The Mighty Devsigner

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When presenting my skills to potential clients and other industry professionals, I am often asked, “so which are you – developer or designer?”

To me, it sounds as ridiculous as someone asking “Are you a human or a being?” This question makes a very important assumption: that it’s impossible for one person to truly specialize in two disciplines.

I have heard the assertion that designers simply can’t develop their own material and that developers should stick to code. My belief is that being a great designer or developer doesn’t mean you stay in one world – it’s possible to have a masterful grasp of the concepts in each.

For example, in one situation I was tasked with translating developer-speak for designers in an attempt to follow Lean UX methodologies. As the tech industry grows, teams become larger and specializations become more common. Teams hand-off their work often without ever consulting the next group in the chain. This creates a need for someone who can coordinate the in-between realm, but it doesn’t mean that job is for everyone.

So many times, an idea is born and handed to designers first. By the time the amazing plan reaches developers, they are forced to be in the position of saying, “Whoa…that isn’t going to work.” This has a negative impact on the project timeline and on the morale of designers and developers alike.

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Would you say that a language interpreter cannot possibly be an expert in both languages they are using?

It is true that an interpreter probably has one native tongue. It’s also possible that they grew up speaking two or more languages in their household. Let’s say, for example, that they are most familiar with English and translation to Italian is a learned skill. They may advance to the highest levels of Italian language ability and someone will still ask, “But…which is your native tongue?!”

There is a belief that a born designer cannot be a developer and vice versa. I am a born designer – it is my native language. I approach all tasks with a sensitivity to design, logic, and simplicity. That means when I learned the skill of development as a 15-year-old, my approach was naturally design-focused.

I used my understanding of HTML to change the way I shared my designs, photography, and ideas.

But all of this doesn’t mean your design team needs to learn Javascript. The article, “We Don’t Need More Designers Who Can Code”, examines the impact of thinking you can create a devsigner from anyone. That’s a misapplication of the strategy.

From the article:

“The reason designers should know about code, is the same reason developers should know about design. Not to become designers, but to empathize with them. To be able to speak their language, and to understand design considerations and thought processes.”

Today, when I am approached by new clients they want to know where I fit in – “which is my strength?” I do believe that for some individuals, taking on multiple disciplines can result in a weaker product. The world needs strong single-focused individuals. But the world also needs translators!

This is where I fit in. I understand you, designers. And I understand you, developers. I’m ready to communicate with both professions and teach the basic skills they need to communicate with each other! This is my strength as a creative professional.

My work in UX, graphic design, and web development focuses on taking clients through a brand journey. I can’t imagine designing the next Coca-Cola logo and I won’t single-handedly develop an Amazonian e-commerce platform (yet). Those things require strong individuals and teams, and leaders who can coordinate the flow of an idea through a process. That’s why you hire a devsigner – that’s when you’re looking for someone like me.