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Defining Digital Product Design

Jul 22, 2016 / By Philip Lester

Here at Dreamten, we design apps, websites, and anything that can be interacted with on a screen.

These are the deliverables we provide for our clients, but we’re often brought into higher level discussions to talk through strategy, such as how to: improve customer experience, price/position products, and acquire new customers. In essence, we’re helping our clients build their businesses. Digital product design is the means by which we do this.

But for the past decade I’ve struggled to explain to people outside my industry what we do.

My Grandmother recently celebrated her 95th birthday. She’s always been interested in my life and curious to understand what I do for a living. She’s never used the Internet and only recently ditched her land line for a cellular flip phone.

I’ve tried again and again to explain to her what my company does. By the looks on her face, I can tell she still doesn’t quite get it.

Our company’s design philosophy involves taking complex business problems and solving them using simple interfaces that require zero training. We’ve gotten great at this over the years, but it’s frustrating that I haven’t been able to apply this same philosophy to conversations with my Grandma.

How do you explain digital product design to someone outside the industry — someone who may have no experience with computers, iPhones, or the Internet?

Explaining Product Design Web Design What I imagine people think we create when they hear the term “web design”

So I began A/B testing terms in conversations to gauge which resulted in the least amount of blank stares. Some of these included:

  • UX/UI Design Studio
  • Interaction Design Studio
  • Design Studio

All of these fell short. They were either too ambiguous or not all encompassing enough.

A few years ago the term “product design” started trending. Businesses sell products, so we design the things that build businesses. As soon as I saw it, I realized this was the term I’d been searching for.

Product Design On Designer News Product design is hot

Except the term is still ambiguous.

I needed a simple and concise way to define digital product design. Something that both my 95 year old Grandma and 9 year old can comprehend.

Something people with no familiarity in the industry understand immediately.

This is what I now tell people…

“We design things for screens that help people build their business.”

This explanation is simple and gets the point across. It still begs the question — what does a digital product designer actually do?

To provide clarity for myself (and hopefully others), here’s the specific skills we look for when hiring digital product designers:

Essential Skills

Below are the essential skills that make a great digital product designer along with the best articles I’ve found on them:

Written Communication

Verbal Communication

UI/UX & Interface Design



Nice-to-Have Skills

These skills are far too broad to be explained in a few articles, but they’re skills we value when considering hiring a digital product designer.

  • An Understanding of Business & Strategy
  • Branding & Identity
  • Development
  • Animation
  • Illustration

To the digital product designers out there — I hope this article helps you better explain to your grandparents what you do for a living.