Product design, as a concept, is the creation and development of ideas (through a series of processes) that lead to new products. With this in mind, it can be said that the product design industry is a very broad employment sector and job seekers should look beyond generic job titles and explore key words (such as prototyping, designing, production, manufacturing, engineering) to reveal further or hidden opportunities.
Current research suggests that product/industrial design plays a leading role in 38% of the world's largest organisations and up to 65% of business startups. However the sector is notoriously competitive, and you need to be innovative and have a passion for researching and developing solutions and devices of the future as well as be confident in marketing yourself to succeed in this area of work.
Where do I start?
Within the product design sector you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements, career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Job roles in this sector include (but are not restricted to):
- Advertising art director
- Clothing/textile technologist
- Furniture designer
- Industrial/product designer
- Materials engineer
- Product manager
- Product/process development scientist
- Purchasing manager
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- British Industrial Design Association - A not-for-profit organisation which is committed to improving creative skills and knowledge for professionals and graduates working in product, interaction and service design.
- Creative and Cultural Skills - The industry body which supports skills and training for people and businesses working in the creative industries.
- Design Business Association - A trade association for persons seeking a career or working in the field of design.
- Dezeen - An online resource for the product design industry; providing the latest news and features, and details on new products and forthcoming events.
- Institution of Engineering Designers - A professional engineering institution which represents those working in the fields of Engineering and Technological Product Design.
- Redshift - A site which provides information on news, trends and events of interest in the creative, product design, engineering and manufacturing world.
- TARGETjobs - Provides information and advice for graduate industrial/product designers. Find out what industry sectors you can work in, how much you could earn and how to apply for jobs.
- The Design and Technology Association - A site which provides knowledge and information on living and working in the designed and made world.
- The Guardian UK - An insight into the top design, manufacturing and engineering employers.
Work experience can bring you great rewards and give you the competitive edge when applying for future jobs. This is because it can help you to not only gain an insight into the product design industry but can also help you to improve your skills and learn new ones.
However finding experience will take time and effort; employers receive many CVs every week so you will have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV through the Careers and Employability Service website.
The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time. Think about small and medium size companies as well as large organisations. 'Finding Work Experience in Engineering' contains links to relevant resources to help you. Please be aware that some of the opportunities overseas may well have a cost involved so it is important that details are checked carefully.
It is also worth considering the voluntary sector for work experience; the Careers and Employability Service offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in the Careers and Employability Centre.
If you wish to instigate voluntary work experince during the vacation periods please refer to the 'External sites' on the Voluntary Work Experience section of our website.
Tips to build experience
- Explore the various areas within the product design sector before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain the relevant skills.
- Get involved in relevant university or external groups this is a good way of demonstrating your motivation and interest in this area of work.
- Speak to your tutor or other members of faculty staff researching in the areas that interest you, as students are sometimes recruited to work on research projects over the summer.
- Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
- Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers - see our Networking and Social Media section for further guidance.
Product design portfolio guide
Building a professional portfolio is essential so that you can showcase your work and skills. Use the advice and tips in our product design portfolio guide to choose the type of portfolio that will work for you.
Finding a job
Careers and occupations within the product design sector are numerous and varied. Some areas you could get involved in include: automotive, furniture, ceramic design and/or maunfacturing; creating prototypes, modelling, testing and/or manufacturing products for the industrial and domestic market; or designing interactive facilities and equipment for the public or emergency services - so some thought as to which area(s) you are particularly interested in will help you to target your job search.
Employers who recruit in these areas
- Car manufacturers
- Industrial and domestic manufacturers
- Point-of-sale designers
Useful websites to help you start your job search
- Prospects - Search for graduate jobs online via the Prospects website.
- TARGETjobs - Information on job vacancies and what industry sectors you can work in.
- Gradcracker - A job site dedicated to STEM recruitment.
- Just Engineers - Job site for the engineering sector. Vacancies include electrical, mechanical, design, environmental and civil enginering positions.
- Design Employment - A job site which allows you to search for vacancies via job title and location.
- The Directory of Design Consultants - A comprehensive directoy of design consultants in the UK and overseas.
- Creativepool - An online networking and job search site for people working within the creative industries.
- Mad Jobs - A jobs board which allows you to search for design vacancies by job function, salary, and location.
- The Engineer - A recruitment site for the design, manufacturing and engineering community.
- Engineering Jobs - A job site which allows you to search for vacancies via job title and location.
- Milkround - A graduate career resource which provides information on internships, placements, graduate jobs and schemes.
- Total Jobs - A jobs board which allows you to search for design and manufacturing vacancies by location, job title, skill or company.
- graduate-jobs.com - The latest jobs, at all levels, with leading UK employers.
- CW Jobs - A recruitment website which enables jobseekers to search and apply for jobs throughout the UK and Ireland.
- Coroflot - A US site for industrial/product design professionals.
Tips for finding a job
- Keep up to date with product design news and trends by following the professional bodies on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, this information might help you identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden job market.
- Keep your on line job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same job role.
- If you are keen to focus on a specific area within product design, check out the specialist websites for these areas for current vacancies.
If you need more information why not check out some of the resources below to help you to research a sector in more depth.
- Chartered Society of Designers - A recognised body for the design profession.
- Design Council - An enterprising charity which works to improve people's lives through the use of strategic design.
- Institute of Manufacturing - The Institute of Manufacturing is a professional body for the manufacturing industry.
- EEF - Supports and champions manufacturing and engineering in the UK and Europe.
- Institute of the Motor Trade - Provides careers information and resources for those interested in the motor industry.
- Design Directory - An online directory which provides detailed information on a range of design consultants.
- The Design Trust - An online business school for designers and makers.
- Michael Page - Online recruitment site providing product design related vacancies for professionals in sectors from fashion to technology.
- Create Select - A contract and permanent recruitment agency which works across the creative sectors.
- Adrem - A recruitment consultancy with specialism in recruiting staff within design, product design, graphics and engineering.
- Manufacturing Recruitment - A company which specialises in design, manufacturing, engineering and technical recruitment.
- Careers in Design Recruitment Ltd - A recruitment consultancy that provides the Interior, Product and Furniture Design Industries with a specialist recruitment service.
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
- Job search
We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.
You can also access our services by calling or emailing us:
Email us: email@example.com
Phone us: +44 (0)2392 842684
Office hours: Monday – Thursday, 8.30am – 5.00pm; Friday, 8.30am – 4.00pm