Dear Designers, Please Learn Development

(and vise versa)

It’s been an ongoing debate since perhaps the beginning of time– can a person use their creative and analytical brains (right and left, respectively) with equal skill. Obviously, there were some who did it well–artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci comes immediately to mind–but what about in today’s society, in particular the gap between web designers and developers.  Should there be an overlap in skill sets?

While I admit that having specialization of labor, as a whole, has brought many benefits to society, in this particular case of website creation the two divergent mindsets are working toward a common goal. It is less like a composer and a biochemist and more like an interior designer and an architect.

Because there is a shared purpose and desired product/outcome, even if the design and development work is split between two individuals, there is the expectation that they will have to communicate to each other to reach the client’s goals. It becomes necessary,even on a basic conversational level, for both the designer and developer to understand parts of the other’s job and associated vocabulary. Ignorance here will benefit no one.

How much more of an overlap might be necessary depends on what type of services you offer  individually. Obviously if you are a lone designer offering a PSD to HTML service, you’ll need to know HTML and CSS. If you are a solo web developer putting together a web app, being able to put together a cohesive user interface is a must. The right brain/left brain skill set overlap becomes then an extending of the basic level of understanding needed to interface with the other half–be it designer or developer. This is more, I believe, a matter of personal preference than a mandatory learning because it requires the individual to be confident enough in his or her skills to carry out the tasks of the other

While we can argue the merits of separation all day, the fact is that neither designers  nor developers operate in a vacuum, completely cut off from the other.  There is a symbiotic relationship between the two, put in place by the very nature of the work.  Considering how tightly the Internet connects us all together, it seems even more counterintuitive to fight to keep the right and left brains completely divided. After all they do make up one mind.