As we mentioned in a recent article here, we’re currently in a Golden Age of Design, certainly as far as tech products are concerned. Companies with co-founders that are designers are killing it, and VCs are pouring cash into designer-led companies. Some examples?
… perhaps you’ve heard of one or two of these obscure companies before? Yeah, we thought so. And then of course, there’s the granddaddy of them all: Apple.
They’re doing all right, too.
What’s it like to work as a designer in this new Golden Age? Well, the nice folks over at Invision have recently published a neat infographic about that very thing. Voilà:
The point that interests us is that designers now are evolving along a continuum that stretches from the arts, at one point, to the computer department, at the other. A person may begin a career as a designer with visual skills only, but then, with experience and a bit of study, progress to managing user experiences, and may even ultimately become an information architect (which pays quite well, as you can see).
Should designers code?
Many companies are looking for designers that can code. There are some amazing designers that can are very skilled programmers and capable of doing both jobs. This is not necessarily a good thing, however, especially when a designer is doing it all and trying on too many hats. With technology changing so quickly, all the different CSS frameworks, and the need for responsive design and seamless presentation on mobile devices, we believe it’s better to have the interface designer and programmer separate, but still collaborating closely.
Design is strongest when focused on brand impact, typography, and the visual nuances of the user experience. Programmers, on the other hand, are delivering the most value when focused on the need to build efficiently and scalably, and the technical side of questions about use of media queries, embedded web fonts, and mobile devices. If one person straddles and does both art and tech, typically, neither area is served very well, and the level of innovation possible is diminished.
And innovation is critical, now that “Here today, gone tomorrow” has been replaced by “Here today, gone today.”
Anyhow, the best outcome happens when designers and developers stick to their specialties and continue to challenge and provoke each other so that the outcome is greater than the sum of its parts – the definition of synergy.
It certainly doesn’t hurt, however, if a company has a designer that’s a brilliant coder, or a developer that has an amazing design sense, we call these people unicorns.
And if your business plan relies on the continued existence of unicorns, you may be in trouble.