The Educated Designer

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“With such a useful skill so interesting, so different, and yet so intrinsically connected, how could anyone choose to remain ignorant and still continue to thrive as a designer?”

It’s a quiet Sunday morning and I’ve found myself thinking. Dangerous in itself I know, but the question that’s cranking my brain into motion this lovely sunny morning is on a whole new level:

“Should web designers know how to code?”
Boy, has that one caused debate in the web design community. It rises its head every few months to a frenzy of tweets, articles and comments. Here’s a brief run down of my favourite:

Mike Kus – 5 Good Reasons Why Designers Should Code
Elliot Jay Stocks – Web designers who can’t code
James Young – Designers have to code now
Frank Chimero – Designers vs Coding
Harry Roberts – Do designers need to code?

The list could go on but at the risk of unearthing a monster I’ll go no further than to bullet point a few thoughts of my own:

Personally, I wouldn’t be able to design a website without knowledge of web standards and coding practices. It’s that intrinsic to my process.
The designers and front-end developers I respect and admire the most all have something in common: they do both.
And the thought I ponder most of all:

I can’t imagine why a professional web designer would choose not to learn coding.
Oh well, I guess I’ll have to explain that one…

In Search of Creativity

During my graphic design education I was introduced to many masters of the craft.

A man that stands out to me as someone of great influence and inspiration is the late Alan Fletcher. His book The Art of Looking Sideways is a tome of brilliance. If you don’t own it, every single page continues an unstoppable array of visual explorations, each one stirring a unique emotion. The book is a breathtaking collection that only a lifetime of wisdom could produce.

It is with memories of Alan Fletcher that I remind myself of where true creativity and motivation comes from: a worldly knowledge of experience and insight (and a desire for more). To avoid staying static, allowing inspiration to evaporate. To avoid becoming placid and boring. Now, that’s not to say that others should not crave the same (on the contrary, it’s what makes us human) but those of us in the creative fields — the artists, musicians, poets, and dare I say, web designers — all share an erratic excitement in this search for creativity and knowledge. But let’s also consider everybody else. A continuing education stimulates the mind, broadens career prospects and generally makes us more fun to be around.

It is with those thoughts that I ask, why would any web designer choose not to learn coding?

It’s such a natural progression. One not just of great value on a practical level, but also of great mind-opening knowledge. With such a useful skill so interesting, so different, and yet so intrinsically connected, how could anyone choose to remain ignorant and still continue to thrive as a designer?

I would expect anyone working on the web to have a basic understanding of HTML & CSS but us “creatives” have an added incentive to keep our imaginations burning, and that can’t possibly be denied, can it? Even if we ignore questions of necessity, understanding the medium and the ability to collaborate, surely a designer cannot remain contempt with limited knowledge of their field?

I say go forth and learn what is around the corner, and don’t stop.