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Designers-Cum-Coders – Jack of All, Good For None? -

cum coders

Featured Image: Unsplash/Mia Baker

Developers and designers are two different roles with distinct sets of skills. Developers look at the problem and break it down into bite-sized chunks to create sustainable solutions. Designers, on the other hand, look at the thing more holistically to create a more consistent experience.

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Designer vs Developer

This difference in approach has always been the bone of contention between the two professions. The answer, for some, has been to merge the two roles and look for individuals who possess expertise as both a designer and developer.

This Mix Of Two Made Sense For A Bit.

Companies recognized the value of hiring people with multiple skill sets. One such sought after individual happened to be a coder who could double in as a designer. A hybrid of design + coding, if you will.

This approach had its advantages, such as:

  • The product design and development team might create products with superior software as well as an incredible UX.
  • The process can be time-saving.
  • When designers know the basics of coding (or vice versa), it makes team communication and collaboration that much easier and beneficial.

Designers in the tech industry are especially familiar with the practicalities of how this approach plays out into the real world.

In other words, it doesn’t.

Times Have Changed Now.

While collaboration between designers and coders is still important, critically so, I believe we are now at a point in time where we can recognize that having separate specialties is better for everyone.

Designer Programmer
Image Source: Unsplash

Compared to 10 or 15 years ago, products now are more complex, requiring a deeper dive into the relevant niches. For an individual trying to ride both the boats, the results may not be too favorable.

Designer and Coder

For managers, this issue is important as they juggle through and navigate the team’s deadlines and tasks. For the end consumer, this can matter too in the context of how apt and proficient the design work is perceived to be.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

Let’s take a look at this phenomenon of having 2-in-1 professionals in your organization inside out.

The Perks Of Having A Designer-Programmer Whiz Kid:

Suppose you are a startup with not much in the way of a company war chest. Not everyone can be Apple Inc.

Faced with the paucity of funds and a small team of hungry professionals, it could make perfect sense for a startup to have individuals on the team that are multi-purpose with their skill sets. The ones that can fix a web page just right as they can fix up the text in a typographic poster.

Designers who can write frontend and backend code can prove to be a boon to entrepreneurial efforts.

And there is one more reason why it could make sense to employ these tech and design ubermensch. This can cut down costs and time for startups that want to be out with their products asap. No to-and-fro between 2 people when just the one can handle the work with ease.

The Argument For Going With A Dedicated Designer Or Coder:

There is a popular Unix philosophy that reflects where I stand on this debate.

It says, ‘do one thing, and do it well’.

While it’s important for designers and coders to know about the basics of each other’s crafts, expecting someone to be equally good at both is a recipe for disaster.

Designer or Coder
Image Source: Unsplash

For one thing, design is constantly evolving. For someone to be actually good at designing apps and websites, the learning is lifelong. Web or UX design isn’t some cut and dry concept that adheres to some rigid principles. It keeps on changing with the times. It takes into consideration the tech, the people, the environment and so much more that makes for an intuitively amazing product.


Design needs ample room to breathe.

On the other hand,


It needs a sharp, steely resolve to optimize and troubleshoot the heck out of code.

So what we are trying to convey here is that it might not be good for a brand agency to hire a coder that can design or a designer that can code for that matter. At least if they want to cement and maintain their reputation as a numero uno design agency that is.

And if we are to get full on real and technical here, coding and designing are two specialized professions. Each needs all the attention in the world.

Can One Find The Sweet Balance Between The Two?

Do you think that we are saying that multi-talented individuals who can do both are not preferable?

Not necessarily. In fact, we do need emphatic designers that are aware of coding and how that impacts their work. When designers know about the architecture of code, it makes for a more conscious and practical design. It keeps their inspirations grounded in reality.

Programmers also appreciate such a designer because now they have an ally on the other team. Someone who understands their language and translates for them in the meetings. This can go a long way in understanding what issues or improvements coders can make for designers.

Perfect Balance
Image Source: Unsplash

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This sort of thing opens up a whole new line of communication between the designers and the coders, leading up to some fantastic collaborations in their projects. This is the stuff that magic is made of. So, instead of opting for a designer+coder who can serve as a Swiss Army knife, it is more essential to have dedicated designers and coders who understand enough about the intricacies of each other’s crafts to make collaborations more meaningful and fruitful.

Not two rigid teams that refuse to budge an inch because none on either team wants to understand the other.

Illustration Source: iStock/ma_rish

Author Bio:    

Evan is an Expert in Digital Marketing. He has been working in the social media space since 2008, with a focus on design services, user interface planning, branding and more. Currently, he is leading content marketing efforts at DesignMantic and has played an integral part in the success story of DesignMantic through strategic marketing campaigns. Evan is also a design pro, who has shown a predilection towards DIY design projects.

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