learn to code

In the competitive job market today, web designers are almost always asked about their programming skills during interviews.  While designers don’t need to know every language with fluency, it’s obviously a huge plus for those who understand more code than less.  So when applying for jobs, just what programming level do web designers need to have?

We spoke to Jennie Keinard, Art Director at Uplifted, who explained how much code is required for the position.  Jennie notes that it’s crucial for a web/interaction designer to know how websites are constructed, how code works, and the limitations of different languages, since these are the basic building blocks. Design is 50 percent about how the page functions (which is the code) and 50 percent the aesthetic design. So it’s very important. However, most companies will not ask the designers to write the code themselves – that’s left to the programmers.

“A great analogy I use is that as an architect, I need to know what building materials to use and their properties in order to design a functional and beautiful building, but I don’t need to know how to lay the bricks.”  However, Jennie notes, this is changing.

Most designers are well-versed in HTML, CSS, and some JavaScript, but there is a push for them to learn more.  Companies are encouraging their design team to study programming, whether through a bootcamp or online on their own time, in order to make them a stronger team member. For example, there’s a push towards learning JavaScript, as this come up often in projects and it is a stepping stone to learning more complicated languages.

Coding skills don’t just help on the client side, they also help designers communicate better with the developers.  Since web capabilities such as responsive web, retina screens, and fonts are constantly changing, this communication must be strong.  Many designers create style guides for larger projects to help developers and streamline the development process.  This keeps a site consistent and includes both design and code for all elements.

For now, other than HTML and CSS, it’s typically not required for web designers to know more programming, but this is changing and will continue to evolve.  Especially in the U.S., there seems to be a push for designers to learn (or already know) more programming.  So while it might not be a requirement, it will definitely push your resume up higher on the pile if you’re a designer with strong coding skills.