storyboarding, and accelerated prototyping.

  • Collaborating with interdisciplinary team members and project managers to evaluate and keep alive early development concepts and project proposals.
In a job as a product designer, you will need to be able to see ideas in the context of the real world with empathy for your clients and consumers. You will need to be able to step inside their shoes and understand what their desires are. You will need the technical expertise to implement and articulate your new concepts as described above. NPD today is far beyond manufacturing in the economic hierarchy.

Jobs in new product design in the U.S. are paying an average of $84,000 a year, which is 32% above the national average for all jobs in all industries.
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