What’s in the product designer’s skillset?

4 min read
Shayna Hodkin
  •  Jun 27, 2019
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Design is everywhere, and everything is designed. Thus, the job title of “designer” encompasses hundreds of industries, job titles, and career paths.

Getting a sense of what is a fair salary or what is the best next step for your career can be hard to grasp. That’s why we’re pleased to reveal the findings of our first-ever InVision Hiring Survey where we gather results from 1,635 hiring managers and product designers in 7 countries to produce a snapshot of the industry for both hiring and those getting hired.

The Hiring Survey is the first of its kind, going deep into the field of product design: who’s hiring, what are they hiring for, what do designers want, and what the future of being a product designer looks like.

The results are in, and there are a few surprises. Read on for what we learned about:

  • The value of non-design skills
  • The soft skills hiring managers
  • The ultimate product design toolbox

A diverse background leads to strong future career growth

Design has a measurable impact on organizational success, from individual products to overall bottom-line $$ cha-ching. To make the best use of their newly-found seat at the table, the most-desired designers are the ones who know how to take their work and best apply it to other facets of their business.

When product designers were surveyed about their pre-design backgrounds, these are the non-design skills they had in their toolkit:

The report makes this clear, stating:

“Today, a designer’s role is much more than pushing pixels on the screen. At the most mature and successful companies, design is considered core to the business strategy and design leaders have a ‘seat at the table’ with other key stakeholders. Having a diverse professional background will help designers fulfill their evolving responsibilities, and is considered a strong indicator of future career growth and success.”

What this boils down to is 100% of people managers surveyed agreeing that “the best way for product designer candidates to set themselves apart is by having a diverse skill set.” 

Coding gets you hired (but not necessarily paid)

Design and development have a symbiotic relationship: without harmony, there are no results. As design becomes further integrated into business goals and product roadmaps, the role of the individual designer is expanding—and now, designers are expected to bring some of that code to life.

Coding experience has become a critical part of product designers’ and managers’ toolboxes

That doesn’t mean, however, that designers with coding knowledge get “special treatment.” Rather, development experience is becoming the norm, and designers are expected to meet that standard. A close look at salaries proves this point: 

“Our survey revealed that coding experience is attractive to the majority of hiring managers, but does not impact salaries. Eighty percent of people managers reported that they are looking for coding skills in candidates (which 72% of surveyed product designers possess). However, only 13% of people managers are willing to pay significantly more in salary for coding experience.”

As shared in the survey, Aarron Walter, InVision’s VP of Design Education, draws a parallel between design and architecture:

“An architect would understand the properties of concrete, so why wouldn’t a designer understand the properties of code?”

Knowing the impact of their work, designers are expected to understand its follow-through—and what it takes to bring their creations to light. And life.

Hard and soft skills

Coding is good. Marketing is good. But they’re not enough without the soft skills—the ones that make people likable and easy to work with. The most important of those: collaboration.

98% of managers surveyed ranked “collaboration” as a top soft skill, agreeing that “a designer needs to be able to work effectively across teams in order to effectively problem solve.” Collaborative success is part of what defines design-mature organizations, leaders in design-mature companies being 3x more likely than those at less mature organizations to collaborate with engineers and product managers. These same design leaders are four times more likely to collaboratively own and develop products and features—making them four times as likely to have a massive, measurable impact on the products they’re designing.

Beyond the professional implications of soft skills, there’s something that can’t be measured: how pleasant it is to work with you. Emotional intelligence and empathy are third- and fourth-place on this list, with communication right on top, because being collaborative is built on being understanding, open, and sensitive to your teammates’ needs.

The next steps of product design 

As designers’ hard and soft skillsets grow, so too is the role of design in business. The more open we are to collaboration, the more we can add to business strategy and the more impactful we can make our creative work—the more growth we’ll see in the design industry as a whole.

Want to learn more about hiring? Read the hiring survey for yourself.

Collaborate in real time on a digital whiteboard