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Should I learn to code as a digital designer?

October 16, 2016

If your a digital or graphic designer that designs a lot for the web, should I learn to code? ...Short answer, yes! At least HTML and CSS, and from there as far as you can keep going, Javascript, Ruby, Python, anything. A brilliant analogy I heard mentioned by Interactive Designer Bryan James was that being able to code was like a print designer being able to touch and feel the paper stock he was printing on. And I totally agree.

I started out my career studying typography at University and focused predominantly on graphic design for print. I was always looking for cheap quick and easy alternatives to coding my own website. Anything from Wix to Wordpress. But in the end, with helpful funding from my work, I was able to learn to code and after a few months had picked up the basics quite easily. Since then I have coded and launched several websites for myself and commercially, and although I wouldn’t consider myself a true front-end developer, think I have a solid knowledge of HTML, CSS and Javascript.

Knowing the strengths and weakness of front-end code greatly enhances a digital designers thought process when designing/wireframing/accessing a website. Even if you’re not the developer creating the final product it is a great asset being able to discuss with them the designs you have created. For example knowing the limitations of HTML email from previously attempting to build one myself means that I don’t send over complex designs to other web developers (…that won’t make you popular!). It also allows you to code mini mock ups to demonstrate your ideas if you want a certain look or interaction, greatly speeding up production times. On several occasions I have used coded web mock ups to explain to a developer the exact way I was envisioning my responsive layout to work, without numerous PSDs.

…And if nothing else it definitely helps differentiate yourself from your competition and boast your salary options! Win win! And it’s a lot easier than you think.

Check out this really interesting interview with Bryan James (Click here) talking about his experience with design and coding.

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