Design

Wanted: A designer that can design and write code? Really?

In this modern age of the internet, website design and social media, I am what some people might call an ‘old skool’ designer. I’m probably not quite as cool as some designers, and certainly not as young. When I started out at college our main tools weren’t a mouse, a keyboard and a computer. Our tools were markers, scalpels and cutting mats.

In the IT room, there were these space age, beige coloured boxes with keyboards as thick as scooby snacks that we were occasionally allowed to sit in front of and wonder what to do with. They were called Macintosh computers and the software on them was called Photoshop and Pagemaker. To be honest, I don’t think even the lecturers knew what to do with them. A middle aged lecturer (probably my age now and even more old skool than I) was assigned the task of learning how to use these things and then teaching us.

Soon enough we were carted off back to our studio where in between sketching rude caricatures of each other, we might actually get some designs down on paper based on the latest Neville Brody typography. This was in 1990, fast forward 25 years and several jobs in back street print shops, ad agencies and design houses and we arrive at a different world entirely. This new world has the internet.

Now, I know you have to move with the times, so at this time I realised along with the rest of the world that websites were the way forward. By now I knew how to design, how to focus on the project at hand, the target market, typography, colour blah, blah, blah. But how the hell do you actually produce a website? Apparently it is through something called code. And so begins the awkward relationship between designer and coder, because let’s face it, the designer can’t code and the coder can’t design. And each thinks the others profession is beneath them, right? I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the amount of times I have become frustrated with a website developer that has either ignored or doesn’t understand the instructions that have been given to them by myself or a colleague. Or perhaps they simply chose to do it their way because they think they can design better (good design is subjective after all). Either way, it was never a happy marriage.

Perhaps the answer to this unhappy marriage is to learn code? Some designers have been able to do this, and I am sure that these days most graduate designers arrive in the working world with at least some knowledge of HTML and CSS. Trouble is, it takes time, and when you’re a freelance designer time isn’t something you have a huge amount of. Or if you do have time, this means you have little work on and so little money to pay somebody to teach you. Then, slowly, something began to happen.

I’m not sure if this was conscious or just software developers just playing around with stuff. Nearly all my working life I had software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark and then InDesign. But never anything to build websites. I discovered fleetingly Dreamweaver, Flash and then WordPress. Another 10 years on and abundance of online website builders appeared, jostling for position for the business of people who wanted to build their own sites. Most recently, and for me the most functional for my needs at the moment, Adobe Muse has appeared alongside it’s trusted contemporaries Photoshop and Illustrator. So do I really need to learn code?

I have used some of the above tools to create several websites from scratch on my own – no developer, no code, no frustrations. On the whole, the clients have been happy, the jobs have been quick and I have made a living without selling out my design soul. I’ve cut out the middle man (nothing personal, it’s business) which has saved time, money and a little bit of friction along the way. I know the way I now design and build my websites has some limits, but so far I haven’t had too many issues that I couldn’t solve – perhaps my type of customer just doesn’t need a website with all the knobs and whistles a ‘back end’ developer can provide. And if a customer like that comes along I’m sure my renewed relationship with coders will be all the better for our little break.

Maybe the answer is designers stick to design, coders stick to code. I’m wondering if this is what has happened, evolution. Have developers turned their attention to creating better software for the likes of me to use? Is it all an attempt by website developers to get rid of those arty farty types? And how far can such software go? At current rates the sky is the limit as far as I can see and the shackles of limitation I currently have in building websites are slowly loosening. Thanks to the tremendous work of coders and developers I can more or less place my layout how I like. My sites look good and work well, they are reasonably responsive on all devices, and I can create movement and add interest. Now my biggest headache is actually getting the work in the first place, but that’s a whole other story…

So, do I really need to learn to write code?

  • tyson kingsbury

    I’m 43 this year, and in the same spot you’re in….and I agree with you absolutely. I’ve had the opportunity to take a few courses on html and css etc, and I’m very glad for that, as it’s taught me a few tricks that I hadn’t known previously. But the fact remains that I’ve been a visual designer since the early 90’s and visual is how I work. With programs like ‘Blocs’, Pinegrow, Macaw, and of course Muse, there is suddenly a wealth of great tools for us to use that can do the job, and allow me to do mine, which is design. If i’d wanted to be a developer, believe me, that’s what i would have studied back in the day….but developing and writing code is emphatically NOT what i enjoy doing. Design is what I live for, and thankfully the tools have gotten decent enough for me to get on with what I’m good at.

    • Paul McCabe

      Phew! Glad I’m not alone, there was a bit of trepidation before publishing this so good to know there’s like minded designers out there. Credit to you too for dipping your toe into HTML and CSS, more than I have done.

  • The standard should designers know how to code question. If you’re a designer and feel like your design skills on their own add more value than another designer how knows how to do both, then stick with just knowing design. Conversely, if you’re a developer whose development skills add more value than knowing how to also design, just stick with development. The industry is changing (as every industry always does) and more and more people are able to do both. If you want to stay current with the constantly raising bar within the industry, then learn the skills necessary to meet the bar, if not, hone the ones you current have so the bar doesn’t matter.

    • Paul McCabe

      It could matter, which way will it go? Will there come a time where in order to be a designer you need to know code too, otherwise you’re left behind? Or, will software advance so much, be so functional and have so many tools, that a designer won’t need to know one line of code to build like a coder?

  • Ive got a bit of an opposite perspective having come to design from a different vector. I grew up making websites at the ripe ol’ age of 10 back when all we had were frames and tables to work with (and the snazziest thing we had were animated flame gifs). As a result, this led me to approach design within the constraints of what I could force the browser to do. These constraints have greatly eased over the past decade, but I would certainly argue that anyone attempting to design for digital mediums like web or native should have at least a basic understanding of the underlying technologies so as not to arrive at a scenario where you have designed the impossible. As someone (whom Ive since forgotten) once said, “Design without constraints is not design, it’s art”.

    • Paul McCabe

      With software development, there may be no constraints. From your perspective, I see where you’re coming from. You’ve got to enjoy design to be able to do it I guess, but who’s going to help you enjoy design? At least designers have guys like you to produce software to help guys like me!

    • YemSalat

      Couldn’t agree more.

      I would also add that ‘pure’ designers tend to think of website designs as static posters. They very rarely bother really thinking the design through. As long as it looks good – its good.
      Then you add real content / flip the phone from portrait to landscape / resize the window and all of a sudden it looks like crap.

      I think the knowledge of underlying technologies (not a deep knowledge btw) and the limitations is a MUST for designers who work with the web.

  • “I have become frustrated with a website developer that has either ignored or doesn’t understand the instructions that have been given to them by myself or a colleague.”

    This is why developer don’t like working with you. If there’s anything that developers hate it’s feeling like they are only there to build what they’re told and their opinions don’t matter, especially from those who a) aren’t their boss and b) are dependent on them.

    Both designers and developers should have equal say when it comes to product design. Then designers should be responsible for aesthetics and developers for development.

    Designers who come up with all of the ‘thinking’ and and tell developers to go build it demonstrate a severe lack of empathy and understanding of how great products are created.

    Also, the designer/developer person has reached a point of critical mass and it’s not going away.

    • Couldn’t agree more.

      I’m one of those designer/developer people – only, I’m the same generation as the original poster. So I know whereof he speaks and made the other choice.

      In a world of infinitely varied devices and screen sizes, it strikes me as the height of arrogance for a designer to hand a dev one comp at one size and then quibble about some deviation – likely because the design bit in question is fiendishly difficult to keep consistent at one or more media queries, or because the best way to do it won’t work in some unimportant browser nobody uses, like Safari. (Bye, flexbox. See you in another two years. Maybe.)

      The height. Of. Arrogance.

      Because a designer who’s never wrestled with the problem will never understand why the dev won’t just give him what he asked for.

      Said designer not only lacks the empathy. He doesn’t even have the vocabulary. (“What the hell is flexbox?” he might be asking now.)

      And it’s very hard to have a productive relationship with someone who doesn’t even understand the basic terminology of the discipline you’re supposed to be practicing.

      At best, he betrays his own ignorance of the last two decades of design history. At worst, he sounds like a newlywed lady of the house who, not realizing the woman in the kitchen is a six-figure Cordon Bleu chef, tells her guests she “just can’t get the maid to cook things the way I do.”

      • Paul McCabe

        It’s all about communication, partnership. Bad developers hand stuff back that doesn’t work how you wanted or with things in different places without a word. Good developers pick up a phone and explain why this or that needs to go here or there, Together they work towards a sensible resolution that will work well and look good without stamping their feet because silly designer doesn’t know.

        By the way, I don’t know what flexbox is.

        • Laura Montgomery

          Website designer and front-end developer here. I know what flexbox is. That’s because I do both. 5-10 years ago you maybe could have gotten away with not knowing how to code, even to a basic level, but nowadays if you’re not learning a new snippet of HTML, CSS or Javascript every week (or more often), you’re simply falling behind.

          I find it absurd that you don’t know how to code and yet call yourself a website designer. Yes, there are tools out there to help you make websites without having to code, but what is the quality of code like? And what about responsiveness? What about accessibility? What about screen-readers? What about graceful degradation? What about performance, and how this affects UX? These are all things that as a designer who can code, I take into consideration in every step of design and development, from my first wireframe sketch to the final hand-off to the client.

          Honestly, it just sounds lazy, because you can learn the basics very easily. Yes, you may struggle initially with media queries or getting to grips with pre-processors which add extra oomph and flexibility to your CSS code, but the basics of HTML and CSS you could get to grips with easily spending 30 mins everyday for about 2-3 weeks. Then, you may actually want to learn more, and understand why you should.

          • Hi Laura. That was the point of the article really, am I a website designer if I can’t code? And you’ve answered my question quite firmly.

            As far as I can see though, to someone who can’t code (which will be 99% of my clients too), there is no difference in end product between what you and I do. You may argue about degradation etc. which may be true, but to an everyday person it all looks the same.

            You could turn it around and say a coder should really spend half hour a day learning design, do they have the time or inclination to do that? In fact, could they do that as much as some designers might never have the ability to learn code? Some coders will never be designers, that’s not a criticism it’s just not their bag.

            I wish I had your skills, I really do. And given time could learn them. But I am in the business of making money, I work for myself and have a family, if I don’t complete my work I don’t get paid, so learning such skills when I have tools there already is not sensible.

            And lazy? I may have a lot of failings, but lazy I definitely am not!

    • Paul McCabe

      What I meant by that Tyler is communication. If a developer speaks to me, a problem can be overcome if there is one. You sometimes just get the feeling (talking about partnerships and not acting as ‘the boss’) that the developer moves or changes things because they know best or because their talents don’t stretch to want you want. I’ve taken projects to another developer who has been able to implement a certain idea another couldn’t.

      And for the record, I’m sure developers get just as frustrated with designers for the opposite reasons, I’m not blind to that!

      • JustJack75

        I have to admit I, too, took a little umbrage at that wording. That being said, often times, the client or project manager see developers as little more than grunts to just do the work and not the partners that we are. Developers (or someone technically proficient enough to represent the developers) need to be present in all stages of the project so that they can have those productive discussions earlier rather than later. In a former job, I had a rep as someone who said “No” a lot and it was because by the time complete designs got to me they couldn’t be implemented either due to CMS constraints, violation of set standards, or some other reason that I could have headed off way earlier. I don’t blame the designer in those cases, I blame the client/project manager for not involving us sooner.

        That being said, I don’t think that a designer needs to learn to code, but I would say that they should have the willingness to learn a little tech and vice-versa developers should learn a little design. For example, a good designer when working on a design for a CMS product should ask the developers early and often what are some of the pitfalls that the CMS is going to introduce and what elements will be hard-coded vs. user editable.

        Additionally, designers should learn at the very least what concepts are available to the coder. For example, I worked with a designer who kept telling me the amount of space she wanted between baselines for headers and the following text and I’m like there’s just no such concept in CSS, I have line-height, font-size, margin, and padding. After the 5th time telling her that, she finally stopped giving me those measurements, but it was very frustrating to me as a developer.

        • I think perhaps I’ve worked with developers not as reasonable as you Jack. I’d concur with everything you’ve said to be honest, it’s the lack of communication and shrug of the shoulders after the temp url has been sent that’s the frustrating part for me.

          The line that seems to have touched a nerve in the article could have been elaborated on. As in, speak to us first and then we know why it’s not possible, as you intimated above.

        • I would argue that Designers deal with the same “grunt” attitude that developers do if not even more because everyone thinks they are a designer. People come to you because they like your design skills but second guess every pixel the entire way. Some even seem willing to take anyone’s word for it BUT the designers. I often joke that a client will go home with a proof of two options and return saying “my dog barked at this one, so that is the direction we are going”. That is something that both Designers and Developers have in common. That being said, I think it is very important for designers to at least have a basic understanding of coding limitations to consider while designing. I know HTML and CSS at a decent level and have worked quite a bit with WordPress and Joomla. I have done projects on my own as well as with Developers and will be the first one to admit where my coding skills stop. I have found myself many times learning more and more about code but starting to ask myself how far I really want to go into that world. I still prefer to be “The Designer”. I too am 42 and have been along for the whole ride. From cutting rubylithe and shooting film separations to wondering if I should learn more javascript. From Floppy to Dropbox!

          I often have to laugh/cry at job ads for designers these days. They will say things like “ Must know Adobe CC, video editing, audio editing, motion graphics, HTML, CSS, PHP, copywriting, SEO, SEM, and have a basic understanding of rocket surgery. This is an entry lever position.

    • Dewbert

      Here’s the problem. I find coding anything beyond HTML to be difficult. I can’t memorize a ton of CSS terms/phrases, let alone JavaScript. I can sort of reverse engineer a bit, but I just can’t code from scratch. So, that means most employers won’t hire me. I do find it interesting that, back in the mid-80s (when my brain was young and fertile), I created an animation using a programming language. Moving one pixel at a time via code. Since then, “they” have invented software to do it for you. Now, I assume there may be a programmer at every animation studio to go into the back-end and tweak things, if needed. But, all in all, that industry has accepted the use of software. So, why does every employer in the web industry want a unicorn that can code, even though they believe there is no such thing as a unicorn? Because they are cheap. I see want ads for Graphic Production Artists (at $10-$12/hour) that must be “experts at InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Premiere, After Effects, HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript”. Really? If you were having a home built, would you expect one person to do everything? I think it’s time for me to find another career.

  • Yes, as a freelancer you should be able to code HTML and CSS at the very least. I am amazed that anyone offering web design services these days could not. I am not suggesting you become a master of node or angular js but a working knowledge of modern technologies produces better work.

    I am ancient but taught myself to code (to a level) use foundation, git, sass, grunt etc on a daily basis yet I started as a visual designer in Dreamweaver. I just fail to understand how you can solve clients problems or run a web design business without knowing what is feasible or not, and therefore what it costs to produce solutions.

    If for no other reason consider this. If your contracting out “back end” work how are you ever going to form a value judgement on what your pitched both in terms of function and price if you have not even a basic knowledge to base the information received on. If your clients are relying on you, then you have a duty to have some form of knowledge, not expertise, but knowledge, how else can you act for them?

    If not just recommend a basic wordpress theme, a few widgets, and take the money. However where is the long term value for the client or for you? Learn the basics of what frameworks, languages exist, not programmes mind you, and how they can be used. It will firstly make you a better designer, secondly it will build long term value into your business and client relationships.

    As I was told early on in my working life a lot of people work 1 year 10 times rather than 10 years. In other words learn and do new things every week, month, year No pain no gain!

  • The Design field encompasses much more than just graphic design. The demand for designers who can code exists because the web is full of websites that are more than a small business website with a blog and contact form.

    If you want to take on a different kind of project you can always team up with a developer and work on some projects where you take the lead on design and they take lead on development.

    It will only be so long until the average customer who doesn’t want bells and whistles realizes they too can cut out “the middle man” and create great looking website without a knowledge in design or coding.

    • Paul McCabe

      Absolutely, if an organisation comes to me asking for more than just a blog and a contact form, it’s a developer partnership all the way. But will that always be the case with software development?

      I would argue though that some people might use wordpress or macaw et al to produce a website, but it won’t necessarily look good. I’ve actually designed a website with a wireframe, graphics and images but not live, the customer wanted to save money. They wanted to build it themselves, using what I had done on some software called Serif. The resulting website was a total car crash I would not put my name to!

  • I would take an engineer or designer with some business sense and real business chops, who understands the context their creations exist in, I would take that person over a designer/ developer unicorn any day.

  • Dean Flory
  • davebarnes

    As an old fart who started coding in 1965, I think it all comes down to companies being cheap bastards. They don’t really value either skill and just “want it done today”.

  • Public_Sense

    Have you guys seen the majority of help wanted ads lately? Most expect you to design and code, with a little social marketing as well! Oh, and handle clients too. ..

  • imho you don’t need to learn code to be able to “compete” these days but it does help, I am a coder with no design skills so use designers to put my ideas together, and the best designers I have used all have had some experience with coding. It doesn’t need to be massive amounts of experience, even just building one website with a little html/css is enough.

    Designers with coding experience know what is possible with a design, what you should / shouldn’t do which ultimately ends up with the website being less of a pain to build as the “stress points” have been alleviated. I hate having to go back to designers and get them to change x or y because it just isn’t feasible in code.

    Coding is constantly changing to keeping up is a full time job but having some knowledge can you get a long way 🙂

  • LizzyBiz

    Design + Code = Higher Pay for that Person

  • Erin C.

    Hello. I am a UX designer who would like to tell you the story. Once upon a time, a creative director brought a printout of my HTML/CSS prototype to a meeting to tell me that the 18px font was too small. They didn’t get that concept that the paper they had printed the website on was much smaller than the actually screen. This is why it is frustrating to work with a designer who does not understand the basic concepts of digital design, including but not limited to coding.

  • I personally think any designer who wants to prosper in web and interactive should try to know HTML, CSS, and maybe some JavaScript. I’ve been watching the world of web design flow more away from flat layouts made in Photoshop and into prototypes created in code.

    I don’t think designers should feel that they need to learn server-side scripting or even how to customize WordPress or Drupal. That’s when you go to full developers.

    The reality is that many employers want designers who can do some coding, at least to handle the small items so they don’t need to constantly call for a developer. If I’ve learned anything in this industry, it’s that you have to learn more to stay relevant.

    Another suggestion for designers who really do not want to code is to look into UI and UX. Learn wireframing, prototyping with the WYSiWYG tools, and testing. As much as designers hate hearing it, I’m seeing more “design only” guys or print-centric designers losing work compared to the multi-faceted players. Unless you’re an artistically creative genius who wins big awards for your work, it’s likely you might go into “struggle” at some point.

    I know for me I’m getting more demand and more money for what I can do in code over design.

    • John

      Absolutely. I even think a seasoned designer should be able to slice their designs in fully responsive SASS/LESS/JS as well or at least working to move in that direction and increase their skills. Freelancers should learn magento, bigcommerce, wordpress, drupal, shopify, lightcms, squarespace, and much more to succeed well.

      • I think I’d only push a designer to learn SASS/LESS if they were being hired on to also be front-end developers.

        At the very least, a designer who perhaps isn’t deeply interested in coding should know the capabilities of CSS…and I mean beyond just font faces and colors.

        Your list though does more speak for anyone seeking to be a freelance web designer/developer. I’ll admit I’ve only had experience in Drupal, WordPress, and Magento.

      • People still slice PSDs? Quelle horreur..

  • Steven Harte

    Agree with a lot of what you said. I too, am a freelance web designer who has been in the business from way back. I know HTML and CSS fairly well but in truth am more a jack-of-all-trades. I really don’t have the time to master the advancements of both design AND code while also tackling my freelance jobs. I know most developers would cringe when I say my tools include Dreamweaver, WordPress, RapidWeaver, Muse and Webflow but they all have their place and can build fairly robust, responsive websites if used right. I certainly agree that hand coding clean and optimized code is ideal but I am learning to live with my limitations.

  • Some of us LOVE to code and LUST for design. So I can’t really relate with your view having been myself involved in projects ranging from the design, advertising, copywriting, print production (laser, litho, screen, etc), web/software development, networking and hardware setup, thought of this to be just normal challenges for a creative mind.

    Also started as a 90s website hacker like Jon here

  • Антон

    do one thing very well than a few mediocre

  • Aleks Petrov

    It’s very individual. I like to code, using html/css/js and modern build tools as Gulp/Broccoli I can create prototypes and show em to the client on very early stages, in the beginning it was hard to do, but with practice, prototypes starts save a lot of time, because client can see something real, clickable, not static picture in .pdf. This is an awesome practice. As Designer and Front-end developer in the same project I charge more! I understand design not as art, it’s all about how it works, but your project can work as you wish only when YOU built it. By the way, static design pictures is boring =) But I know really great web-designers who don’t understand even HTML and feel good. Also I know devs who starts to design and they do it quite well, because they understand tech possibilities. Find your way and be happy! =) But don’t spend your time thinking about should I start to code or not.

  • nanodude

    I am in the ‘different strokes for different folks’ camp. Different people have difference goals. Different people define ‘success’ differently. Every one is, ultimately, in a unique situation and must compete with themselves – while developing an edge in the marketplace.

    I am a professional developer with conspicuous design ability. I respect professional designers, because I know that all professional designers know things that I don’t know. So I could flip the question around. Should developers learn design? But I get the same non-answer. It depends.

    Within either profession, one can always ask questions like “should every developer know security” or “should every designers know print?” They are generally very important and broadly relevant, but it is the same kind of trade-off between specialization and standardization. Standardization is most valuable in very large organizations that are much better at managing ‘boxes’ than people. On the other hand, large organizations also want both a high degree of standardization AND specialization.

    • That’s a great point, ‘should designers know print?’ It hadn’t occured to me this is the original question that pre-dated the coding question. My answer to that was always yes, if you want to be a more complete designer, and my answer would be the same now for coding. However, as Matty has said, there will come a day when tools get so sophisticated front-end dev won’t be a thing, perhaps just as with digital print alleviating the need to understand the litho process.

      • John

        I personally feel that Print/Media designers (and illustrators) are the only ones that don’t need to learn some code or design websites unless they just want to improve their skill set. It feels like a whole different world. If you are going to “web” designer, you must least learn enough to understand how your design impacts everyone else. You should also be learning User Experience, Conversion Rates, and Search Engine Optimization…and more.

  • Matty

    I see this echoed in other comments, but form my perspective, if you’re a designer who doesn’t have a code level understanding of how sites are built (especially in a responsive context) you aren’t gonna be able to understand the limitations and possibilities of what you’re making. I’ve known a lot of designers who couldn’t code and, while very nice people, they run up costs and delay launches designing content types that just don’t work without some insanely bloated development gymnastics on the part of the front-end team. I’m sure some day will come when tools get sophisticated that front-end dev wont be a thing anymore, but we aren’t quite there yet.

  • Izak Podgornik

    Hi Paul, nice article. Echoes my sentiments closely.

    Like you, I started with cutting and pasting (real world kind), letrasetting by hand and actually using physical brushes and pencils. I even did a lot of airbrushing, which was a bit of dark arts in those times. Then computers came along. Actually, they were there since the beginning of the 80′, but they weren’t useful much except for wasting times with games , writing term papers in WordStar and/or calculating stock market margins in the early Excel-type programs. Those were the wild eighties, but I was too young to be interested in term papers, and my mom surely wasn’t too exciteng to lend me her hard earned money for me to invest in stocks.

    But the nineties changed everything. Windows NT, Photoshop 5.0, Illustrator, CorelDraw were the shitz (and yes, if you must know, I couldn’t afford a Mac, and now that I have the dough I don’t care about it anymore, they lost me with the pricing). So I wen’t full-on in, and became pretty good along the way. Didn’t need to use the menus anymore, shortcuts and mouse were my weapons of choice. Never learned to type quickly, that boring stuff was for those lowly copywriters, and I was the desigher, top of the foodchain, or so I thought. But then it happened, the mid-nineties. Internet.

    It started innocently enough, visiting a friend I haven’t seen for too long. He was walled-in in his apartment, undhaven, using something called Telnet, doing some weird IRC thing, typing messages to complete strangers, he called friends. Wel, that was really not for me, and I went to a bar for a beer with some “real” friends. Then slowly, visual design came to internet. I think it was mainly for porn, but then it somehow spread and infected the whole internet. Information, sites, portals, everything opened a completely new world, fully of possibilities. In late 90′ I coded my first site, by hand. No dreaweaver, just books and word processor. It was strange enough, but it was really hard getting past the beginning, everything was so new, and all the books were either too vague (abstract, if you will), ot too advance. There was no instruction on how to set-up a server, how to name your first page (index.html, DUH), so I spent hours experimenting.

    But majority of my work was still making sure things in real-world looked cool. Brochures, logos, brand identity, that was my bred and butter. Occasionally, I did a webiste with some coders, but I never found this experience pleasant, or even palatable. It was like with printers, nothing could be done the way I wanted, limitations of this, disadvantages of that, and at the end it was all a compromise, and not in a good way. I could never be proud of web design the way I was proud of my other work. In my opinion, coders won this battle, that’s why most of the websites today look the same cookie-cutter design. Square is the new cool, because it’s easy. Coders can’t design, sorry, has to do something with what part of the brain one is using.

    I was always a freelancer. Then I started moving up in the world a bit, and changed to marketing (less work, more pay), but I still kept a close touch with design, doing an odd job here and there, mostly for my creative satisfaction and remaining old clients. Learned to code a bit, HTML, CSS, some PHP to add some spice, just enough that I didn’t have to rely on others to do what I wanted.

    And then I lefti it all. Maybe I was sick of doing creative work for other people, or my work being judged constantly by “trained design proffessionals”, like hairdressers, personal-assistants, automechanics, and anybody that happened to come along. I went into my own business, but I still keep in touch with my first love, design, do most of my creative work for my best but most demanding client – myself. I am glad I don’t have to deal with coders, and I’m also happy I don’t have to deal with other designers. Because, you know guys, It’s just work. Innovative code, or breaktrough design will not save our planet, won’t make you happy, and very probably won’t make you really rich. But good communication, respect for other people and just being nice might save your marriage. And maybe even yourself.

  • Texture Tank

    When I started getting into building websites I came to a point that realized I could do both the design and the coding, but also quickly realized that I was only going to have the time to be good/ok at both. If you want to be really good at something you need to practice it all the time. I’m not saying there isn’t some Deion Sanders, or Bo Jacksons out there that can play two pro sports, but if you are striving to be the best I would suggest to focus on one or the other.

  • Dewbert

    Here’s the problem. I find coding anything beyond HTML to be difficult. I can’t memorize a ton of CSS terms/phrases, let alone JavaScript. I can sort of reverse engineer a bit, but I just can’t code from scratch. So, that means most employers won’t hire me. I do find it interesting that, back in the mid-80s (when my brain was young and fertile), I created an animation using a programming language. Moving one pixel at a time via code. Since then, “they” have invented software to do it for you. Now, I assume there may be a programmer at every animation studio to go into the back-end and tweak things, if needed. But, all in all, that industry has accepted the use of software. So, why does every employer in the web industry want a unicorn that can code, even though they believe there is no such thing as a unicorn? Because they are cheap. I see want ads for Graphic Production Artists (at $10-$12/hour) that must be “experts at InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Premiere, After Effects, HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript”. Really? If you were having a home built, would you expect one person to do nearly everything? If so, do you think they will do a good job? I think it’s time for me to find another career.

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