Be a hybrid designer developer

Be a hybrid designer developer

Dylan Baumann's Layout avatar

When it’s time for an agency to open a new position, the discussion often boils down to whether a designer or a developer would be a better next-hire. Often budgets play a large role, sometimes limiting the ability to hire to just one person. What if the company really needs more design help, but occasionally extra development skills would come in handy?

Should they hire a designer? Should they hire a developer?

Why not… both? Why can’t the person they hire be you?

Because it can be! With all the resources on the web today, the path to becoming a hybrid designer/developer is so easy. Being a hybrid makes you a tremendous asset whether you’re a new hire or a seasoned professional.

You’ll be more hirable

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A few years ago, I made a big decision to go down a different path than I was originally comfortable with.

I was a recent college graduate with a degree in graphic design who loved InDesign and small capitals. Figuring out how to cram four pages of copy into a three-page brochure was what I lived for, it’s what I wanted to do to pay my bills.

Unfortunately the job market wasn’t exactly thriving when I graduated.

I was waiting in line to be interviewed for design positions next to seasoned professional designers whose skills left me in the dust. After weeks of nail-biting and anxiety, I got the impossible call from the people upstairs saying that I’d been chosen for the new position. When I asked them why they had opted for me instead of the more skilled candidate, they told me it was because of a lucky ace that was up my sleeve: Not only could I design a website, but I knew how to code it too.

Being a multi-purpose hybrid opens your career horizons. You’re able to tap into both the pools for design and development jobs, as well as the hybrid-specific jobs!
Even if you end up doing design work 99 percent of the time, the chances of securing the position might be higher if you’re able to do that 1 percent development every once in a while. It saves the company time and money while boosting your chances at being the one picked.

Not to mention that being a hybrid means you can do freelance web projects all by yourself (no more cost splitting)! Woo hoo!

Extra knowledge makes you a powerful asset to a team

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Whether you’re more of a designer, more of a developer, or a perfect 50/50 unicorn of both, the ability to understand the other half of a website is extremely useful. Design and development are both skills that depend on getting small details right and recognizing the effects of small nuances.

From typography to alignment to color and shadows, there is so much that needs to work perfectly together to achieve a design’s intent. A developer who doesn’t have at least a working knowledge of design can slow down the whole project.

On the other hand, it’s extremely important for a designer to be aware of the various constraints that development imposes on a project as well. I’m not saying that learning HTML and CSS is required (but if you want to be a true hybrid, you should check out some tutorials on Lynda.com or TeamTreehouse.com). But you should at least be talking with your developers often and asking as many questions as you can. Over time little bits of information will start to stick about what is and is not possible in the current state of the web.

At the very least, if a feature you want to add to your design is a bit outside of the norm, cruise through other websites and find current, working references to send to your developers. Personally, I’m of the mindset that anything is possible in the development world (with ample amounts of time), but fancy features that are time-consuming to create can bring a project to a standstill.

Taking a bit of time to pick up on the limitations and nuances of the other side means that you’re facilitating better communication between design and development. Whether it’s smoothing out the design process so there’s less back-and-forth about a super cool slider idea or whether it’s making the development process easier by removing feedback meetings over the typographic style of paragraphs, becoming a hybrid is a huge benefit to the team.

Learning is easier than it’s ever been before

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This is the best part about being a hybrid designer/developer. There are so many tools, resources, guides, and courses out there to get you started on whatever it is you want to pick up. You’re a Google away from making yourself easy for both designers and developers to work with.

Ready to learn? Sign up for one of these online courses today!

Comments ( 3 )

  1. Diego

    February 18, 2015

    I have to disagree with this article. I've met good developers and good designer, but a "designer AND developer" is too often someone who is mediocre in both roles. It's good for a designer to have some development skills, but it takes two different mindsets for development and design, and the roles should not be mixed up.

    • Famous Labs

      May 29, 2015

      I can't agree.

      Its possible to find a GOOD hybrid. And I believe if you are on front-end side of things and involved in creating user interfaces, you should have solid understanding and experience in both - design and development as they are very tied with each other. Having mindset of both and be able to use them, this only give you advantage and its a great, powerful asset to have in every enlightened team.

      "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."

      At Famous Labs, we are all hybrids and I couldn't imagine to hire someone who just do designs, or just code.

  2. Heinrich

    February 18, 2015

    I'd say it depends what you mean by "developer". If you're talking front-end then yes, the two can be mixed because that's what I am. If it's back-end then no. I started out in graphic design before moving into web design and adding front-end coding to my skillset. I wouldn't ever consider myself a back-end developer as I feel I don't have the logic for that typeof role.

    You'll see many examples of designers who are front-end devs too. Rogie King (http://rog.ie) springs to mind amongst many others.

  3. Moz

    February 18, 2015

    Certainly, front end development is merging with design. Web standards, frameworks, apps... these are the new trim, bleed and safe areas. It helps designers to know about development concerns, just as it helps to understand printing concerns. But at the back end, I'd leave that to people who are specialists at improving what's delivered in terms of weight, speed and quality - just as I'd leave printing to the experts too.

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