One of my first product wireframe sketches

7 Tips & 40+ Resources from My First Year in Product Design

Everything I’ve learned since I changed my design focus.

The past year has been an uphill climb from being ‘stuck’ in a print design role to leading design at a startup product. There’s nothing wrong with print design, in fact, it’s where I learned many foundational aspects of design. But my goal was to be a product designer working on user interfaces.

I’m fortunate enough to have achieved that goal, but there were a handful of lessons I learned along the way that led me to the position I’m in now. And there’s no value in keeping these lessons and resources to myself, so hopefully you find them useful, or can share this article with someone who might.

1. If you’re not happy, find a way out

  • If you want to work on something new or somewhere new, read and learn about that new something.
  • Create a morning routine to find inspiration and read about new stuff.

Resources:
Product Explorations by Brian Lovin
Design Details Podcast by Brian Lovin & Bryn Jackson
Immutable Podcast by Bryn Jackson & Sam Soffes
Developer Tea by Jonathan Cutrell
Invision Blog
Product Hunt by Ryan Hoover
Medium Articles
Sidebar Newsletter
Designer News by Andrew Wilkinson
Dann Petty’s Vlog by Dann Petty
The Industry by Jared Erondu
Ways We Work Interviews
My Morning Routine

2. Step out of your comfort zone

  • Get out and meet people at meet-ups and/or conferences.
  • Reach out to people you admire and look up to on Twitter or whatever avenue. Most people are nice and would love to talk to you, just ask.
  • Make work and share it, even if it’s not perfect. Don’t only give but also accept constructive feedback.
  • Post valuable content on social media and talk to people about topics you care about.

Resources:
Circles Conference & Squares Conference by Ismael Burciaga
Creative South Conference by Mike Jones
Epicurrence by Dann Petty
Valio Con by Drew Wilson
Dribbble Meetups
Creative Mornings
Dribbble (If you need an invite and feel you can contribute to the community tweet me @dmtors)
UI Movement
MaterialUp, iOSUp, SiteUp by Matt Aussaguel

3. Push yourself and continue learning

  • Learn new software/programming languages by either jumping in and teaching yourself, or from tutorials.
  • Practice discovering and working on real problems using design exercises.
  • Solve complex problems with simple solutions. Think clearly and from the users stand point.

Resources:
Codecademy
Treehouse
Skillshare
AIUX by Matt D. Smith
Sketch App Resources
UI8
Daily UI
Sketch
Figma
Github
Atom

4. Make the work you want to be doing

  • Create your own personal or passion projects to make the work you want to be working on, push the projects as far along as you can, and find others to help you push them even farther. And help them with their projects as well.
  • Just get it built, even if you patch it together yourself.

Resources:
Build It With Me
Spec Network Slack Team (Scroll to bottom for invite request)

5. Don’t settle (for too long)

  • Find somewhere you will be valued, you can learn, and you can contribute to, but get the most out of every opportunity.
  • Work on building up your team, getting them to value design, involving design in decision making, and enabling the team to find alignment.

Resources:
Bridge Program by Designer Fund
Hired
Sumry by Nate Hanson
Design ≠ Craft by Kim Bost

6. Do your research

  • Data driven design is much more powerful and valuable than thought driven design. Know your users, use data research.

Resources:
Jaco
Intercom
User Testing
*Your Customer Support Team

7. Give back, pay it forward

  • Encourage others in their strengths, and mentor others as you feel comfortable and ready.
  • Give your project files away to help others learn a new workflow or skill, when you feel you can do so .

Resources:
*Everywhere listed above is a place for you to contribute to.

Conclusion

People don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves. And people deserve to be the best versions of themselves, compared to nobody. As designers, it’s our responsibility to create experiences that help people improve their lives and feel like the best versions of themselves.

Now go out and make something! 😃


If you would like to talk to me about anything I’ve listed here or my personal experiences with these lessons, tweet me @dmtors . Don’t be shy.