Why should DevRel care about Design?

Melissa Powel
Jun 16, 2018 · 3 min read

I recently gave a talk at DevXCon San Francisco about my experience working on a developer relations team and why I so adamantly advocate for human centered design education for the developers who use Google’s APIs, tools and developer platforms. This is the abbreviated version of that talk. I hope you enjoy!

When it comes to design advocacy among developers, I’ve heard it all.

“Yeah, sure design’s important, but it’s not as important as machine learning.”

“Design’s easy, we don’t need to teach it.”

But lately it’s become apparent to me that many non-designers have a very narrow definition of what design is and, erroneously think it’s not relevant to what we do in Developer Relations.

Design covers a HUGE variety of topics: visual design, typography, imagery, brand, accessibility, mobile UX principles, design components, design tooling, UX for developer tools, UX for AI, design sprints, material theming. *wink*

So let’s look at what the word Design really means. According to the Webster Merriam dictionary, the definition of design is to “create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan.”

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And as I scrolled down the page, I found this in the first example of design being used in a sentence:

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You see, by definition engineering requires design. And dialing in a bit more, let’s look at the definition of Product Design. According to The Oxford Dictionary:

Product design is the process of creating or improving a product by learning what consumers want and examining similar products that are already available.

And here’s a definition of Graphic Design from Wikipedia:

Graphic design is the process of visual communication and problem-solving using one or more of typography, photography and illustration

So, to bring those three definitions together:

Design is a process for problem solving by learning what consumers want and building a plan for execution.

In short, design isn’t a single thing. It’s everything. It’s so dynamic that there’s even a series called Design is […] which covers the breadth of topics that fall under the umbrella of design.

Design is [creative]

So when someone in DevRel (or a developer on your team) who says they don’t see the value in design, they must not understand the definition of the word.

And while we’re defining terms, I’ll take a moment to define what developer relations is. In essence, the role of a Developer Relations team is to educate developers on how to get the most out of your product and to, in turn, be the voice of the developer ecosystem to help product teams improve features and functionality. However, in order for Developer Relations to be successful, developers must be successful. And in order for developers to be successful, they must understand how to turn customer problems into actionable insights; they must understand design.

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To read more about HOW to implement a design-first attitude, see my next post: Design for DevRel in 3 Easy Steps.

PS: DevXCon will soon publish a recording of my talk, which I’ll be sure to post here as well.

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