Yes, I’m going to chime in on a topic that I know we’re all probably really tired of hearing and talking about. I’m not writing this because I feel that there aren’t already some valuable and insightful answers to this question, but because I believe this a rather complex question.
First off, if you haven’t read these yet– Here are a couple great pieces on the subject that I recommend you read:
From what I’ve noticed, most designers have very strong opinions on the question at hand. And, their opinions always seem to fall on one of the two extremes. It’s either “Of course! Designers have to be able to code! It’s 2015!” or “Nah, I don’t think designers need to know how to code.” The question of “Should designers know how to code?” cannot be answered through a simple “Yes” or a “No”.
Life is complex and like most things in this world, there are both pros and cons to being a designer who can write code and being a designer who cannot write code. Being a designer who writes and understands code can definitely be advantageous. You arguably have the ability to understand and see how something would work “behind the curtain”. When you first approach a design problem, you understand the constraints that you have, enabling you to design efficiently. You also have the ability to effectively communicate your solution to the front-end developers and possibly even build your design yourself.
Often times, the most innovative solutions sprout from situations when we’re free of constraints.
As a counterpoint, I would also argue that the ability to write code is detrimental to your ability to perform as a designer. If you’re approaching a problem with preconceived constraints based on your knowledge of how things should work “behind the curtain” then you are potentially selling yourself short on designing the optimal solution for the given problem. Often times, the most innovative solutions sprout from situations when we’re free of constraints.
Don’t get me wrong–from a career perspective, if you are a designer who can code, companies may value you more. Especially, scrappy startups with a small product team. However, I would be a bit hesitant if you are joining a well-funded startup or an established company that requires its designers to know how to code. This could be a red flag and representative of an organization that may not necessarily hold the function of design with high regard.
Ultimately, the spectrum of a person’s coding expertise can vary greatly. You may be a designer who knows only a lick of basic HTML/CSS. Or, you may be a designer with the capabilities of a full-stack developer. Each combination will give you your own unique perspective on how you approach a design problem. The important part is understanding the fundamentals of your job function, whether that is visual design, user experience, user research, or all of the above. Sure, it never hurts to garner new skills, but if you’re a designer who is insecure about your inability to write code– I wouldn’t sweat it.
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