How to become a grocery from a “regular designer”


My name is Alexey Svirido, I am a digital product designer at Alfa Bank. Today I want to talk about how to become a grocery from a “regular designer”. Under the cut you will find answers to the following questions:

Together with you, we will draw a map of competencies to understand which of your skills are worth pumping, and in which you are already strong enough.

Competency Map Example

A bonus will be the recommendation of books and articles on the topic that will help you pump.

As I mentioned, I work at Alfa-Bank and here I am engaged in the design of digital products for business, that is, for legal entities. Before that, I had various freelance projects with customers around the world. And I began my journey with graphic design at Gazprom Media Holding, in the radio station division. There I was engaged in outdoor advertising, printing, banner design, souvenir products, creating branding, identity, etc. I independently went from graphic design to grocery design, and today I will be happy to share with you what I learned during this transition.

Who is a product designer and what does he do?

Product designer - who is it? Anyone who designs milk, bread, cookies? Or the one who creates furniture and home decoration? Or Johnny Ive, who left Apple and created the beloved by many gadgets and devices?

About 7 years ago, grocery designers called the guys who create some kind of material things, objects, furniture, shapes. Today, this definition was selected from the founders, in my opinion, completely and irrevocably.

Modern product design is a story about digital, about sites and applications, about a digital product.

So, a product designer is a designer who not only draws the visual part of a project, but also thinks about how this project will work and interact with users. That is, in the product you can’t just draw something beautifully. This should work beautifully and solve certain problems, covering the needs of the user, business, and better both of them.

And this is one of the main challenges of product design: how to make a user-friendly interface, beautiful from the visual side, and bringing business money.

Product designer affects:

In total, let's fix that product design is not just about beautiful interfaces. These are beautiful interfaces that work and solve user tasks.

Do I really need this? And who exactly is not suitable?

In order to understand why you need to become product designers, let's look at why this profession is so popular today. Product designers are searched everywhere, and more and more companies. Despite the crowded market, companies continue to search for product designers.

This is due to the business awareness that design really affects the product. With a design, you can simply lift a product from your knees that no one uses and that does not cover its costs. And modern companies are very actively investing in design, trying to find those who draw the interfaces that bring them millions.

How to understand what I need to develop into a product? Graphic design is a very interesting and creative field. You can solve various problems with the help of many tools, experiment, create something new. But the lifespan of graphic design projects is quite small, and the sphere of influence of the solution on the end user is not always large-scale. Of course, there are very large projects that change worlds, but most often they will have to be content with less.

When you should think about moving to product design:

  1. When you understand that you want to influence more processes than just draw beautiful pictures.
  2. When logic and discretion prevail in your design.
  3. When you want to work not only with your hands, but also with your head, thinking about all stages of the life cycle of your product.
  4. When you think you're tired of graphic design and want to switch to something new.
  5. When technology and IT arouses more interest in you than printing and outdoor advertising.

But to whom the product design is not very suitable:

  1. Creative people, artists who do art and do it well. You will be uncomfortable in the product. But, nevertheless, you can always try.
  2. People who consider beautiful pictures to be the only design product. Not sure if there are any. Design in any direction has long been the first to solve problems, and then it bears beauty.
  3. Individuals who do not know how to work in a team. Everything is clear here. Work on a product is always a team work, and if you do not have this skill, it is better to develop it, if you certainly want to engage in product design.

What current skills are especially important and what to pump?

Now let's move away from the conversation and draw up your competency map. A competency map helps you clearly understand what you are good at and what you need to pump. Often competency cards are used in product teams to understand a designer’s growth points. We will draw up your personal cards. First, let's see what they can be.

Examples of competency cards:

And now let's create with you a quick map of competencies in any tool. First, let's create the axes and start sketching out the competencies that you now have as graphic designers. These can be not only basic characteristics, but also something more complicated, for example, knowledge of 3D or motion design. By the way, the competency map can be expanded and include your other skills, such as knowledge of html and css, knowledge of some programming language.

Now let's think about what skills a product designer should have. You can add in the comments.

Each of the skills can be rated on a 10-point scale. There are different assessment options, we will try to evaluate the skills ourselves. In order to make this data more relevant, you can ask to evaluate your skills of other designers with whom you are communicating, or a manager who works with you.

Now that we have a competency map, let's note which of your current skills are especially important and will help you a lot in product design.

So, it is very important to understand:

In other words, without the basic principles and skills in graphic design, the product will be difficult, and you can make many ridiculous mistakes.

And now to what needs to be pumped in order to work with the product:

This is just a basic set, which is necessary in order to start creating not only beautiful, but also useful interfaces that will solve real problems. There may be more skills on your competency map, but it’s still very useful to set priority so that you can only pump the most necessary skills first, and then improve the rest.

How can I be pumped?

It is very important to be honest with yourself and put a real rating on the competency map without overestimating it (for this I advise you to involve fellow designers or managers). Only in this way you can highlight those skills that really need pumping. But it’s also important not to run those skills in which you are already strong enough.

Let's talk about how to pump down subsidence skills and what to do for this:

  1. Analyze all the interfaces you see. Starting from everyday applications for transport and navigation that you use, ending with applications that you rarely open. It would be nice to think about why you rarely open this or that application, and what can be done to make it happen more often. It is also worth discussing on the topic of what is convenient in a particular application, and what is not very. And what would you change?
  2. Constantly pump over the watched. Thanks to this, you can generate more decisions, you will have more patterns in your head. It is worth pumping daily, and there are a lot of ways of pumping: you can watch interest, create boards with your favorite ideas. The same dribble is good for developing visibility. Although, it is worth noting that the dribble is more of a visual story, about how the interface looks, and not about how it works. But there you can also find interesting UX solutions.
  3. To upgrade UI skills, you can start by copying the interfaces. For example, you can take the same facebook and just redraw several screens. But do not redraw them thoughtlessly, but delve into and analyze why this or that element is located in a particular place.
  4. If you understand that copying is boring to you, start redesigning the interfaces, think about how you can improve this or that feature, maybe it is worth swapping elements, or writing different text, or even repainting everything - and embody it. Always try to answer the question: why? Why the button is here, why such a color, why this is how the interaction happens, why the interface works like that, etc. Try to fall as deep as possible with your “why”.
  5. And the last piece of advice is ongoing practice. Without this, the skills will fade, and those who decide to switch to a product do not need it at all. Practice, try, create your own interfaces. For those who feel confident enough, I can recommend Challenge 100 days of UI. Having started this challenge, you will receive daily the topic of the day for mail, for which you need to draw an interface. For example, “Sending a letter, or“ Shopping basket “, or even“ Calculator “. Thanks to this, you will be able to pump in the UI, and if you logically think when working on the challenge, you can also pump the UX.
  6. Read a lot. Read articles, books, study user cases. Behance can help here, on which designers often describe their decisions, and why they came to one or another conclusion. This will help to pump logical thinking and build causal relationships in your interfaces.

Now let's look at the most common mistakes newbies make:

  1. Irregularity Viewing and parsing interface patterns once a week is not enough. This must be done every day.
  2. Copying bad interfaces. It should be noted here that you should not copy everything in a row. Very often in the stores you can find weak and ill-conceived applications. Copying such will lead to the fact that you will not pump skills, but vice versa.
  3. Ignoring tips for pumping. The best effect will be only if you do everything together.

How to create your first product portfolio

It is not just difficult, but practically impossible, for a designer without a portfolio to find work. But what if you have a portfolio of graphic design, but absolutely no product projects?

What you can do to create your first product portfolio:

I have made a selection of some portfolios for you.

Portfolio of Joe Lifrieri
Lisa sy
Brandon walkin
Sergey Surganov, designer

What to do next?

It’s easy to upgrade UI skills. The main thing is to do this systematically and regularly. Further it is worth thinking more about the user experience. Always analyze and ask “why” questions.

In addition, you can take a course. Attendance at free webinars can definitely help you, but it does not replace communication with the teacher, homework and systematization of knowledge. For example, at GeekBrains there is a course “Fundamentals of Product Design”, which will give you the knowledge needed to work in the product.

Freelance will also benefit you. With the first product portfolio that you created, you can safely look for real customers and carry out real projects. After that, your applications may appear in the stores (which is an excellent recommendation in your portfolio), you will have work sites that you can link to, plus real experience.

Another good practice is to get an intern in some modern company working with a product. Many IT companies, banks and others are ready to hire interns, who are then ready to hire. And this is a great chance to show yourself, set goals and achieve them.

Do not forget about conferences and meetings. In the online environment, there are constantly some kind of meeting on product design, where you can listen to the guys working on the product, note something new for yourself. If you attend such meetings in person, then it is possible to meet design colleagues and exchange experience, which will be extremely useful for you as newcomers to the profession.

What to read: books and articles

Constantly learning something new is very useful when upgrading yourself as a designer.

Therefore, I have sketched out useful books and articles that will help you upgrade yourself as product designers.


Rob Fitzpatrick Ask mom
Alan Cooper. Interface. Basics of interaction design.


Design tavern
UX Collective

Other utility

Yuri Vetrov on Interfaces - Design Management of Digital Products

Design Portfolio

Portfolio of Joe Lifrieri
Lisa sy
Brandon walkin
Sergey Surganov, designer

Challenge 100 days UI

Daily UI Design Challenge, Inspiration, and Resources


Design weekend. 2019

If you have any questions after reading the post, feel free to ask them in the comments.



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