Designers: Adapt or Die.

M. Pell
M. Pell
Aug 4, 2015 · 5 min read

The writing is on the wall, and it’s in 400 pt Helvetica…
Learn to code or be irrelevant.

The day is quickly coming where we’ll have no use for you if you can’t design AND code. It’s not personal — just business.

< awkward > silence < /awkward >

OK, hold on. That’s just plain wrong. Why would you even think that’s the case?

Well, let’s start with the obvious — we’re all in the midst of a colossal shift to a Maker/Hacker mindset and approach to just about everything we do — whether that be creating products, providing services, doing things at home, or even just communicating with each other.

Don’t all these fast prototyping tools count as coding?

No. Not without the ability to go off script (bad pun). They’re awesome tools compared to how we used to do things as Designers in the past, but that’s all they are — prototyping tools with rails that constrain your approach and execution. Nothing but fancy slideware with behaviors.

Whatever. Why should I believe anything you have to say about this anyway?

Maybe you shouldn’t — but honestly I’ve seen this happening every day with big and small teams alike, and experienced it myself from both perspectives (being a Designer and Coder) and the conclusion is inescapable.

Still not buying this. Where’s your so called proof?

OK, since nothing I say will convince you, let’s be a bit scientific and data-driven here. We’ll depend on your observation of real people in real situations to be our guide.

  1. Observe Makers
    Find a Maker garage near you. The key attribute of people you’ll find there as part of the Do It Yourself (DIY) or Maker movement is the desire and ability to build things themselves. It’s true they often collaborate on designing whatever it is they are interested in, but nothing stops them from moving their idea forward. This same behavior has existed forever in the product development world, but the difference is functions were compartmentalized and often gated. Conversely, Makers and organizations with Maker-mentalities need the ability to force things into being quickly so hypothesis can be tested out and designs revised as needed. In those cases, Design and Coding/Fabrication are skills found within the same person. Not saying they’re rockstars at both necessarily, but the more each person involved can accomplish themselves to achieve the desired outcome, the faster everything goes toward reaching the stated goal. True that design may suffer a bit and code quality may suffer a bit, but the result is out there in the world quicker and can be adjusted as needed.
  2. Talk to a Product Development Team
    Big or small, new or experienced — ask anyone on the team if they’d rather have an awesome Designer who can’t code, or a pretty good Designer who does, and see what they say. And remember — don’t be offended. It’s just business. Every team faces the same challenges — there’s never enough people, time and money to get the job done as quickly as it needs to be. So, if there’s a chance to have someone capable of doing more than one role sign ’em up. Even better if they’re both the tip of spear and the person digging in the dirt. Designers who can conceptualize, ideate, and then jump right in and code it up so it can be used and evaluated by others are the future of that role. Those who can’t are still awesome, but nowhere near as valuable to the team.

Futuristic Design

by M. Pell

M. Pell

Written by

M. Pell

Designer. Disruptor. Outlaw.

Futuristic Design

by M. Pell