If you’re a Product Designer like me, I reckon you’ve spent at least a good part of your life trying to explain to your parents and friends exactly what it is that you do. Just answering “I’m a Product Designer” is not enough and it actually raises more questions than it answers.
To make things even more complicated, there’s a widespread misconception that design is all about aesthetics. Most people don’t seem to understand that it’s about solving problems instead. Unlike art, aesthetic in design does not play the lead role, but supports the main purpose-functionality.
It also became pretty apparent to me that it’s not that easy to describe what we do to people who aren’t familiar with it, not even if you quote Steve Jobs.
Finding the perfect answer
During a long-haul flight, I had the chance to watch The Founder , a movie about the origins of McDonald’s, and one scene in particular stood out to me as I think it portrays the essence of Product Design and perfectly explains what I wasn’t able to convey.
In this scene, we can see the two McDonald brothers turning a tennis court into a prototype for a restaurant by simply drawing the kitchen plan with a piece of chalk.
The chalk outline was the initial mockup and they then tested it with their employees for a quick validation. They did this in order to see which set-up and workflow would work best before investing into any equipment.
Every time something went wrong, they iterated the structure over and over again until they figured out the most efficient process, thus finding the perfect design solution.
By doing that, the McDonald brothers operated exactly as Product Designers: they started by defining the problem, produced some low-fidelity mock ups, prototyped and validated their approach through user testing and ultimately crafted the best possible solution for the problem at hand.
What is Product Design then?
Product Design is exactly what you see in that scene from the movie.
It’s about the entire process of creating usable products and experiences, starting by defining real people’s problems and thinking about possible solutions. That will eventually lead to the best design.