Product Design, From A Product Design Student

A product solves a problem. A good product solves a problem and looks good while doing it. A great product does all of that and is easy for the user to learn and use.

Product Design was attractive to me because it felt like the thing I was always looking for but didn’t know existed. Numerous times I’d be using an app or a website, and think, there’s gotta be a way to improve this. But I didn’t really understand that it was someone’s job, I knew there were people that built it, that coded it, but I didn’t have the vocabulary yet, to know there were designers behind it. Entire careers dedicated to making the apps and websites, and products, I was using every day. I tried coding and quickly realized as the lines of numbers and letters, mushed into a blur, that that was definitely not for me. Then I found UX/UI/Product Design and finally felt like something clicked. That the pieces in my brain started to move as one, the logical part, moving alongside the creative part, at last.

There are so many digital products in my life, that I couldn’t imagine not using. I live far away from home, from where I was born and where my family still is. So many apps and websites have made that easier, Facetime, Instagram, WhatsApp. All of these solved a problem for me, they solved a physical problem; distance, but they solved an emotional problem as well; homesickness. I think that’s the secret to the success of the best product designs, while they are technically solving problems, they also get to the root of why anyone does anything, they get to your feelings. Whether it’s Instagram getting to your desire to feel included, to feel desirable, to feel cool. Or Zoom, for example, virtually unheard of in the last few years, and now universally known, even becoming both a noun and a verb. Zoom solved the problem for schools or businesses, the show had to go on, and with Zoom, we were able to teach kids again, or have those important meetings. But Zoom also connected everyone in a time, where everyone felt or rather was, isolated. Zoom is an otherwise unremarkable product, not dissimilar to its predecessors in any discernible way, but it came around in a time, where emotionally we needed it.

I think like most people, I like to think I’m not addicted to my phone, that if I had to live without it, I’d do fine. But the reality is when that unasked for screen time report comes up, I realize that my phone is and forever will be a part of my daily life. I find the most addicting one for me personally, to be Twitter. Throughout the last four hellish years in America, there was a real sense of needing to be completely informed at all times, and Twitter allowed that. It’s simple, people type limited words on a screen, and you read them, occasionally there’s images or a gif, but it’s rather simple overall. Regardless or maybe in thanks to its simplicity, it’s easy to get sucked in, a constant refreshment of news, and funny tidbits, after all they’re so small, a couple more scrolls can’t hurt. Cut to 40 minutes later, and you haven’t looked up once, but by god, you know what people are talking about when they reference “bean dad.” Again Twitter as a product feeds into the emotional need to feel a part of something, to feel included, and to also feel unique and special, and I think that’s what makes it so dangerous.