Why Designers and Developers Shouldn’t Hate Each Other

Why Designers and Developers Shouldn't Hate Each Other

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.

Why Designers and Developers Shouldn't Hate Each Other
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.

I Learn Self-Loathing!

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.

Ending The Foolishness

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.

Web Designers vs. Web Developers

  • 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.

Despite The Differences…

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!

Speider Schneider has designed products for Disney/Pixar, Warner Bros., Harley-Davidson, ESPN, Mattel, DC and Marvel Comics, LucasFilms, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon among other notable companies. He’s a former board member of the Graphic Artists Guild and co-chair of the GAG Professional Practices Committee. He also speaks at art schools across the United States and writes articles on business and professional practices for books and global blogs.


  1. / Reply

    Great story, it made my day!

    Being both a developer and a designer, I really can feel the difference between the two worlds.

    The best way for developers and designers to collaborate is being humble and respect each other job, Not everyone can always win the game. Even better would be if both understand a bit of the other work.

  2. / Reply

    I really thought it was a good article distinguishing both. I’ve been somewhat of both since I started helping people with web design and I never really knew there was a big difference. :P

  3. / Reply

    My point will be as follows: every medal has two sides. The same is here. Both jobs are greatly important for the sake of the cause – creating brilliant artworks, be they drawn or coded.

    • Thabo,
    • October 14, 2011
    / Reply

    I am going to add a link to my website for this blog cos it just made me laugh. I am a designer and i don’t know anything about codin. I do know the basic but not willing to code. Great blog… I hope i am allowed to have the link to my site.

      • Aidan,
      • October 15, 2011
      / Reply

      Hi Thabo,

      You are allowed to add the link of this article on your site.


    • Janeta,
    • October 14, 2011
    / Reply

    I am a graphic designer but I learned how to use html and css pretty well I would say. I don’t do any javascript or PHP or things like that, apart from moving some things around on php templates. But I find it VERY useful to be able to do both because I know the limitations, I know what I can afford to do in a design and how to design websites so they actually can be coded. But I know without this knowledge it’s very frustrating for both sides. I dread if a client just wants to send me a design done by somebody else to code it into html. Specially if it was done by someone who does mostly printed design. That can be a real nightmare.

    But it’s great if when designing I already know how I am going to do this in html. I think knowing some basics of html and css would be beneficial to all web designers. Come on, it’s not that hard.

    • Sarah,
    • October 14, 2011
    / Reply

    “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.”

    AMEN to that! They’re looking for some fantastical, chimaera with three heads and magical powers.

    Fun article. :)

    1. / Reply

      Thanks, Sarah! I LOVE your brand!!! I’t’s VERY cool!

  4. / Reply

    OMG – you just made my day, by describing my ‘normal’ day in the office – as a project manager I get the feeling to kill the marketing team several times throughout the day ;)

    • Paul,
    • October 15, 2011
    / Reply

    Ha nice article I’ve never really found a problem with designers. Possible because I’ve only really worked with designers who have actually worked on coding in the past so they understand what is involved.

    • Baffled,
    • October 15, 2011
    / Reply

    I hope this is “A Modest Proposal.”

    Because if it’s not, it’s nothing but a collection of pseudo-science, anecdotes, and stereotypes…thinly disguised as humor?

    The pop culture understanding of hemispheric specialization in the brain is woefully inaccurate. I’d love to see a designer work without using their “left brain” or a “coder” (whatever that means) work without using their “right brain.”

    There are now, have been, and will continue to be coding designers and designing coders who are good at their jobs.

    I’m sorry you had a bad experience with a designer who thought too highly of herself and who put her own satisfaction above the need to deliver a working site. But I really don’t see what it had to do with anything else in this post.

    I read this through twice and couldn’t figure out what the message was. Are you perpetuating the stereotypes that hold the web industry back or are you trying to show the fallacy of those stereotypes by deliberately contradicting yourself every-other paragraph?

    1. / Reply

      No… it’s humor based on stereotypes as seen by members of the web creation industry with a message that everyone needs to respect each member of a team that creates a web initiative. Since the article was tweeted here 113 times, liked by 48 people, +1’d 4 times, picked up by a paper.li that has 605 tweets and reposted on over four dozen other sites with even more tweets, likes and positive comments (so far and it’s only been live for one day), I guess a lot of people got it. “Baffled” may be the wrong descriptor for what you are experiencing.

        • Tommy,
        • October 17, 2011
        / Reply

        Sounds like the problem “designer” you mentioned in your story managed to find your article. lol

        1. / Reply

          No, Tommy… she would be irate and REALLY blast me if it were her… plus it would be written in broken English.

  5. / Reply

    Can relate to both sides as I’ve done both. However, prefer des vs. dev. At the end of the day I can smile … coming and going.
    ( )( )

  6. / Reply

    I’ve done both designing and developing, yet I really don’t see what the fuss is all about, ofcourse, I agree both jobs requires a certain mindset and that may be considered complimentary. I would prefer to be a coder, only because its easier for me to do, an analytic mindset and problem solving ability comes naturally to me and it pays better. Designing on the other hand requires a more creative mindset which in my experience can’t be summoned at two in the morning when the client requires something “more dazzling.”

    Yet, I do agree on certain comments about designers in general, I’ve had my fair share of feuds accelerated by “but it looks better” and “but not as functional” – Real designers use design as a tool for communication, amateurs and pretentious professionals (they are not pros yet, but they do get paid because their clients, like themselves, don’t know the difference between “selling the idea” and “making it look good” ) argue with the developer about looks.

    In either case, your workplace is not a place you should bring your ego to, it hinders productivity – you can’t make good things happen if you don’t keep an open mind.

    • Kevin Sinfield,
    • October 15, 2011
    / Reply

    Great article, I can relate to all of your points being a designer and developer. It is quite a task to juggle both parts of the job.

    • Sam,
    • October 16, 2011
    / Reply

    Thank you for letting me iterate over the reasons I love this website, such a great read!

    As I’m leaving a Graphic Design/IT dual degree to only do the IT part, this resonated greatly with me

    • adam,
    • October 18, 2011
    / Reply

    I’ve been lucky enough to work in teams where everyone gets along really well & each side understands the others work (still design tweaks are a given: )…i think similar outside of work hobbies helps a stack.

    Also im pretty sure everyone LOVES star wars!

  7. / Reply

    Fantastic Article, i do like that images of web designer Vs web developers!

  8. / Reply

    I’m a designer but I have to say I do much prefer Lord of the Rings.

    And now you mention it, ever since I started dabbling in HTML/CSS and trying to understand the mind-boggling world of jQuery/php/mysql, I noticed my wife has been less interested in sex. I need to get back into some regular Photoshop/Illustrator action again.

    Fun article with some good points. It might sound obvious but teamwork does work. It’s much more productive – and usually more fun.

    I’ve just seen the Spam Protection below. Typical developer, a maths question. How am I supposed to work that out? Why can’t you set a question like: red + yellow = ?

    1. / Reply

      The answer is rellow! Hmmmm… sounds like a Scooby-Doo answer.

    • Adam,
    • October 18, 2011
    / Reply

    “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.”

    I see this all the time with jobs posted online and I too don’t get it. It’s like they want a 2 in 1 but that’s not how it works. If you’re going to post a job like that then the salary better be something of what a designer and a web developer make combined.

    • Dot,
    • October 19, 2011
    / Reply

    I miss you, Speider.
    For the record, I love Hobbits more than Star Wars but then I do like Star Trek. DC over Marvel, by the way.

    I know there are combo folks out there but by not charging twice the money, they make it harder on the rest of us who want to do one thing (which is WAY more than one thing: magazine, ads, catalogs, brochures, POP, posters, book covers, book insides, ePubs, environmental, typography, web design, print production, traditional or digital illustration, sometimes 3D or animation…) that we are more comfy with, well.

    1. / Reply

      It’s okay, Dot… you’re choked up with emotion missing me. ;) You can always find a little bit of me on the pages of the popular design blogs and other weirdness within the pages of my blog.

      Many employers like to put out a laundry list of what they WANT, which includes the über-being that turns two positions into one. There are people who can do it (although fewer with all skills at an acceptable level for the best results) but it’s really just a desire to not have to hire two people. In my experience, these jobs either are never filled or are given to those who lack certain abilities in one of the two areas. Cheap is better than good when it comes to salaried positions these days.

      Thanks for the comment and missing me. I miss you, too!

  9. / Reply

    I’d actually differentiate between three entities:
    1) Designers
    2) Coders (as in HTML/CSS)
    3) Programmers (as in PHP/ASP)

    I’ve actually seen some success (and had some great success) when a designer is taught to code (and code well).

    It can help keep the project in budget & on schedule if the designer is very familiar with how the project is to be implemented.

    The risk though, when you can code, is that the knowledge of what could be difficult to do can limit the design – sometimes a good thing (budget!) – but sometimes not so go (we all like to grow, right?).

    However, I’d be far less inclined to try to on-the-job teach a coder or a programmer to design.

    Lastly – out of all the skillsets, I’d want formal education on the design side. Coding & programming: quite fine if your self taught (of course, that may be because I understand coding & programming – I don’t understand design… :)


    • Ramón Ramos,
    • October 24, 2011
    / Reply

    “¿Why can’t I comment in Helvetica?”

  10. / Reply

    I loved this post! By far the best part of it was the “Differences” satirical section…well partially satirical. I can admit to some of those things, so I can’t say it’s all untrue. :P

  11. / Reply

    I’m actually a developer but funny enough, I develop sex apps. So what do you think? do i have sex often. Sadly enough the answer is NO. It’s not like I’m a porn star or anything, I just develop the apps. Maybe i should consider a career change and become a designer… Something to think about :)

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