Why I code?
Written on Dec 30, 2020

The question of whether designers should code is one of the most hotly debated topics in the industry. People dig in really deep with their opinions and try to convince you about how you should do it. As I wrote this article, I went through a couple of articles. I even found a Medium article which hyperlinks all the "designers should code?" Medium articles. I don't know why there is so much talk around it. Are they uncertain about their future design jobs?

In Design Detail podcast 43, Jon Gold gives the best answers to this question, I believe.

Don't worry about it, just do what makes you happy..

If you enjoy coding, then learn it, else learn any other skills that make you happy. There are enough examples of designers who created impactful designs without programming skills, so it's okay not to know how to code.

Shipping great design is a lot of visual skills, people management, system thinking, interaction design, storytelling, influencing, communication, writing, researching, etc. In my experience, designers don't possess all these skills at a high level. Some designers are good at research. Some are good at storytelling, average at system thinking. It's okay to have areas of interest they are passionate about. The beauty of working in a team is designers can ask for help in design areas, which others are extraordinary contributors.

The main reason I still enjoy coding is that I get to be the creator. To be an independent software creator, you need to design and develop stuff of your own. Knowing how to code gives me that freedom. I still cherish that feeling after writing a line CSS and going to the browser and see how it looks. As @rsms says,

Software is the medium through which I express myself.

It is something very relatable to me. I can build stuff that I think is cool and fun to use.

Yes, knowing code does come with some added benefits in the workplace, like any other skill like writing, managing people, etc. One being you start to love the conversations with developers figuring out how to build stuff together. Your mind thinks more in terms of systems and how does each system talks to the other. When you see that new stripe's new website, the first thing you do is understand how they did it by checking the developer console.

Why don't I become a developer then? People ask me that time to time. To date, I feel I can add more value as a designer rather than being a developer. I am not the best programmer, and I don't care what new coding design patterns are. I love to hack out things and make stuff, and I find fun in that. I think I will hate coding if I do it as a full-time job.

To be a good designer is to be excited about what you are doing, and if you don't like coding, just don't code. It's better not to get religious about this stuff. As a designer community, we also need to be less dogmatic about what other designers should learn or not.