Learning itself is a skill, and when you exercise that skill across domains, you get specialized as a learner in a way that someone who goes deep doesn’t. You learn how to learn by continuously challenging yourself to grasp concepts of a broad variety. This ironically then allows you to specialize in something else faster if you so choose. This is an incredibly valuable advantage.
Idea synthesis, rapid learning, and adaptability: three skills that multipotentialites are very adept at and three skills they might lose if pressured to narrow their focus. As a society, we have a vested interest in encouraging multipotentialites to be themselves. We have a lot of complex, multidimensional problems in the world right now, and we need creative, out-of-the-box thinkers to tackle them.
You don’t have to do another person’s job to be able to work well with that person, but you have to understand the broad issues that your co-worker deals with. When that co-worker is ignorant of their own issues, all sorts of crazy notions emerge. Crazy notions like designers need to code.
What made me a good designer wasn’t my years of coding, but my profound understanding of the invisible demons programmers wrestle with. If a designer is skilled at their craft, knowledge of these development demons is what makes them successful at their job.
I see two reasons why we can’t just ignore this meaningless debate. Firstly, it’s important because young people — ill-equipped to properly assess the question — are liable to waste a lot of effort and opportunity on it. Secondly, the very fact that it recurs, always disguised as a broad and serious question, convinces me that its persistence hides some deeper issues, some lurking motivations.