How to Brainstorm Creative Answers for the Product Design Interview

Trying to come up with creative answers for the product design interview? Stephen Cognetta breaks down his formula for ideating and brainstorming answers that will impress your interviewer.

The best way to stand out in the product design interview is with creative, innovative answers.

Product design interviews are a part of the broader product management interview process. And PM interview questions cover a wide variety of topics.

However, product design interviews are focused specifically on testing your ability to be creative with "moonshot ideas" and to really think outside the box.

If you'd like to learn more about the structure of PM design interviews and how to ace them, check out our full course.

However, this article is focused on brainstorming unique answers and solutions with a straightforward formula.

Other Common Product Design Interview Resources

Step 1: Create a Big Ideas List

The first step to coming up with moonshot ideas for your PM interviewer is to make a big ideas list.

Some sample questions you may encounter in this interview include:

  • Can you envision the future of a library?
  • What do airports of the future look like?
  • How would you improve a gas station?

When you first hear questions like this, it can be intimidating.

You may be asking, "How do I get started? What should my answer look like?

Start by creating a big ideas list independent of any questions.

What are some big wild ideas and tech products that you're really excited about right now?

Some examples may be the future of the sharing economy—sharing ideas or physical products with more users around the world.

Or maybe you're excited about smarter product recommendations—products that are able to predict your behavior before you act. Think about Uber calling you a car before your normal morning commute to reduce your wait time.

Your big ideas list should be personal to you. It should be things you care about or read about in your own news feed. What excites you?

Being specific in your big ideas list will help you in later stages of the product design interview.

Having genuine and authentic ideas will help convey your passion to your interviewer.

Step 2: Put Your Big Ideas to Work

Step two is to apply your big ideas to the question at hand.

Let's assume your interviewer asked you how you would improve the future of a library.

Your big ideas list above may include ideas about the sharing economy or context-aware products. How can you apply these concepts to the future of a library?

Find a way to merge your big ideas into something relevant to the question.

In the case of a library, you can imagine walking into a physical library space where the library already knows your reading profile.

They can pre-select book recommendations for you and save you time as you browse shelves.

You could change the Dewey Decimal system from one of organization into a new system centered around book recommendations.

In this case, you're solving the pain point of book discovery. Libraries are built on a system of logical organization. Their books are organized by type and by author last name.

But a smart library that knows your reading preferences could tell you exactly what books you'd like to read next and where to find them in a sprawling physical space.

Step 3: Address Specific Pain Points

By using your innovative ideas list, you can apply core concepts you're passionate about to new problems.

In the example above, product customization advancements can be applied to legacy systems like libraries.

In your product design interview, start with specific pain points of the question.

In the case of a library, what problems are users facing when trying to visit a library?

  • Are books hard to find and causing long library visits?
  • Are book recommendations unclear inside the library?
  • Are users only visiting one of a town's libraries because of distance issues?

Brainstorm pain points for the question your interviewer asks. Then, apply your big ideas and moonshot concepts to the space.

Again, these questions are designed to challenge your creative thinking.

If the pain point for users is travel time to and from the library, you could apply your ideas about decentralized systems.

What does a decentralized or sharing-economy library look like?

Could borrowers connect with other readers in their neighborhood to share books instead of visiting a physical library?

The library then becomes a community organization hub.

It saves space, money, and paper by allowing community members to borrow books from each other instead of a traditional "library."

This type of idea takes a concept you're passionate about (the sharing economy) and applies it to libraries.

Step 4: Articulate Your Ideas

Your big ideas list will be something that grows and changes over time. You may only have one or two big ideas to begin with.

But over time, your ideas can evolve as you spend more time reading the news or talking with friends.

You may think the blockchain is the future of education right now. But in a few years, you may see trends of physical media coming back.

In your product design interview, find ways to articulate specific user pain points in the question your interviewer asks.

Then, find ways to integrate things you're passionate about into your answers.

As a product designer or PM, your entire role will be centered around understanding user behavior and friction points.

Articulate to your interviewer how your big ideas can impact a non-traditional tech product.

Product Manager Interview Resources

Coming up with creative answers to product design questions is only the first step in acing your PM interview. Be sure to check out some of our interview prep and PM-specific resources to help you do just that!

💬 Review more commonly asked sample PM interview questions.

📖 Read through our company-specific Product Manager interview guides

👯‍♂️ Practice your behavioral and leadership skills with our mock interview practice tool.

👨‍🎓 Take our complete Product Management interview course.

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