Product Designer | What I do & how much I make | Part 1 | Khan Academy

Product Designer | What I do & how much I make | Part 1 | Khan Academy


I’m Donna Chan, I’m a product designer and researcher and I make 90k a year. I previously was at App Direct a few months ago and now I’m about to start a new job in three days. As a product designer and researcher, my job is to solve problems in the digital space. How can we create an experience on web or mobile that helps everyday people, enable them to do something? Where I’m going is One Degree, very excited about it because it’s using design and technology to help fight poverty and the way that One Degree is doing that is by connecting low-income families with the social services that they need. Today, the social services process is very analog, people open up binders to find services for people. You have to call, you have to take work off in order to walk into an office. But in today’s day and age, where almost everything is online, it’s sort of crazy to think that this stuff isn’t already digitized and readily available in your phone for these families. My role at One Degree is essentially everything from research all the way through design and testing of our product. Our product is this sort of Yelp for social services and my role within that is going to be not only actually talking to the people who use the platform to understand what do you need, what do you need from this platform, and then once I hear those insights, turning those into designs and testing out with the same users that use our platform and just making sure that as a whole, our product works well for the people that we want to serve. My most frequent tasks are going to be from the research perspective, making sure that I am talking to users and I’m getting feedback from users. From the design perspective, I’m actually creating designs, I’m creating wire frames and mock-ups and what new features could look like or what something could look like on the mobile phone. My salary is 90,000 as a product designer and researcher. It’s pretty reasonable for someone who’s starting out in product design and the range can really vary. In San Francisco, I would say a range is probably from 75,000 to the sky is the limit. Probably as a senior product designer, you make closer to 200,000, at director level you definitely make 200,000 or more. With increased managerial experience you obviously earn more. I would say that for a product designer and researcher, for me, the key traits that really embody what makes a great designer and researcher are listening and empathy. Listening means that you’re really taking the time to first understand a user or someone that you’re collaborating with and understanding what it is that they need, understand their perspectives. The second, which goes hand in hand with, is empathy. Actually feeling what they feel, embodying that so that when you’re designing something, you know what potential pain points there are, what things to look out for. Empathy also helps with collaborating, because as a designer I’m working with so many different people, so many different types of people, product managers, engineers, marketing, et cetera. For me to collaborate successfully to create a product it takes a whole village of different people, so for that to really work well you have to empathize with your teammates and you have to understand where they’re coming from so that you can come to agreement and move forward. The other piece that I think is also really important for a designer is always wanting to learn, learning a lot of different things, and not just in design or research or technology but going beyond that. I think some of the most brilliant designers, they’re constantly curious about everything. Things in the art world, things in the history, things in anthropology, plants, I love plants, and that’s really inspired some of the ways that I design because the more you know and the more you think about how other things work or how other fields solve problems, it just enriches your own creativity and how you approach things.


13 thoughts on “Product Designer | What I do & how much I make | Part 1 | Khan Academy

  1. I am studying a relatively "new" kind of Master's programme Bio-Inspired Innovation and I was really happy to find this video, because it is helping convince me to take the Biologist at the design table route. I am currently in a product development project now myself and I have to say that I've ended up with the financial analysis and I am frustrated out of my mind. Almost to the point where I've been questioning if this is what I really want.

  2. This job title is synonymous to Business analyst and systems architect. A lot of cross functional roles and responsibilities

  3. Most young designers get empathy all wrong. They focus too much on who they "think" the user is and what they "believe" they would want. To be truly empathetic you have to literally put yourself in the position of the user.

    If you're designing an app for someone to check-in at the airport then get your ass to the airport and start experimenting… don't just assume you know everything because you've been to the airport before.

  4. Really annoyed that today's product design is nearly a synonym of UIUX. Mobile and phone based UI design is actually highly limited and repetitive. The power of Industrial Design is seriously overlooked in the industry today.

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