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Should Designers Code?

Ah, the million dollar question. There’s a lively debate around this topic that never seems to be settled once and for all. Companies will tell you one thing. Developers will defend something else. Designers will have different opinions depending on their experience... but the short answer is yes. If you want to know why, and how deep you should go into the learning rabbit hole, keep reading.

Unicorns are not that special anymore

Long gone are the days were being a designer with code knowledge was something to be surprised about. The designer market is more saturated every day, and adding some development skills is a great way to stay competitive. That doesn’t mean you should stop everything and go back to college for 4 years. An intensive course might be all you need to boost your profile and stand out from the crowd.

Design for code, code for design

You don’t design to keep your creations in Sketch or InVision. At some point you’ll want them to turn into real, usable products, won't you? Or you might have the best design ever but if it’s unbuildable, what good does it do to anyone? Keeping this in mind will save a lot of time — both to you and the rest of your team. With just a basic understanding of how your product is made you’ll be able to start thinking in components like a developer would

Not interested in winning the love of your dev team? OK, think about it this way. Do you want your design implementations to be pixel perfect? Understand how they will be built and you might get a chance. 

Learn to speak Developer

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably a UX designer or want to become one. One of the key aspects of your job is being empathetic, right? Start by your own team. Having some technical knowledge, and having wrestled with your own coding challenges, will help you better understand what your developer colleagues do. As in any other field, making a little effort to speak the same language goes a long way.

Be more independent

As a designer, you are a creative person. Probably you have a project in mind that you would like to turn into a reality someday. Understanding how this process would work will be invaluable when setting up the scope and determining the project’s complexity. Depending on your idea you might even be able to build it all by yourself.

Cross-train your mind

As we established before, learning to code doesn’t mean you have to leave design behind and become a developer. That is just one of the many options. Even if you end up not using any of your coding knowledge, just the fact that you learned to think in a different way will help you in your main area of expertise: design. Adopting new mental models and paradigms helps us think outside the box. As Tim Harford says, and many great minds such as Einstein and Darwin believed...

“if we want to become better at what we do, maybe we should spend some time doing something else.”

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