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):
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.
Gaining some relevant experience alongside your degree is going to be highly desirable and will strengthen your future graduate applications. The experience can not only bring you great rewards, it will give you the competitive edge when applying for future jobs. This is because you may gain an insight into the specific industry and help to develop your technical design and transferable skills.
There will be a range of opportunities to gain experience through an industrial placement, freelance work, design competitions, exhibitions and/or taking part in a specific project. However, finding and securing experience will take time and effort; employers receive many CVs every week, so you will need to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV and application through the information and advice available through our site here.
The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time. Think about small and medium companies, as well as large organisations. Our Engineering and Manufacturing career guide contains links to relevant resources to help you to identify prospective employers.
As part of your degree programme you may have the opportunity to take part in a salaried placement year, either in the UK or overseas to gain proven industrial experience by the time you graduate. This will provide you with an invaluable insight into working life and offer a unique opportunity to apply the industry knowledge you are learning as part of your studies.
Placements will also enable you to gain transferable skills in the workplace, such as communication, teamwork and time management, in addition to finding out more about a specific job role or industry, which will lead to more informed decisions upon graduating. To find out more about the range of different companies and roles students in your area have previously worked with, please find out more here.
To find out more about sourcing and arranging your placement, we would encourage you to get in contact with your placement office directly. Find their contact information here.
An internship is usually a work experience opportunity that is offered for a fixed period or a limited amount of time. Internships tend to be undertaken by students and graduates who are looking to gain more relevant/industry specific skills and experience in their particular field.
These opportunities can be paid for a period of between one to four months and typically take place over the summer, with closing dates generally around January to March, but some can be earlier.
Finding placement and internship opportunities
The websites below provide further information about placement and internship opportunities related to product design:
MyCareer – the Careers and Employability Service's online jobs board can be used to search for internships, work experience and summer opportunities across sectors and locations.
RateMyPlacement – offers information on placements, internships, insights and work experience jobs with a range of relevant companies in the UK.
Gradcracker – as the UK’s careers website for Technology students, Gradcracker provides a search function for placements and internships relevant to your degree discipline.
TARGETjobs – provides a specific section on different career sectors, with the ability to search for placement and internship opportunities relating to design or engineering.
Prospects – has its own search tool for work experience opportunities across sectors, including design and engineering.
Milkround – provides a search tool for internships and industrial placements across sectors.
Getting involved in volunteering gives you the opportunity to develop employability skills and experience a variety of working environments to assist you in discovering the right career path for you. It provides the chance to network, meet new friends and boost your confidence.
Volunteering also enables you to gain practical experience and working examples to support your graduate applications. If you choose to commit a significant amount of time and impress the organisation during your volunteering, they may also provide you with a professional reference.
Volunteer to get practical experience
Approaching local organisations, charities or community groups who would benefit from your skills is one way of gaining that all-important experience. The competencies developed will be invaluable and enhance any speculative applications you make.
The Careers & Employability Service offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank, which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies.
Examples of roles that the Volunteering Team have previously recruited to include:
STEM Ambassador – supporting a local school or community youth group by helping to inspire young people to make the most of their talents and pursue careers in STEM.
Home Safety Advisor with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service – acting as a representative to engage with members of the community, visiting households in pairs to conduct a Home Fire Safety Visit; identifying fire hazards and inspecting/fitting smoke alarms if required. An opportunity to enhance communication and interpersonal skills by engaging with a range of organisations.
Graphic Design Volunteer with the Groundlings Theatre - developing and delivering promotional materials and website content to promote performances and activities for the organisation, offering the opportunity to utilise design and technical skills.
Social Media and Website Management Volunteer with Portsmouth Food Bank – assisting with the development and maintenance of the organisation’s dedicated website and promotion of work through social media channels.
If you have any questions regarding the volunteering opportunities available to you in Portsmouth then please contact the Volunteering Team on email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in establishing yourself as a freelance designer and/or establishing your own business or social enterprise then our Student StartUp team offer a range of support and workshops to assist you in finding out all you need to know about growing your ideas.
Find out more here.
Tips to build experience
Explore the various areas within product design before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you to focus your research and ensure you gain relevant skills. Find out about a range of design careers and opportunities to enhance your career prospects through Creative and Cultural Skills.
Being proactive throughout your course by gaining experience and developing contacts in the industry will be viewed positively. You may consider becoming a member of relevant professional organisations, such as the Chartered Society of Designers to help you to expand your contacts and keep up to date with developments in the industry.
Consider connecting with relevant industry professionals via LinkedIn, which may enable you to make speculative applications to secure relevant experience with a company. Find out more about networking through LinkedIn and social media here.
Explore online learning opportunities to continue to develop your design/technical skills. There are a range of websites that offer free or fee-paying opportunities, including Future Learn, Google Digital Garage or Udacity to name a few!
Speak to your tutor or other members of faculty staff researching/working in areas that interest you, as students may sometimes be recruited to work on projects over the summer period.
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 manufacturing; 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
General job search sites
- CW Jobs - A recruitment website which enables job-seekers to search and apply for jobs throughout the UK and Ireland.
- Gradcracker - A job site dedicated to STEM recruitment, including a range of product design roles.
- graduate-jobs.com - The latest jobs, at all levels, with leading UK employers.
- Milkround - A graduate career resource which provides information on internships, placements, graduate jobs and schemes.
- Prospects - Search for graduate jobs online via the Prospects website.
- TARGETjobs - Information on job vacancies and what industry sectors you can work in.
- Total Jobs - A jobs board which allows you to search for design and manufacturing vacancies by location, job title, skill or company.
- CareersInDesign - A specialist recruiter for interior, product and furniture designers.
- Creativepool - An online networking and job search site for people working within the creative industries.
- Coroflot - A US site for industrial/product design professionals.
- Design Week Jobs - A dedicated website for UK design professionals to keep up to date with current job opportunities, from branding to graphics, furniture to exhibition design. The site covers the entire design industry.
- Dexigner - Contains a list of designers in the UK that you could approach and apply to speculatively.
- DrapersJobs - Discover a range of career opportunities, including design, production, garment technology and product development with some of the biggest names in the fashion industry.
- The Textile Institute - The professional body for people and organisations working in the textile, clothing and footwear associated industries worldwide
- Engineering Jobs - A job site which allows you to search for vacancies via job title and location.
- Just Engineers - Job site for the engineering sector. Vacancies include electrical, mechanical, design, environmental and civil engineering positions.
- New Scientist Jobs - A careers advice and job site for those interested across scientific fields, especially relevant if you are considering a role as a Technologist
- The Engineer - A recruitment site for the design, manufacturing and engineering community
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.
- Make UK - an organisation for manufacturers in the UK; championing work across British industries, including defence, aerospace, space and security sectors.
- Institute of the Motor Trade - Provides careers information and resources for those interested in the motor industry.
- 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