Should Designers Learn How To Code? My Journey (Part 1)

Is it enough to illustrate and design for the web without coding? It depends on who you are.

About a month ago, as I was listening to the Design Life podcast, Charli Marie and Femke VS were talking about the current controversy / debate over whether web designers should code. Femke said she barely knew how to code and worked with a web developer. Charli felt it was beneficial to increase her coding skills. As these two female designers chatted on, I had a sudden feeling of nervousness. Have I just wasted two years of my life learning a skill that may not have been necessary? swirled through my brain. The inner monologue of second guessing continued festering until I realized why: my previous art style became irrelevant. THAT’s why I decided to learn how to code.

Using the airbrush tool in Photoshop was my go to in producing artwork for print and the web. However, hoping from site to site, I painfully noticed my computer screen was littered with flat icons and Bootstrap inspired layouts. Realistic (even semi-realistic) art wasn’t welcomed anymore. So? What do I do? While talking with a creative director things slowly became much clearer in what I had to do. In May of 2015, after attending a few Noble Desktop seminars in Downtown Manhattan, after buying a few of their workbooks, I took a deep breath and began my quest in learning how to code.

Even though I knew how to build websites for years using html and css, modern practices in how to use them were lacking. I was still making tables to layout pages. Yeah, it was that bad. In addition to updating html and css for a post-MySpace world, I believed my journey to reboot my career would be most impactful when I finally figured out how to use JavaScript way above the image rollover level. For six long, hard months, I acquired all the updated knowledge needed and was ready to design a new website… or was I?

For some reason, diving straight into designing a modern website was frightening. Thoughts like What if this site isn’t good enough? polluted my brain. Despite learning everything in those excellent Noble Desktop workbooks (seriously, they are great), reading several JavaScript books and some hands-on online courses, I still hesitated. While watching a slew of YouTube videos about responsive design practices I stumbled upon a channel that helped change my perspective in building websites.

DevTips is a YouTube channel that helps designers get a front row seat in how modern web design and development work. Terms like Sass, SVG, Sublime Text, Git and Terminal were as foreign to me as Astrophysics. As you (hopefully) click the link and check out those DevTips videos, next week I will continue my non-linear journey into why I decided to learn coding and start with the one thing that changed my web design creation most of all: SVG.