Should Designers Code? – A Designer's Perspective


I’ve been a graphic designer at Creator for a few years now and I’ve never typed a single line of code. I’m privy to the conversations that happen in the studio and lots of it goes over my head, so I asked myself; should designers code?

With 2019 starting, I think it’s time I dived into the world of code, here’s why.

Code is really a design tool, therefore I’ve made a promise to myself that I will learn at least the basics of HTML and CSS in order to better myself and help those around me. Learning the fundamentals of code can help me better understand many aspects of design, particularly in the realm of digital design, UI/UX.

By learning and understanding what is and what isn’t possible in web development, I will increase my skill set & knowledge, helping others bring my ideas to life in a way that I’d previously not considered.

I’ve often thought why bother taking the time to learn to code? Shouldn’t this be left to the developer, whilst I focus on design. When in fact it’s the opposite, I feel like I am getting left behind, especially within our industry, it moves so fast and technology is constantly changing. If you don’t keep up with trends, then unfortunately you will get left behind.

For many years I was under the impression that code was a restriction to a designer but having spoken with colleagues and friends, it appears its far from being a restriction, its opened up a whole new realm of creative possibilities. Hopefully once I grasp learning the basics, it will make me form a greater understanding of web design as a whole. Not necessarily to be able to code things myself from scratch, but an overall understanding of what developers have at their disposal will help me with my design decisions.

Learning code will assist in executing my design in exactly the way I want it to be rendered. If I completely spilt the duties of designing and coding, there inevitably comes a point in a project where the developer ends up doing bits of design, at which point the design can start to change. This isn’t the fault of the dev; it’s just real life. It’s just not practical to go back to the designer for a Photoshop mock-up every time a new section of the site needs to be designed, added or tweaked due to a client request.

The competition is real. Now-a-days, kids are being taught code as part of their curriculum and code schools for kids are popping up all over the place, teaching them how to make games on Raspberry Pi’s using Python. This gives them the opportunity to be ‘designers that code’, something the industry now expects a designer to be.

Long have gone the days of just learning Illustrator, InDesign & Photoshop and being just a graphic designer. You’ve now got to be a multidisciplinary designer that covers all bases if you want to stay at the top of the food chain.

As a designer who can’t code, learning code opens up a whole new world of job opportunities too, whether it be the odd freelance job on the side be it helping friends or permanent employment for completely different role. One of the main reasons I want to learn code was because it offers me the opportunity to work on so many other projects. It opens up a whole new avenue for me to dive into, leaving behind flat work and getting my hands dirty with the development team.

Learning to code will improve and add to my current skill set I have now. For me as a designer, learning to code will give me a better understanding of how building a website works. All you’re doing is writing instructions to a computer. Make that box a certain colour. Make this column wider. Show the header after the user scrolls. I’m basically telling a computer how to make a site do what I want, how hard can it be right?

Having spoken with friends and colleagues, I was recommended to check out SuperHi, Treehouse and FreeCodeCamp. I’ve searched high and low for tutorial that suits me and my learning capacity and SuperHi seems a perfect fit for entry level. I’ve already signed up to tutorial on the site and can’t wait to get started. It seems perfect for beginners as I will get 7 whole days of emails of receive a step by step guide to the learn the basics of HTML and CSS. If it goes well, I think will sign up to the course and even buy the book. I am a sucker for a book.

I feel that once I have a solid basic understanding of the world of HTML and CSS, it will help as I will be able to speak tech confidently in a conversation and contribute to projects. Not only that I feel purely a graphic designer was becoming a bit stagnant, by discovering code I’m hoping it’ll lead down a different path. The idea is that will open up an entirely new world of design, possibly even expanding on how I think about design work entirely.

Learning HTML and CSS wont instantly turn me into an instant developer, but it will give me the tools necessary to use my creativity and my motivation to turn my ideas into something real and useable. As a designer who doesn’t code, it seems like a daunting task to learn, but with help from tutorials and colleagues, I know it’s something I won’t regret.