Designers and developers have always been considered two creatures from different planets or, even worse, enemies. The former are seen as the creative people, the visionaries, the artists who can move pixels up and up above the sky. The latter are seen as the engineers, the mad scientists who can type really fast on their keyboards. What most people don’t see, though, is how similar the two really are.
Both designers and developers work towards the same goal on creating the best possible product for their users and they are, in a sense, both engineers and artists in what they do. Code, for example, can be well written, well structured and elegant, as a great novel would be. On the other hand, a good piece of design needs to be engineered in every aspect to maximise some goal whilst providing the best possible user experience. At the same time, code needs to be functional and performant, and design should look great and be appealing.
There’s no such thing as good design without good engineering and viceversa
Think about a meal you love for a moment: it wouldn’t be that delicious if it was only because of one ingredient. It’s the sum of all the ingredients together that makes that meal great. The same rule applies in our business: great products are the outcome of collaboration between designers, developers, and all other roles in an organisation. Hence, great design can only happen when there’s an overlap between them all.
For a long time I’ve been guilty of having underestimated the power of this collaboration. Instead of involving developers at early stages, I would have rather worked in isolation until I was finished with something and only then give my designs away. But design is not a phase that ends when development begins. Designers should work in parallel with developers and they should always be included in the design process. The benefits of getting feedback that early outweigh the mistakenly perceived advantage of ‘getting it done’.
I’ve been married to a developer for just over 3 years and we’ve been together for a long time before. I can honestly say that I’ve learned more about design from him than I’ve ever learned from any other designer. I’ve learned about things that I would have never even thought about if it wasn’t for his technical eye for details.
At carwow we’ve recently introduced cross-functional teams where designers and developers work together in smaller teams focusing on a particular feature together. There’s still a lot room to improve, but this structure can definitely foster collaboration and communication.
In conclusion, I came across this quote from another article and I just thought it can summarise better the essence of what I’m trying to say:
“…there lies buried in the Greek language a startling insight: the same word, poiesis, describes the work of both the mechanic and the poet. In modern times we have grown accustomed to thinking of the inspired artist and the disciplined engineer as opposed human types who gaze upon one another with mutual incomprehension, if not outright and avowed hostility. The Greeks, however, could not even express in language the difference between the artist and the engineer.”
— Barry M. Katz