Designer + ? = Happy user

Laura Walters, Designer

Designer + ? = Happy user

Designers are a multi talented bunch of people — from digital to print design, branding to illustration and everything in between. We’re generally expected to be skilled in a range of things; grasping design principles and applying them to different mediums. There are two schools of thought for what skills designers should gain after all of the above. There are the purists — those who push design boundaries conceptually while remaining true to traditional principles. Then there is the designer-developer — the person that can design your website and build it for you too. As John Maeda puts it they are the “designers who can empathize and bang out lines of Javascript.” These are the designers I’m going to be talking about; the “designer-something else”.

Learning to code has always seemed like the logical next step for a digital designer… but maybe this is no longer the case.

Last year I took a General Assembly course in web design with an emphasis on the build side, specifically, an introduction to HTML and CSS — followed by a terrifying experience with HTML emails. The latter was immediately (and gratefully) forgotten but the rest of the course provided a fascinating new approach to designing a website. The goal being to think more like a developer. What better way to get a better understanding of how your work is actually built, and how your design decisions have a knock on effect for the project’s developers? On top of that, learning to code can help make the design/developer hand off smoother as you will already be considering the questions the developer will have and the potential sticking points. Understanding the basics of what goes on under the hood will help designers to figure out what’s best for the user and can also help from a UX perspective.

Learning to code has always seemed like the logical next step for a digital designer… but maybe this is no longer the case.

Recently the AIGA posed the question, what will a design job look like in 2025? How does design education need to adapt to changes within the industry now that “the boundaries of ‘design’ are less certain?”

Given the rise in VR, UX and conversational user interfaces (CUI) from chatbots to Alexa; maybe learning to code is not the obvious next step. Many designers are getting clued up on UX design now that users are getting more and more tech savvy. It has become very buzzword-y over the last couple of years but as technology has evolved the focus of the designer has returned to where it rightfully belongs — to act as an advocate for the user . To understand how the user will interact with a product, has been, but will become a much bigger part of the designers role. Designers are now in a position to have the discussions early on in projects to ensure that the user is the main consideration.


On top of UX design is there anything else that designers should be learning? All of the following would be a useful string to add to the designer’s bow: UX writing, motion graphics, design for audio interfaces, research techniques or collaborative skills.

“The most successful designers will be those who can work with intangible materials — code, words, and voice.” John Maeda

I believe that the role of the designer is changing and there won’t be one set educational path. It won’t be enough the learn to code OR to learn UX. Designers will have to master both — and more — to stay truly relevant and ahead of the game in this constantly shifting industry.

As your brand and technology partner, we’ll help you discover what’s possible.

We’ll make sure that the way we work is the right fit for your business, and we’ll ask the right questions to make sure you’re set up for success.

We can help build your brand through technology, email [email protected]

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