Marketing Design vs. Product Design
Product design is simply one area of marketing design. Learn what each entails.
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Learn how marketing and product design differ and what each of these design areas entails.
If you’re looking to hire a marketing designer for your business, they should also be able to help you with designing a product, whether physical or digital such as an app.
Since marketing design is a vast field, it also encompasses product design. That said, remember that product development (the process of creating a digital or physical product) involves several teams and stakeholders such as development, engineering, sales, design and marketing teams.
Here’s a quick rundown of what marketing and product design are.
Simply put, marketing design is the creation of visual assets for the purpose of branding, promoting and selling products and services.
Simple enough, right? However, marketing design encompasses an array of different types of design, making it a very vast and complex field to master.
These are some of the projects that fall into this category.
In order to promote a brand, it first has to come into existence. Design plays a critical role in the creation of any brand, as its visual identity comprises an essential part of the brand identity. Branding design includes the creation of elements such as logo, color palette, fonts and symbols to be used in all marketing efforts.
It also includes tasks like creating product packaging, which comes with its own set of requirements, since packaging designers need to take into account things like cost of production, durability and materials used (e.g. are they recyclable or not).
Although they might not be as popular these days across all industries, print collateral such as brochures, flyers and catalogs are still very important for certain types of businesses.
Designing for print requires a whole different set of specifications, which a marketing designer needs to know.
Digital marketing design
This vast field of marketing design covers several different areas including content marketing, social media, email marketing and display ad design. As you might suspect, since so many different types of formats are needed (from video ads to simple lead generation forms), a marketing designer needs a vast skill set in order to design for different digital channels.
Since a website is often the first place people learn about a company, it’s one of the most important marketing channels a business can use. Web design includes two distinct disciplines: user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design. UX/UI designers are often the same person working on different aspects of a successful website: how it looks (is it eye-catching, appealing, modern) and how it works (does it allow people to find the required information easily)
What is product design?
As previously mentioned, product design is a part of marketing design. It entails the creation of different types of products: from apps to physical products like cutlery or doors. Problem-solving is at the core of product design since products are created to meet a specific need of their users.
There are 3 main types of product design:
- System design: thinking up a way how information is organized to guide users through a specific process; for example how products are organized in a grocery store.
- Process design: thinking up a way something works, for example, the checkout procedures at the store
- Interface design: designing the look of products that also assist users in achieving the end goal; for example, the interface of the cash registers.
When it comes to product development, and especially of digital products such as web and mobile apps, a whole product team is required, from UI designers to web developers, in order to help the product come to life.
Here are the steps in product design.
Sometimes this stage is also called “empathizing” since it involves identifying and understanding a real-life problem that you want to solve. At this point, you should try to generate as many ideas as possible, as the final concept is often a hybrid of several different ideas.
Defining the product
After you sift through all the ideas, you should choose the idea that seems most viable (and the marketing team plays an important part here) in terms of marketability and the complexity of the development process, as well as which one seems most effective in solving the problem you’ve identified.
As was mentioned, product development is a long, complex and expensive process. So, it’s quite important that you do thorough research before starting the product design itself.
Initial user research will help you identify your target audience and confirm if they have an interest in your products/solutions to their problem. It’s also a critical moment to conduct market research and check if a very similar product already exists. This doesn’t have to mean that there is no market value for your product, but simply that you might want to identify the other product’s weaknesses or tweak your approach slightly to offer more value or something slightly different.
This step isn’t applicable to all products, but in the creation of digital products, it's a necessary and critically important step. No matter how effective your product is in actually solving a user’s problem if they can’t figure out how to use it the product will fail.
That’s where information architecture comes into play. Before you can design the look of your product, you need to be clear about what sort of information is needed and how you can group it for the best possible user experience. This will often involve creating processes for product onboarding or getting users acquainted with the product.
In web design, this is called wireframing, but any type of product design needs an initial rough draft. This is the step where designers work on developing a concept into a more tangible idea. It helps to spot any obvious flaws or inconsistencies with the basic concept of a product.
Wireframing is different from industrial product design as it often includes a roadmap for different users and how they are going to use the product.
Perhaps the single most important step in the product design process is the prototyping phase. Creating a prototype means creating the actual product with all or at least all the key features, but without a polished appearance.
It’s your chance to test whether the product you’ve devised “on paper” actually works. It’s also an opportunity to spot any critical flaws in the design and usability. Prototypes vary in complexity. A prototype for some products can even be done on paper, while others might need a much more complex design.
Creating samples and testing
After the rough draft, it’s time to create some high-fidelity mockups that are as close as possible to the final result. This limited number of products is used in testing to ensure that the product is indeed working properly, or eliminate any unforeseen problems.
Getting products on the market, launching marketing campaigns and establishing a system of distribution and sales is very complex and expensive. And if you happen to do all of that with a faulty product, you’ll end up losing a lot of time and money.
Creating a “teaser” campaign is a good idea to help your product gain some traction even before it officially hits the market. Use your social media and paid digital ads to inform people of your new product, as well as email campaigns to let existing customers or leads know what you’re up to.
Stats suggest that almost everyone (96%) prefers to watch a video to learn about a product or service, so investing a little time and effort into making a video explainer for a product can be really helpful. Especially with digital products of course, since this can ensure a positive user experience.
Should you hire a product or marketing designer?
Like we said at the beginning, a marketing designer is usually also a product designer. However, bear in mind that marketing materials such as ads and social media posts usually need to be created on a regular basis, which means that your designer will have a limited time to work on complex and time-consuming product design tasks.
If you want an inexpensive boost to your own existing design team, or wish to have all your designs created in one place, be sure to check out our service!
Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.