Jack of all trades or master of (n)one?

In product design, choosing between being a "jack of all trades" or a "master of one" depends on your career goals and the specific context in which you're working. Both approaches have their benefits and drawbacks. Let's explore them:

Jack of all trades (generalist) in product design:


  1. Flexibility: A diverse skill set allows you to handle various aspects of product design, such as UX/UI design, industrial design, or even project management, making you a valuable asset to employers.
  2. Cross-functional collaboration: Understanding different aspects of product design helps you work more effectively with cross-functional teams, such as engineers, marketers, and researchers.
  3. Problem-solving: A broad range of knowledge can contribute to creative and innovative solutions during the design process.
  4. Adaptability: Being skilled in multiple areas can help you adapt to changing industry trends and new technologies.


  1. Limited expertise: A generalist approach may limit your ability to become an expert in any one area, which might be a disadvantage in specific roles or industries that demand specialization.
  2. Competition: Generalists may face increased competition from specialists who have deeper knowledge in a particular area of product design.

Master of one (specialist) in product design:


  1. Expertise: As a specialist, you can develop a deep understanding of a specific area of product design, which can help you create more refined and high-quality products.
  2. Demand: Companies may seek out specialists for specific roles or projects, resulting in higher demand and potentially better job opportunities.
  3. Authority: By focusing on one area, you can build a strong reputation and become a thought leader or expert in that field.


  1. Limited adaptability: Being a specialist in one area may limit your ability to contribute to other aspects of product design or adapt to changing trends and technologies.
  2. Collaboration challenges: Specialists may find it more challenging to communicate and collaborate effectively with professionals from other disciplines if they lack a broader understanding of the overall product design process.

In conclusion, whether you should pursue a generalist or specialist approach in product design depends on your personal goals, the industry's demands, and your work environment. Some designers find success by becoming a "T-shaped" professional, developing deep expertise in one area while maintaining a basic understanding of other related disciplines. This approach allows you to balance the benefits of both specialization and generalization.

Would you like to hear about my experiences of running the whiteboard challenge to recruit talented product designers?

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