The Various Types of Product Design

Learn about the various types and job descriptions of product designers and the industries they work in.

Product design
November 22, 2021

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Product design is often mistaken for a single discipline and job description. Yet, it is a complex and vast subgenre of design, ranging from UX design to industrial design of physical products. In this article, we’ll cover most of them.

Product designers strive to improve the user experience in the solutions they create for their customers, as well as support their brands by ensuring that their products are lasting and meet long-term business goals.

As professionals working to push innovation and solve common problems for the end-users, they work in many different design jobs dealing with product development.

Here are some of the many industries in which a product designer might find themselves, working to make it possible to create a successful product.

Areas of product design

The term product designer doesn't encompass a single skill set. Rather, there are several key areas in which different types of product designers work in. Here are some of them.

User experience design

In UX, designers will work on creating wireframes, production flow maps, high-fidelity designs and prototypes, depending on the product.

UX design nowadays mostly refers to the designing and development of websites, apps and other digital products. But, UX researchers also test the usability and experience of everyday objects.

high-fidelity ux prototype.png
High-fidelity UX prototype. Credit: Medium

User interface design

Whereas UX involves the experience of using a product, UI refers to the way it looks and it is organized.

Product designers working in UI create an interface that allows the end-user to easily and instinctively navigate through a system, with the help of backgrounds, symbols, movement between screens, color usage, etc.

User interface design is much more than the sum of visual elements that make it. It provides customers with a first impression of your business and later helps to lead them from point A to point B in order to complete their customer journey.

Industrial design

In industrial design, product designers create prototypes of physical products, journey maps of the final users, implement usability testing for their design ideas and work in connection with manufacturing, business development teams and product managers.

They have all the knowledge needed about the materials, supply and transportation, as well as the durability and complexity of the assembly of the final product.

Industrial design prototype of a kids’ bike. Credit: Coroflot
Information architecture

The structural design of shared information environments is known as information architecture or IA. It's the application of the science of arranging and categorizing websites, private networks, internet forums, and software to make them more usable and discoverable.

IA is a field that focuses on applying design, architecture, and information science ideas to the digital world.

It usually entails an information model or notion that is used and applied to activities that necessitate explicit specifics of complicated information systems. Library systems and database creation are examples of these efforts.

The types of product design

The three main types of product design are system, process and interface design. They each have the goal of tackling different problems in the user experience but are equally important when it comes to the final design.

Here are the three types of product design, explained.

System design

The layout of a shop is a simple and popular example of a system design. The product designer of shelves is practically an information architect in a real-life marketplace with hundreds of items.

They will organize the items into logical categories (e.g. confectionery, snacks, cooking supplies, dairy, etc.), then assemble the different categories in a logical order (e.g. multiple types of food on one side, cleaning products on the other side of the store), and ensure that the things that customers should notice are highlighted (sale, new product on promotion, etc.).

The designer considers not just the customer's intuition and convenience of use, but also the market's commercial goals. Customers will go counter-clockwise and notice the heart-shaped chocolate boxes and flowers on the right side of the door, for example, during Valentine's Day.

Process design

In websites, such as e-commerce, process design is critical since it facilitates exploring, selecting, saving, adding to cart, and finally paying for things. But, let's return to a more concrete example: an airport.

Airports have a lot of waiting, zig-zag queues, and chambers that can only be entered and exited by one door, among other things. The reason for this is that there are a number of processes that are critical for safety and efficiency, including check-in, security checks, passport control, customs, and other procedures.

The zig-zag lines and doors that don't open from the inside once you've checked your luggage aren't part of the design. They're there to help passengers fit more people in a line and to keep passengers from adding or purchasing dangerous things after security has inspected everything they own. Airport layouts are complicated and unintuitive for a reason, and that reason is safety.
Interface design

Interface design is focused on the aesthetic experience of the product. It has a human-first approach: before looks and innovation, the interface is a touchpoint between the user and the product and its usability and it serves to solve their real problems. The idea is to guide the user through the product and make them feel like they can use it instinctively.

Let’s say that we are talking about an ATM. Its interface must be clear and guide the person withdrawing money from the machine to do that effortlessly.

By implementing colors, fonts, icons, shapes and different sizes on all elements, they can guide the person into easily understanding how to use the ATM.


Journalist turned content writer. Based in North Macedonia, aiming to be a digital nomad. Always loved to write, and found my perfect job writing about graphic design, art and creativity. A self-proclaimed film connoisseur, cook and nerd in disguise.

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