Jon Gold

This post is 6 years old — please take it with a pinch of salt!

2 minute read · December 21, 2011

Desingineering: Why I Code

“Desingineer” -> mythical person startups are looking for who can do UI, UX and also excellent front- and back-end coding. — chris dixon (@cdixon) December 19, 2011

You don’t need to code.

If you’re a talented designer you probably don’t need to learn Ruby on Rails. JavaScript is something your front-end engineer writes. Touching Objective-C and the iOS SDK is outside of your job description, surely. You don’t even need to be able to write the most semantic HTML or the most cutting edge CSS — a designer’s job is to design. Kind of.

But then you could get away without manually kerning, or devising a typographic scale, or putting your type on a baseline grid, or trapping your artwork for print, or making every single pixel perfect.

The point is, just because you can cut corners doesn’t mean you should. Sweating the details is what makes the best designers, and similarly the most curious designers are the most employable.

No, you won’t be working for Google designing interfaces AND writing production-ready, scalable backend stuff, but the chances are that being curious about this stuff makes you more open to opportunities, more able to patch a hole in an emergency, and a more rounded designer all over.

If you care about every pixel then I think it’s irresponsible to not want to understand every other layer of the stack.

Spreading yourself too thin is a legitimate concern - no one wants to be a mediocre designer and a mediocre coder. I don’t think this is a predetermined fate though - I’d rather occasionally do a bit less design than I like and keep up to speed with technology than fall behind and be_ that 30-something Art Director who is afraid of anything other than FreeHand and OS9_.

Me? I could never write a JavaScript game but I can do all the jQuery I need to know on a day-to-day basis. AJAX calls and interactiony things. I can write simple apps in Rails & Django - just enough that I can get out a working prototype of hotnewstartup without relying on others. And I’m a crappy iOS developer, but I’d like to think I’m better for knowing the basics.

That’s me, how about you?

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Jon Gold

Jon Gold is a designer–engineer–researcher–musician making AI-augmented creative tooling at Airbnb & building weird things for that thing in the desert.