Should designers learn how to code? Should designers only use sketch? Should designers still use photoshop? Should designers design when on drugs? Should designers [insert blanket statement]. These questions always popup and have been the topic of many heated debates. My perspective is that “designers should always be open to learning and developing” whether that is to code, prototype, think about user experience, translate business objectives or improving client communicaiton etc.
The bottom line is do what’s required to create the best outcomes for the projects that you work on currently as well as the type of projects you wish to pursue in the future. What technologies, methodologies and design tools can you use to create the best outcome? If learning how to code will streamline the processes with your team and create even better work, then why shouldn’t you learn how to code? It’s about context to the situation which varies greatly from designer to designer.
Whilst it might not be in your job description learning supplementary and complimentary skills is something very valuable to have as a designer as long as it doesn’t spread you thin. Being a master at 1 thing, spectacular at 2 things and capable at other skill sets is better than being average at 10 skill sets. By being average you are replaceable as your skills and capabilities are a dime a dozen. So work on the fundamentals first, be aware of the others skills you need to build upon but you need to learn to walk properly before you can run. Try to become spectacular at 1 or 2 things through constant learning, practice and application. Learn about typography, hierarchy, prototyping, designing with users in med etc. And then build out your repertoire from there.
People just have knee jerk reactions when someone tells them that they should be doing something they don’t currently have the skills to do yet. And it feels like a personal attack on their abilities as a designer. My take is by having a lot of supplementary skills such as being able to prototype, code, understand motion design, understand design tools like design thinking, learning to present to clients, learning how to price etc. They are great skills to have as they allow you to thrive in a wide range of different contexts and the ability to solve a wide range of problems and design challenges from different angles. They are all complimentary skills to a designers core function – being able to design beautiful work that helps achieve the objectives of a business and delivers on the needs of the user.
So in closing designers should do whatever the fuck they want. But just to throw my own blanket statement out there “designers should continue to learn and grow.” One day you’re like blockbuster in the 90’s banking cheques like a boss and you ride that gravy train without changing and learning anything new. And then one day you become blockbuster in 2010 bankrupt because you failed to adapt and continually learn.