Ux Design vs Product Design

Paul López
Oct 12, 2023
What about the perfect website?

Thinking about users is not a new concept. Despite the explosion of courses and interest in User Experience (UX) design, I’ve seen many people wrongly assume that it’s the first time in history this approach to product development with a focus on people is being considered. However, this notion is far from accurate.

The history of product design has its roots in the 19th century. The Arts and Crafts movement, gaining momentum in the mid-1800s, aimed to create products that were not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing and accessible. Influential figures like William Morris led this movement, promoting the idea of resisting the industrialization of products that were traditionally crafted by artisans.

In 1919, the Bauhaus emerged as an influential school of design and art in Germany. Throughout its existence until 1933, the Bauhaus sought to professionalize product design and architecture. Figures like Walter Gropius influenced the integration of functionality and aesthetics in every design. In this context, User-Centered Design (UCD) emerged, aiming to consider not only appearance but also usability and the environmental impact of designs.

From then until the 1990s, product design mainly focused on creating physical objects, enhancing their functionality and production efficiency.

However, in the late 1990s, there was a growing demand for designers with the same principles, but with a digital focus. In 1993, cognitive psychologist Don Norman popularized the term “User Experience Design” (UX), paving the way for a new generation of designers centered around creating digital systems.

Today, even though roles have become more blurred and many of us simply refer to ourselves as “Product Designers,” it doesn’t mean that industrial designers have disappeared or that UX designers have gained more importance. Rather, a synergy has formed between the work processes of these two areas, using design as a foundation for creating new industries.

Designing a product goes beyond its form. It involves considering aspects like marketing strategy, target audience, development costs, and technical feasibility.

These concerns apply to both a physical product, such as the iconic “Eames Lounge Chair” designed by Charles and Ray Eames, and a nutrition app like MyFitnessPal. This flexibility has given rise to hybrid roles that operate in two different spheres: physical products and applications and websites.

The point of convergence between UX-UI Design and Industrial Design lies in work processes, user focus, and research methodology. The divide occurs when, as a designer, you must understand your own production process. For example, when designing a chair, you need to comprehend the appropriate wood type, fastening elements, and how the parts will be assembled. On the other hand, in app design, you need to be familiar with design systems, usability patterns, and technical feasibility.

The design universe is broader than UX-UI Design, and industrial designers aren’t the sole creators. Design encompasses everything around us and simplifies our lives in many ways. With technology advancing, industrial design and UX-UI are increasingly converging. For instance, in developing interfaces for cars, the central screen is crucial, but the driver also requires physical controls for various parameters.

This is where collaboration between these roles is essential. This synergy among designers demonstrates that design, in all its facets, continues to drive innovation and continuous improvement.


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