I always find it odd when I see a job listing under “Graphic Designer” and the job description includes Flash, Dreamweaver, PHP, CSS, Java, coding, modern jazz dance and the ability to remember the entire periodic chart.
Illustration by Big Red Ape
My first thought is that the firm hasn’t hired a graphic designer before and is just putting forth a wish list based on ignorance of the talents needed to create great web development. As with the usual addition of a passage, “must be able to take direction and creative criticism.”
One might laugh and want to go into an interview merely to roll a hand grenade into the office of whoever wrote the job listing. In a perfect world, it would be allowed by law. It is, of course, not a perfect world. For the time being, coders are not designers and designers are not coders.
Personally, I don’t know if the two can ever be combined. One is left or right brainer and one is a horrible moron without a sense of humor. I won’t say which is which because the line is so blurred more often than not.
Recently, I volunteered to work a long weekend for a volunteer cause called “Give Camp.” Designers and coders forming web development teams to create web sites and applications for a dozen local non-profit organizations. We assigned teams with a designer, several coders, a development leader and set out to create sites that would help a lot of needy people. As the “art director” on our team, I acted as the bridge and project manager between all disciplines, under one developer/leader.
I Learn Self-Loathing!
In our first meeting, I drew up a rough design of the landing page and site map for navigation. There were some questions, discussion, suggestions and we all managed to come up with a great solution.
Then it happened – the designer opened her mouth and out came loud arguing that had, me, as another designer, shocked at her attitude. Aside from the lack of teamwork, she could not look past the design of the pages to the usability.
Usability. That word is important for not only designers but also for coders because the user experience is not just the site having swift and sure navigation, but also being well-designed so the user can find the needed links, buttons and hidden files… or maybe not the last thing… or first thing. I can never remember.
So, there I stood in the midst of some angry looks and emotions about to explode. I winked at the developer on the project and pulled the designer aside. I explained to her that we were working as a team and there were considerations that had to be addressed. The design was already set and she, as the designer, was to pull the rough idea together and make it look as good as possible. I then went to the developer and coders and calmed them down and assured them the design would keep the coding considerations. Problem solved… or so I thought.
Some people stayed late into the night and some of us left, promising to be back early the next morning. I left, satisfied the differences were smoothed over. I can be stupid, that way.
The next morning, I arrived before the designer to see the developer was white as a sheet… more so than coders usually are from lack of sun and healthy diets. He had stayed late, and so had the designer, who told him her ideas on the site. She was not shy and I noticed that for everything that was said or suggested by the team, she had an argument. She was loud and her tone was as if everyone else is a moron. I wondered how I had not been married to her at some point in my life?
“Don’t worry!” I assured the development team, including several coders, who cringed under their desks like frightened Hobbits. In fact, they were wearing Hobbit T-shirts. To each, their own, I suppose. When the designer came in, she found me sitting at her desk, changing everything back to the original design. She had a shocked look on her face. I smiled and said, “Good Morning! I’m just finishing the design.”
She disappeared for a while. I guess she found someone who would listen to her complaints. When she returned, I threw her a bone and let her add something to the banner that was her own design but did not effect the navigation or coding needed to have the site finished the next day.
The coders were waiting for the designer to finish the banner. She was trying several-thousand color options. I was building a strong hatred for graphic designers. In my many years as an art/creative director, I had seen too many examples of designers not being able to see beyond the end of their own monitors.
After two days of the designer playing with elements, colors and fonts, we left for the evening… except for the coders who were close to tears. I promised to be back VERY early on our last day to make sure everything was set from the design point.
Ending The Foolishness
The next morning, I came in early, fixed all of the elements and handed them to the development leader. We laughed and shuddered at what the design had put us all through and the coders smiled as they set to work, knowing there would be no more changes to the elements they needed to put in place. The designer didn’t show up and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
After several hours and the sugar rush from the morning overdose of donuts and Red Bull started to wear off, we went into the conference room to eat lunch and wind down on the last day. The designer appeared at the door and several people did spit-takes with their sandwiches. “She-who-shall-not-be-named” was back!
She came over to me and sat down, and immediately started complaining about the design of the site. I firmly but gently told her design time was over and she was moved onto another project where she could use all her design skills and cause only minimal damage.
The development head, after a quick application of the Heimlich maneuver to loosen the sandwich lodged in his throat, expressed his concern that the coders were already behind and would need to do further work beyond the time limit of the three days to have the site up and live.
The Differences Between Designers and Coders
As mentioned, there are many differences between the ability to code accurately and to design well. Still, there needs to be understanding between the two disciplines so we can come together.
- Designers start with nothing and build something. Design is the ability to create and balance elements to create a pleasing message for the end user.
- Coders take words, numbers and symbols and create something that has form and function.
- Designers need coders to make their designs work and coders need designers to make the sites cohesive and visually pleasing.
- Designers LOVE Star Wars and coders LOVE The Lord of the Rings. Normal people just LIKE both films.
- Designers should be pitied for having to spend hundreds of dollars on Pantone books every year so clients can tell them to “make that red a little bluer.” Coders can’t find enough Hobbit T-shirts on the market to purchase.
- Designers see thousands of ways to create a message, many of which just won’t work. Coders see only one… which is the right way.
- Non-creative people can buy a computer and software and dub themselves as a “designer.” No one who doesn’t know how to code ever wants to be a coder. Most coders hide their shame by calling themselves “web developers.”
- If a coder were to design a building, it would be solid, safe, square and might have a window or two, but not in anyone’s office. Graphic designers would design a round building made entirely of windows that balances on a golden pencil. Beautiful, but a deathtrap… not that the designer would care, because marketing people would be some of the victims and designers hate them more than anyone else.
- Designers examine every sign for fonts and kerning mistakes and redesign everything. Coders have time to enjoy life… although they waste that time playing video games or in chat rooms, talking about coding.
- Designers have sex more often because of the “glamour” of the title. Coders may have it less, but they enjoy it more because they have it less.
- Designers dream of being rich and famous so people ask for their autographs, which will never happen because it never does. Coders dream of being rich and famous, too, but judging by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, coders have a better than average chance.
- Designers buy cool vinyl figures and remove them from the box, display the packaging and put the figure in the closet. Coders buy a vinyl figure and immediately stash them in a vault for the day they appreciate in value.
- Coders may have an odd love of glitter unicorns, but it was a designer who made the first glitter unicorn gif that pranced across too many web sites in the 1990s.
Despite The Differences…
Sure, we have different ways of seeing web sites, opinions as to hierarchy, grooming habits and what just shouldn’t be allowed by law in regards to sexual practices, but we are all pieces of a puzzle that, when put together, makes a pretty picture of a happy clown with a prancing unicorn… killing marketing people.
It’s not “us” vs. “them” – it’s “we,” the people who create something from nothing, the designers and coders, who are beset by those who know nothing of what we do.
“Them” are the people who make the inane suggestions not based in any reality or process. “Them” are the people who laugh at Star Wars and Lord of The Rings.
At least their power ties will make great nooses once the revolution comes!