How Could The Product Design Process Reshape the Future of Product Development?

The product design process centers around identifying people’s real problems and then thinking of possible solutions that can be transformed into products.

However, product design is more than a basic definition.

With the ever-changing world of technology, you can bet continuous advancements are being made in the world of product development. From adjustments in the type of design methods being used, education and skill levels of designers, and even how different roles are being filled in the industry.

The future of product development is being reshaped at a rapid pace.

It has never been more important for designers and industry leaders to be ahead of the curve.

Using our insights, and some additional research, we put together an overview of some shifts you should expect to see in the coming years as the product design process continues to change.

A New Collaboration Between Designers and Engineers

The relationship between designers and engineers is changing as rapidly as technology itself. Product design is no longer exclusively an independent role. Instead, each person involved can be expected to have a broader skill-set to support a product’s development.

You are probably already experiencing this in your workplace today. To keep up with innovation, designers and engineers are having to continuously challenge themselves to do better.

In an interview with, James Nichols, Senior Product Designer at Facebook and Principal at Truth About Design, said

“I’m already seeing this happen. Some of the younger designers on my team at Facebook have computer science degrees and write their own classes in Framer. Engineers are setting a higher bar for themselves with regards to designs because they see so many other apps out there.”

Statista estimated mobile apps would make almost 189 billion U.S. revenue by the end of 2020.

That said, we have seen a tremendous amount of growth in the industry this past year, with predictions for the Top 5 Mobile App Trends to Watch Out for in 2020 coming full circle.

Over time mobile apps and websites are expected to be displaced entirely by augmented reality, meaning designers and engineers need to start preparing for this shift now.

Cortney Rowan, Managing Director at Altitude, explained that “products are becoming more complex as they become smart and connected.

Design and engineering teams must think about both the hardware development of the physical product and the software component it will run on.”

With collaboration becoming more important than ever, some companies are opting for a fused team setup that will help speed up the processes of each product design.

Having designers and engineers working together simultaneously allows decision-making to happen faster.

Image source:

Lee Powers, Engineering Services Manager at Altitude, knows the key to achieving this desired level of efficiency is having “a fused team with all members working in parallel, running many sprints–very quick design cycles–to produce something tangible that can be tested.

We learn what we can from each sprint before moving on to the next one.”

Adaptation has always been the key to success for effective product development. By changing the way they work together, designers and engineers will be influential in how the product design process looks in the future.

The Adaptation of Designers as Marketers

Commoditization is everywhere, and with it comes a higher demand for business-savvy product designers.

From accessible free design resources to design systems and even more powerful design tooling, an opportunity is being created for designers to level up their business thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Designers are already well-equipped in the field of design thinking, which is a human-centric creative process to build meaningful and effective solutions for people.

However, that isn’t going to cut it for much longer.

According to Wes O’Haire, Product Designer at Dropbox, product designers in the future will be focusing more on agentive design solutions.

“With the rise of automated technologies (AI/ML/etc.), much of [the] manual input can (and should) be automated. Set it and forget. Products will do things on our behalves, acting as an agent for us. That’s agentive design,” O’Haire says.

The product designers who recognize these shifts in their industry, and begin learning how to develop systems for these new skills will be the most successful down the road.

This evolution in product design is creating a new need for designers to possess a business-growth thinking mindset.

Image source: Smashing Magazine

When thinking about products or features, it’s important designers have an understanding of the business objectives. Designers of the future will need to think like marketers.

Knowing the language of business, especially finance and selling, will go a long way in helping product designers adapt to the continuous technological changes ahead.

Increased Accessibility to Different Skill Sets

As more designers apply a business-thinking mindset to their decision-making process, the line between product designers and product managers begins to blur.

Companies are looking to hire business-savvy designers who are adept at product thinking, data analysis, data science, strategy, and user research.

Marissa Louie, CEO and Chief Designer at Animoodles predicts that “more designers will get MBAs, and more product managers will create higher-fidelity wireframes and mockups thanks to democratized design tools.”

Developing expertise in a variety of design disciplines is becoming increasingly easier with shorter format university courses growing in popularity, in addition to online platforms such as LinkedIn Learning and Skillshare.

A new generation of multidisciplinary designers is entering the industry.

“What the field is witnessing is not that different from what education is facing. How do we best educate people?

Higher learning will see more and more competition from alternative education platforms. Software, small-scale workshops, and niche education are already reducing the appetite for students to pay full tuition for a degree,” according to John Caerta, Associate Professor and Studio, in response to the Design Census 2019 survey.

Education Level for Designers according to the Design Census 2019

Image Source: Design Census 2019

The key to innovation will be increased pollination of design disciplines.

Image Source: Design Census 2019

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are two of the fastest-growing technologies across the design industry.

This software helps reduce the steps it takes to mock up and spec full user experiences, simplifying the entire process for designers.

This in turn allows a customer-centric business approach to be more easily incorporated into the product development strategy.

Increased Need for Ownership Over Design Decisions

Image Source: Design Census 2019

Product design has the power to influence our perception of everything.

You have probably experienced this first hand through the rapid spread of misinformation, especially with widely debated subjects such as the ongoing climate crisis we are facing worldwide.

This is an example of the unintended consequences design and technology can have.

A lack of awareness of design’s impact on the world has become a growing issue within the industry.

While design and responsibility have always been intertwined in one fact or another, we have yet to see it fully put into action.

Randy Hunt, Head of Design at Grab and author of Product Design for the Web, believes “2020 will be a tipping point for designers taking responsibility for their work, [including] the consequences of their design choices on the world at large.”

The idea of ethical product design has gone beyond a basic trend.

Instead, designers and the products they develop are facing increasing pressure from customers to associate themselves with companies whose values prioritize good user experiences.

For example, the company Zone Kaiwei Ni factory released an ad on Snapchat where hair was built into the design. When users go to brush it away, they unintentionally swipe to shop for the products.

Image Source: ActiveCampaign

This is an excellent example of unethical design.

Misleading users, or providing any form of false information is no longer an effective means to connect customers with your products.

As automated technologies continue to advance, and agentive design takes over the design process, users are going to have more control over their experiences.

O’Haire predicts designers of the future will focus on creating products that are mostly automated while giving people the ability to tune and monitor the product.

Technology is going to reshape the design process by forcing a collaboration between product designers and product users.

Hannah Hoffman, an Associate Design Director said in response to the 2019 Design Census, she is “hopeful that we’re moving away from “move fast and break things” as our mantra. And instead, we’re learning to “slow down and ask questions.” Adding, “I see a rising wave of designers who are admitting to the faults designers have, the role we’ve played in a lot of technical problems, and are willing to stand up for what they believe.”

What are the takeaways for the future of product development?

Image Source: Design Census 2019

The role of designers in the product design process is evolving.

As technological advancements become more automated, and skill-sets expand, there will be an increased need for collaboration in the studio.

For future product designers, having the ability to adapt to technological and social changes, will be the most critical skills to have while reshaping the design process.



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