Charles Peters UI Engineer


We have gotta be done with the 'should designers code?' discussion right? What about the follow up conversations about the nature of what a designer is and the narrowing definitions of code itself? Do we need another several-thousand word Medium post about these loose and undulating definitions? The Gettysburg Address was a 272 words and Psalm 23 is only 116 words; I don't really know what I'm getting at other than your fucking think-pieces should be shorter than the Magna Carta.

Beyond that, these aren't interesting discussions. They impose rhetoric on tactile behavior and they often narrowly scope the work and value of complicated work.

When we finally find someone who withstands the really brittle definitions of what we call a designer who can also write code and speak into that language, then they get assigned this appellation "unicorn". That's word doesn't do a whole lot to cloak the complexity or even sound reassuring. Personally, I think it's always sounded a little reductionist. Supposedly the term "unicorn" is about scarcity versus about being mythical. But at the end of the day unicorn is a horse with an extra appendage, and from fables lost in the Great Flood. How does that instill confidence or value to this supposed renaissance person?

If you're going to pick something fictitious to describe these hybrid super humans, why not something strong and powerful? My preference, Centaurs. Centaurs are powerful creatures that roam in herds and is something that's actually two things.

Space Between

I'm noticing more companies are investing in this intersection and placing more emphasis on the nimble ability to be ambidextrous. There's definite expanse between the two extremes of design and development but that doesn't mean that there isn't value in exploring people sit in that expanse. Maybe a better question is: are the extremes of these two disciplines actually extremes?

I would say no. These two groups are typecast as dreamers and schemers; with designers defining the experience and developers executing that experience. This has never been my relationship with other designers or other developers. The best version of the dynamic is exposing intention and enabling possibilities from both parties.

Communicating intentionality is difficult and design tools haven't helped. It seemed like there was a solid 6 months in 2015 where everywhere I looked people were talking about the slew of prototyping tools that were either coming out or shutting down. Static assets don't communicate intentionality, user flow or even animation.

The best dynamic between these implied extremes is mutual respect and lowering the barrier entry on either "end". When it's easy for engineers to give feedback and help iterate through the design process and easy for designers to interact with working prototypes, each "end" is more informed. This doesn't mean living in each others pockets, it's realizing that there's value from every member trying to deliver the same experience.

Should designers jump into code and help with prototyping? Absolutely. Should engineers ask more questions early in the formative stages about what they're developing? Absolutely. Should there be a Freaky Friday moment where designers become developers until they realize they were better off before and realize their true worth? I'm going to let a more existential person answer that question.

Both "ends" of this spectrum are really the same set of talents applied in different mediums with the same goal in mind. I believe in more in the idea of centaurs than I am of unicorns who can do everything. Centaurs have a herd-mentality and roam together.