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What Does a Product Design Engineer Do?

Software Development   -  

April 26, 2024

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Regardless of size, all consumer products you use every day are intellectual ideas of product designers. In this article, you’ll learn about what a product design engineer exactly does and what he/she contributes to product design and development.  

What Is a Product Design Engineer?

A product design engineer is one who builds, tests, and advances product designs for assorted customer products through manufacturing cycles. To support the seamless execution of those jobs, an engineer needs to use lots of technological software and tools like computer-aided design (CAD), Autodesk Product Design Suite, or a 3D printing machine. 

Product designs are handled by either product design engineers or industrial designers. Therefore, the two concepts can be interchangeably used to refer to those involved in the creation and development of products. But the latter can primarily work on physical products, while the former can extend to digital products (e.g. SaaS or interactive products). 

Apart from creativity-related factors, their designs need to comply with the industry norms and specifications of products. Beyond that, their ideas must satisfy the demands of end-users. Thereby, they can either improve products and their usability or work on new projects.

The Role of Product Design Engineers in the Development Process

The involvement of product design engineers is prevailing in five main phases of the development process. Those stages include defining problems, ideating designs, developing prototypes, and developing and testing finished products.

1. Defining problems

Before commencing any product design, product design engineers must diagnose a company’s problems by tracking down product design requirements. In particular, they need to thoroughly analyze a product’s usage, customer segmentation, functionality, and so forth. 

2. Ideating designs

Based on what designers have found out about a company’s existing problems and business objectives, product design engineers will generate ideas for a new or existing product by roughing out concepts, designs, and visual themes. 

What is a Product Design Engineer?

3. Developing prototypes

Prototypes are the early models and samples of a product built to test how a design or concept works. This phase is sometimes called ‘materialization’, taking place between the blueprint and formalization of ideas. With the necessary tools and software, the given hand drawings will be turned into working models.

4. Developing finished products

Once prototypes meet business and design requirements, there will be approval for manufacturing. This time, product design engineers are also held accountable for choosing proper materials and proposing manufacturing requirements for a product. Importantly, the product’s specifications must be aligned with industry standards in terms of safety and functionality. 

Some duties of engineers during this phase entail:

  • Interacting and dealing with raw material suppliers;
  • Proposing manufacturing processes;
  • Developing supply chains;
  • Contacting operation teams;
  • Determining manufacturing costs and even finding ways to mitigate production expenses.

5. Test finished products and give feedback

Shortly after end-user products have been completed, they will be evaluated in terms of safety, functionality, durability, and visual appeal. Essential tests are undertaken to check those metrics and accordingly, product design engineers can make changes if any. Feedback and reviews from end-users are also considered in this final stage.

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How to Become a Product Design Engineer

At Designveloper, we deeply understand the journey towards becoming a skilled product design engineer. Having traversed this path ourselves, we’ve not only honed our expertise but also aided numerous individuals in navigating this transformative journey. Here’s our comprehensive perspective on the process:

1. Crafting Skillsets: Transitioning from Academic Learning to Supplementary Courses

Aspiring product design engineers typically commence their journey with a bachelor’s degree in disciplines such as product design, manufacturing engineering, or mechanical engineering. This foundational education furnishes you with the requisite theoretical knowledge and technical competencies vital for the role.

While pursuing your academic endeavors, we advocate for the cultivation of a robust portfolio. This could encompass diverse endeavors such as academic projects, voluntary engagements, freelance endeavors, or internships. A compelling portfolio serves as a potent tool in securing entry-level positions within the industry.

At Designveloper, we also advocate for the exploration of bootcamps and specialized courses to enrich your design repertoire and nurture relevant proficiencies. A product design engineer necessitates a profound comprehension of the company’s products, customer requisites, and production dynamics. Proficiency in leveraging computer-aided design (CAD) software is indispensable for conceptualizing, scrutinizing, and refining product designs. Your proficiency in areas such as user experience design or manufacturing engineering can significantly enhance your appeal to prospective employers.

2. Optional Pursuit of Industry Certifications

Developing prototypes

While not obligatory, the pursuit of industry certifications can underscore your dedication to the field and showcase mastery of specific competencies. These certifications can confer distinct advantages in terms of career progression and differentiation in the competitive job landscape. Here are some noteworthy certifications:

  • Certified Professional in Product Design (CPPD): Administered by the American Society for Quality (ASQ), CPPD recognizes individuals achieving a high level of expertise in product design.
  • Certified Product Design Engineer (CPDE): Validating technical knowledge, skills, and experience, CPDE certification by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is a mark of excellence in the field of product design.
  • Autodesk Inventor Certified Professional (AICP): For those showcasing expertise in Autodesk Inventor software, AICP certification is a testament to their skills.

3. Gain Practical Experience

In tandem with accumulating 4-6 years of experience, most product design engineer roles necessitate an average of 1-2 years of on-the-job training. Practical exposure is indispensable in fortifying your candidacy for such positions.

Seek out internships, training initiatives, or entry-level roles in cognate domains, even during your academic pursuits. This hands-on immersion not only facilitates the translation of theoretical knowledge into tangible skills but also fosters the cultivation of soft skills such as creativity and adept communication.

4. Apply for Product Design Engineer Positions

Upon attaining the requisite education and experience, you’re primed to embark on your quest for product design engineer roles. Tailoring your resume to accentuate pertinent skills and experiences can significantly bolster your prospects of securing employment.

In essence, the trajectory towards becoming a product design engineer entails the acquisition of a pertinent bachelor’s degree, the cultivation of essential competencies, the accumulation of practical experience, consideration of optional industry certifications, and strategic pursuit of opportunities. At Designveloper, we’re steadfastly committed to offering unwavering support at every juncture of your journey towards becoming a proficient and accomplished product design engineer.

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Responsibilities of Product Design Engineers

To create the best products for clients, a product design engineer has to be liable for multiple tasks and go with a whole development team throughout the development process. Looking through job sites for this position, you can easily figure out which professional responsibilities an engineer must take. Product design engineers can work for their own companies or outside clients in full-time, part-time, or freelance positions: 

  • Draw up design criteria involving concepts, themes, performance, and manufacturing;
  • Propose initial design ideas based on a company or client’s requirements and budgets;
  • Make presentations to clients or senior design managers, even when presenting design proposals or tendering for contracts;
  • Formulate design concepts, detailed sketches, and design specifications (e.g. a list of a product’s parts and costs) using such software as CAD;
  • Build working models or samples manually or with the support of computerized prototyping machines to test design concepts;
  • Search for the raw materials for a product in terms of their availability or appropriation;
  • Research thoroughly on manufacturing processes and industry requirements;
  • Engage in periodical meetings with other engineers and other development teams (e.g. marketing) to discuss suitable manufacturing procedures, expenses, and commercial issues;
  • Inspect a client or company’s manufacturing facilities to assess whether production is feasible and guarantee a seamless process;
  • Track the feedback and reactions of final customers;
  • Carry out managerial duties such as recruiting, training, and administering staff.

So, to successfully develop cost-effective and good-quality designs, product design engineers must grasp end-user demands, a company’s products, market standards, and production costs. 

5 Skills a Product Design Engineer Needs

Responsibilities of Product Design Engineers

To execute their responsibilities, the product design engineer often master a diverse set of skills essential for securing competitive salaries.

1. Technical Skills

At Designveloper, we grasp the paramount significance of technical prowess in the realm of product design engineering. These skills serve as the cornerstone upon which our adept engineers erect groundbreaking solutions to real-world challenges.

Among the myriad technical proficiencies our engineers boast, mastery of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software reigns supreme. This cutting-edge software empowers our team to meticulously craft intricate 3D models, breathing life into conceptualizations. As a premier web and software development entity in Vietnam, we remain at the vanguard of product engineering, attuned to the latest industry trends.

Equally pivotal is our engineers’ profound understanding of materials—a skill honed to perfection. Armed with insights into the properties of diverse materials, they adeptly navigate the terrain of material selection, deftly balancing considerations such as cost, durability, and aesthetic appeal. This nuanced discernment ensures that our products not only fulfill their intended functions but also exude allure while remaining cost-effective.

Prototyping constitutes yet another indispensable facet of our technical repertoire. Here, our engineers deftly navigate the realm of physical or digital modeling, facilitating rigorous testing of product functionality and seamless iteration prior to final production. This meticulous process stands as a testament to our unwavering commitment to delivering products of unrivaled quality and functionality.

Recent data underscores the burgeoning demand for skilled product design engineers, with over 63,787 professionals currently employed in the United States alone. Moreover, the global product engineering services market, valued at USD 1,147.33 billion in 2022, is projected to burgeon to USD 2,405.92 billion by 2030. These statistics underscore the burgeoning significance and demand for adept product design engineers across industries.

2. Problem-Solving Skills

At Designveloper, we ardently uphold the belief that problem-solving skills serve as the bedrock of a flourishing product design engineer. Our engineers routinely confront hurdles that demand ingenious resolutions, be it a design quandary, a material limitation, or a production conundrum. Equipped with a formidable arsenal of skills, our engineers adeptly navigate these challenges, consistently delivering effective solutions.

Central to these competencies are critical thinking and analytical prowess. Our engineers meticulously dissect the issue at hand, discern potential remedies, and meticulously gauge their efficacy. This iterative process hinges on a profound comprehension of design principles, material characteristics, and manufacturing methodologies.

Furthermore, problem-solving at Designveloper transcends mere ideation; it encompasses the seamless implementation and vigilant monitoring of devised solutions. In instances where a solution falls short of expectations, our engineers are primed to pinpoint the underlying causes and adeptly pivot towards alternative remedies.

Recent findings underscore the pivotal role of problem-solving in the dynamic landscape of engineering. Engineers across disciplines are tasked with identifying challenges, anticipating variables, and devising solutions through rigorous design processes. Throughout this journey, the acquisition of accurate and pertinent data emerges as an indispensable asset.

Illustratively, a recent project undertaken by our team involved the conceptualization and realization of a web application. Faced with a quandary concerning the user interface design, our engineers adeptly applied their problem-solving acumen. Through meticulous analysis, they delineated potential solutions, evaluating each for efficacy. Upon implementation of the optimal remedy, diligent monitoring ensued. In instances where the solution proved less than optimal, our engineers swiftly discerned the root causes and seamlessly transitioned towards an alternative course of action.

3. Communication Skills

At Designveloper, we place profound emphasis on the pivotal role of communication skills in nurturing adept product design engineers. These skills serve as the linchpin for fostering seamless collaboration with team members, stakeholders, and clients alike. Through clear and concise communication, we ensure that all involved parties are aligned on design objectives and cognizant of the requisite steps to attain them.

Our product design engineers are adept at elucidating intricate technical concepts in accessible terms, a capability instrumental in facilitating understanding among non-technical stakeholders and team members. This adeptness not only demystifies the design process but also aids in delineating realistic expectations and averting potential misunderstandings.

Furthermore, effective communication at Designveloper encompasses adept listening—an attribute integral to our ethos. Our product design engineers attentively heed client requisites, feedback from team members, and user insights gleaned from prototypes. This holistic comprehension informs nuanced design decisions and catalyzes the creation of resoundingly successful products.

Recent insights underscore the indispensability of communication in the realm of consumer electronics product design. Effective collaboration in electromechanical design hinges on seamless interplay between diverse disciplines, each characterized by unique tools and methodologies. In navigating these intricate dynamics, fostering a harmonious and friction-free collaborative environment emerges as a linchpin for success.

4. Creativity

At Designveloper, we champion the indispensable role of creativity as a cornerstone skill for product design engineers. It serves as the catalyst propelling innovation, culminating in the genesis of distinctive and impactful product designs.

Our engineers aren’t merely adept at conceiving creative ideas; they excel at translating these concepts into pragmatic solutions. Leveraging their inventive prowess, they conceive products that seamlessly fuse innovation with functionality and user-friendliness. By venturing beyond conventional boundaries, they devise ingenious solutions to multifaceted challenges.

Furthermore, creativity assumes a pivotal role in our problem-solving endeavors at Designveloper. It empowers our engineers to approach obstacles from diverse perspectives, often yielding more efficacious resolutions.

Recent report underscore the transformative influence of creativity on the design process and its outcomes. In the absence of creative ingenuity, the potential for innovation diminishes, stifling the realization of novel ideas and their translation into tangible commercial value. Additionally, reports indicate that design-led firms attribute enhanced efficiency in the innovation process to the adoption of design thinking, with a notable 69% perceiving it as a catalyst for streamlined innovation.

5. Project Management Skills

At Designveloper, we underscore the paramount importance of project management skills in the arsenal of a product design engineer. Our engineers assume stewardship over the entire product lifecycle, from inception to fruition, orchestrating a symphony of tasks that encompass planning, resource allocation, deadline setting, and progress monitoring.

Engineers equipped with robust project management acumen serve as linchpins in ensuring project adherence to timelines and objectives. Their proactive stance enables them to anticipate potential hurdles and devise preemptive strategies, thereby forestalling delays and preserving project integrity within budgetary confines.

Furthermore, project management prowess at Designveloper extends beyond individual efficacy to encompass seamless team coordination. Our product design engineers collaborate harmoniously with multifarious teams—ranging from design to production and marketing—ensuring alignment of efforts towards a common objective.

A paper recently shows the importance of the substantial investment—up to 20% of the overall project budget—required for proficient project management. However, the cost of overlooking or underestimating the importance of sound project management can be far more detrimental. Recognizing this, we’ve curated essential project management statistics to elucidate the performance metrics, illuminate the pitfalls of project failure, underscore critical success factors, and furnish a comprehensive understanding of project management dynamics.

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Typical Work Day for Product Design Engineers

No engineers must perform all of such responsibilities within a day because those jobs are spread out over the development cycle of a product, even when it’s released to the public for use. Therefore, no working days of a product design engineer are identical. 

Typical Work Day for Product Design Engineers

Depending on workspaces and projects, an engineer’s daily work can vary. Inevitably, a successful product is not only dependent on a single engineer, but rather the effective cooperation of multidisciplinary employees. Therefore, most of a design engineer’s jobs are associated with meetings. 

Right at the beginning of the development process, product design engineers have to come up with new ideas based on a client’s or company’s demands. It requires them to conduct end-user research to detect current industry trends and the outstanding features of a competitor’s products. However, to ensure such ideas are in alignment with market requirements, research feedback sessions are held. 

Other meetings such as product working sessions or design working sessions regularly take place to discuss essential questions, problems, priorities, and scenarios. In those meetings, a design engineer may work with other product designers, other departments, and even external companies. Accordingly, meeting agendas often entail:

  • Working on visions;
  • Building up strategies;
  • Receiving feedback on the implementation of a design;
  • Compare designs with product requirements;
  • Implement Q&A work to track the progress and more. 

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A Product Designer’s Creative Process

Product design engineers play a pivotal role in innovation, with 82% of respondents in Forrester Consulting emphasizing that creative companies gain more business advantages. The creative process in engineering design follows five crucial steps, beginning with preparation and ending in implementation.

The Creative Process
  • Preparation: In this stage, product design engineers can collect information, undertake research, use their past experience, and more to prepare for the generation of ideas. 
  • Incubation: This phase involves carefully using gathered materials, examining concepts in different aspects, and experimenting with how they suit together. 
  • Illumination: In this insight stage, all concepts will be pieced together to build up an idea.
  • Evaluation: Coming to this step, product design engineers will reassess how the idea is feasible and outperform other alternative solutions. Some professionals may conduct market research to test the idea’s validity.
  • Implementation: Once the design has been finalized, it’s time for engineers and other departments to start the design process and bring the idea to life. 
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Product design engineering is a combination of creative and technical features. No matter how this job has evolved, it’s still an integral part of the development process of products. If you plan to pursue this job in the future, you should understand what a product design engineer does and which essential skills you need in this career path. 

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