Should Designers Learn to Code?

There has been a raging debate over this since quite some time now. Even though it had always been a significant prick in the subconscious, the thought found definite words a while back with a beckoning tweet.

It was the year 2010 when Elliot Stocks decided to give the designer beehive a vigorous shake. This is what he wrote in his tweet: “Honestly, I’m shocked that in 2010 I’m still coming across ‘web designers’ who can’t code their own designs. No excuse.” And the internet went amok.

What added fuel to the fire was Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, where they announced their very own programming language called the Swift, highlighting coding as one of the most marketable skills in the world.

With new design concepts rolling in every now and then, let’s get down to business.

How this started

Between 2007 and 2010 the barriers between front end technology and design began to melt giving way to exciting animations and transitions without flash. Designers began to feel the need for developing their own websites to portray the interfaces exactly the way they wanted. And various content management systems like WordPress rose to the occasion. The outcome was pretty impressive too.

By the end of 2010, the front end picked up speed and began getting more sophisticated with the development of various intricate tools. With the mushrooming of such complicated tools, learning the functions of those became more time-consuming and difficult. Along with that, web design turned out to encompass more specialized roles too. The term ‘User Experienced Analyst’ never meant anything big back in the day, like it does now.

This is when designing and coding decided to go their separate ways.

Is learning to code absolutely necessary?

We have all come across this tiff between designers and developers at one point of time or the other. This is because most designers have not-so-sufficient know-how about the development process and this tends to restrict the intentions that designers try to highlight in their expanse of creativity. In simpler words, if you have an idea about what is technically doable, you would spend less time pondering on how to creatively change the interface to let your designs see the light of the day. And you would not have to end up tweaking your designs at the whims of the developer.

With diversification becoming a boon in career prospects, it has become an almost unsaid condition for candidates looking for a design job to possess the skills of disciplines closely related to designing, photography and coding being two such areas. Learning to code not only adds to your cavalry of skill set, but also enhances your marketability. In addition to that, coding completes the full circle of design.

When a little bit of HTML knowledge can breathe life to your amazing designs, why not give it a try?

Why it is alright to not know coding?

Think about this: you have come a long way with designing, you have learnt, experienced, envisioned and crafted every pixel with love and care till now. You even have a degree in it. And obviously, you are good at it. You haven’t reached this level in a day. It took you a long period of time to get here and you still have a long way to go. The same idea applies to coding. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And developing coding skills while simultaneously finding ways to enhance your design skill set doesn’t happen in a day. It would take an equally long period of time to get to a proper level.

Now does not knowing how to code make you less of a designer? Absolutely not! Turn to the Internet. You would find a horde of tools dotting the web that can generate some splendid codes for your designs at the blink of an eye. Learning to code is a steep learning curve and trying to excel in it makes the steep slope awfully rocky. Who wouldn’t want to avoid that?

If you have been pinned flat by the dilemma of coding, then quit getting influenced for a moment and think: Will learning to code suddenly make you a great designer overnight? Even though true craft requires some technical implementation, but will that dramatically change the whole scenario? I barely think it will.

Some parting thoughts

No matter how much confused you feel about this raging debate, it is all about believing in your craft at the end of the day. It is absolutely alright not to know something, CSS and the likes might not be your forte. What sets you apart is the acknowledgment of what you don’t know and doing something about it, if you want. Designing is all about keeping yourself updated with the latest trend in the market, out of which coding can be one. If you would like to hone some programming skills in your existing repository, then make sure that you do it for the right reasons and it doesn’t in any way hamper your design skills. Having said that, learning to code wouldn’t hurt.

Here’s a food for thought: Why be just a good designer when you can be a smart one?

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