Becoming a developer turned designer

This is not yet another debate on what a designer should be able to do. A designer should be able to design.

I want to talk about how a developer turned designer can flourish as a designer.

Collaborate with the Designer and Development Team

You have very specific knowledge about how things work under the hood. When you start working on a project, talk to the development team to understand how the product is already implemented or understand the technical specifications for new products. Also understand their pain points they have working with the design team by interviewing them.

This knowledge of the system combined with your technical knowledge will make you the go-to source for technical questions other designers may have. You can also point out how a design can be improved easily due to the nature of the system, producing a high return with little effort.

Increase the ROI of UX even more

We know UX has a great ROI. But what if the design decisions were always made on technical feasibility? You can add a technical dimension to decision making, allowing the team to decide which decisions will balance the user goals, business goals and technical feasibility. With you on the team, your team becomes almost like a master coffee roaster, trying to create the perfect coffee blend of tradeoffs.

Educate and Learn

Being a designer requires a different mindset than a developer, use that opportunity to learn and teach. Learn how other designers think and teach them how developers think. Work together and stay curious about people… beyond just their design and technical abilities.


You are now a designer, go realize some empathy. When your friends ask you to fix their computer or phone, think of it as an opportunity. Imagine what that person is thinking about how that system operates, think about what their mental model is.

Stay calm, observe and help when the moment is right (once you understand their pain point and problem). I’m sure you will be surprised and find that the users aren’t as “stupid” as you thought they once were. Do a quick analysis on what was wrong with that experience that led them to have a mental model that was vastly different than reality.

For example: people can’t usually tell the difference between when a computer is being slow or the internet is being slow. They don’t know which things are coming from RAM and which are coming from the internet. Computer repair services and cable companies benefit from this misunderstanding. Both offer a solution to improve speed, neither may be sure if they are actually solving the problem.


Hone in on your soft skills, learn to love people even more. Yes it’s hard, because as developers we want to find reason and logic behind everything, However people are not logical…but the experiences we design are based on software, which is structurally logical.

Corey is a developer turned designer with a focus on user empathy. Check out his site at

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