I Don’t Care If You Code

Programming - Apr 19, 2024

Confession: I don’t enjoy code. Not really.

I know that sounds strange coming from someone who’s made over 2,000 code contributions this year. But it’s true: code, in and of itself, brings me little joy. If I felt I would be as informed and effective a designer with only pen and paper, or Sketch, or Photoshop (all of which I still use regularly), I’d ditch it in a heartbeat.

But I’m also impatient, and extremely critical of my own work. I code because I want to know my intentions will map to the end product.

It’s not about the code. It’s not even about the tools. Prototyping is about asking reality for feedback.

I believe designers can still be effective without code, so long as they counteract the distance between their work and implementation with an equal amount of education and discussion. The less technical the designer, the more frequently and deeply they should be engaging with the project’s implementors for insight, review and experimentation.

Bad industrial design often starts in ignorance of what a material can and cannot do.

Designers who build an awareness of the mechanical aspects of their chosen medium (through collaboration, books, podcasts, conferences, new software or features, learning code, etc.) can make the most of its latest and greatest capabilities while avoiding its shortcomings.

Those who don’t will find their work frequently butchered by avoidable challenges, inaccurate assumptions and unplanned compromise.

For a designer it’s a good thing to have constraints: rules, clients, limited budgets, a specific audience. Because if you don’t have those, you stop being a designer. You’re an artist.

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