Today, we all use our smartphones to send and receive messages, stay in touch with connections, browse the internet, entertain ourselves, take pictures, navigate around town — the possibilities are seemingly endless! But how did we get here? It’s not like a group of smart folks just sat in a room and thought “let’s give our mobile phones computing functionality,” right?
Before smartphone technology became ubiquitous — and before any cutting-edge device and innovative gadget can begin solving user challenges in the real world — those products had to be researched, designed and developed. But who thinks these products up, helping determine how the end product looks and works, how it feels in our hand, and how users connect with it on an emotional level? Enter product design engineers.
Despite product designs being everywhere around us, the concept of “product design” is unfortunately enigmatic to entirely too many people who do not operate in the world of technology. Consequently, there is a multitude of questions about what a product design engineer actually does. We’ll try to answer some of those questions in this blog post.
What is a Product Design Engineer?
A position whose skills and expertise are in demand at organizations across all industries, product design engineers combine creativity and engineering to conceptualize, develop and launch the cutting-edge products of tomorrow.
Product design engineers have a broad range of daily responsibilities in their roles. Those tasks typically include:
- Researching market opportunities for new products.
- Defining the product’s specific requirements.
- Strategizing and planning to determine costs and the most effective means of production.
- Creating designs, concepts and architectures for new products.
- Developing the hardware and software elements.
- Incorporating security, connectivity and third-party integrations.
- Evaluating the look, performance, functionality, robustness and safety of the product.
- Implementing feedback to increase performance and functionality.
- Making any necessary revisions.
- Engineering the end product.
What Skills Does a Product Design Engineer Need to Succeed?
Now that you know what a product design engineer does on a day-to-day basis, you might be asking, “what skills does a product design engineer need to succeed in this important role?” From experience in product design, imagination and creative talent to an understanding of how to utilize design tools, knowledge of modeling software and proficiency with different design programs, product design requires engineers to be resourceful, inventive, creative and meticulous to build products that act as solutions solving a user’s experience problems.
These engineers often work as part of a larger development team, and in this role, engineers often collaborate both internally and externally across each stage of the design and development process. But how do these folks actually help in the development of products?
How Do Product Design Engineers Help in the Development of Your Product?
Product design engineers are involved in every step of the product development process, from ideation to definition to development and integration all the way through launch. When designing products, these engineers must create designs that both comply with product specifications, local rules and regulations, and established industry standards as well as the customer’s unique needs.
In today’s time-sensitive world of business, product design engineers can help reduce time to market, which provides a significant advantage. Whether utilizing the Agile methodology to break a project into several phases, fast-tracking, “crashing” or working in parallel separately toward the end goal, product design engineers also excel at managing a project’s activity to quickly launch the product. They have the technical know-how to address time, budget and specification concerns, and they can determine which tasks can be started early, combined or compressed to reduce development time.
During the first step of the product design process, engineers typically look into who their users are and what problems they’re encountering to understand their motivations and challenges and how a new product can help. Involving engineers early on in the product development process can help ensure companies can extract as much value from the product as possible. With 80% of costs determined during the design phase, costs associated with design changes are significantly less prohibitive than when modifications need to be made during later stages. Additionally, early involvement of experienced engineers can reduce development risks since those builders can both leverage different expertise and apply tested solutions from other industries.
After understanding their users and the problems those people are facing, engineers start creating sketches, designs and prototypes of the proposed solution. Leveraging those designs, a prototype is built.
From there, the prototyped product is typically tested to ensure there are no bugs, no security vulnerabilities and that the user experience matches both the design principles as well as meets the client’s goals. With feedback from testing, further design decisions are informed and the end product starts being constructed. Following a successful build, the product is launched to market where end users can purchase it to solve their problems and improve their lives.
But the job isn’t done yet. Once the product has been available on the market for a while, product design engineers often work with early adopters, expanding the feature set and adding functionality to ensure an intuitive and frictionless user experience and that the solution is actually solving real-world problems. When the product is mature, they can help further refine the UX and optimize the product.
At their core, product design engineers are just problem-solving builders. These engineers wear several different hats every day and their various skills will be utilized at different times, depending on which stage of the process the project is at. Plus, it’s important to remember that product design is not a linear process — in fact, some might argue it’s a never-ending process — and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for a successful product launch.
If you need assistance engineering the next world-changing product, we’re here to help! Our product design engineering team excels at reducing the risk of outsourcing product development. With more than 800 projects resulting in 200-plus commercialized products under our collective belt, Cardinal Peak has garnered the reputation of a trusted leader in the product engineering space that is ready to deliver innovative solutions that meet the unique needs of our clients.