Designer or Developer, is it build in talent?

Firstly pardon me for not knowing where to post, but i heard meta is where general discussion take place.I need to know one concept that people have. I have heard that programmers are different bread. Designers are different and so on, one cannot learn another field, as designer cannot become programmer or developer.Is it true that a designer cannot be developer? lets say a web designer cannot become web or software developer or engineer? Or is it something that people say out of jealousy?
The question comes from my side as well because i just love php, database or languages but i have mostly stick to css and from there i jumped to wordpress, i can do excellent pseudo code i.e make a logic without programming on how things will be done but i consider myself failed when it come to execution.
Given that, i am not a wow designer too. I am only good with css which in my opinion, is very restricted and i want to enhance my career e.g i had a project which i know what and how to do in pseudo code but due to lack of logic and knowledge of javascript and php i wasn’t able to execute and i hired a guy. which did what i had in mind seeing that scenario, it makes me think, “can designers be developer or software engineer?”
I have seen many projects go under my nose just knowing i cannot execute as i am not a developer or software engineer but knowing how to make it work and be logical. Once i got hired as a senior software engineer and i had to struggle to do things, but i couldn’t and they laid in off as it was hard core php,mvc, and oop job. I got a comment from that boss saying “you were the worst person in history of our company that we hired” and another colleague told me “you were nothing” which was confusing to know what he meant by “you were nothing”. Everyone has right to get further and enhance career but then it comes right down to “can web designer be software engineer or web developer?”

I think it’s largely about enthusiasm and passion. Those traits drive you to learn more and be better. For example, enthusiasm motivated me to watch Crockford’s talks during my lunch breaks, not because I felt that I should for my job, but because I was excited to learn the advanced stuff. So I suppose the question for you is: What are you excited to learn and do?

To me, it depends on the person. Nowadays people hold this notion that people are divided into two groups: artistic/creative people and left brained people. This is just wrong on so many levels because all of us use both sides of our brains. No one is 100% right brained or 100% left brained. I’m personally a big fan of Da Vinci because he was an artist, a crafts person and an inventor. I embrace this Renaissance model and try to have an understanding of many fields. By the I suggest you to read “Mastery” by Robert Greene. In that book he talks about how masters such as Da Vinci, Darwin, Einstein etc. had a rounded knowledge instead of concentrating on just one area.

Now about your question…I’m a web designer and words like server, database and programming scare the hell out of me. I have a solid understanding of HTML and CSS, I’m trying to learn Javascript and I design on the browser rather than do Photoshop mockups. Occasionally I check out PHP sources to have a better understanding of how Wordpress functions but I usually draw the line at Javascript. I tried it and I can’t program to save my life but I want to have an understanding of programming because programming and design together produce a website and focusing only on the design part would make me feel so powerless. The front end coding part relates to the left part of the brain and I don’t have so much trouble with the front end. Some people can’t code HTML/CSS to save their lives, that’s totally fine but if you don’t know HTML/CSS you shouldn’t call yourself a web designer. Web design requires both creative ability and technical ability. While I may not do programming I’m sure there are people out there who can do both design and programming. I think they would be in the minority though. I also see design as more of a skill than natural talent. Art is talent but design requires skill. You can improve your design skills.

"I got a comment from that boss saying “you were the worst person in history of our company that we hired” and another colleague told me “you were nothing” which was confusing to know what he meant by “you were nothing”.
I wouldn’t make a decision of what I’m capable of based on what a couple of people said. While getting feedback from people is crucial in your professional development, not everyone knows what they’re talking about. For example in my last internship the boss decided to test my design skills. How did he do that? He gave me a sketch of a navigation menu and he asked me to design the buttons of that menu. He said, “here is your 60x20px button, design it and place it on the menu” without giving me any context… no website, no mock-up just a 60x20px button. I couldn’t do it, I panicked and I failed to style the button. He said I didn’t have any design talent and ended my internship two weeks later. Now am I going to believe I’m not a designer based on his feedback? No. Because to me design is not making buttons pretty but solving problems within their context.

Only you can find out whether or not you can design or program. Do some projects, learn and test your skills. Change your learning methods to see if it makes a difference. If you’re trying to learn a programming language for example find an exciting project that requires executing that language, that way you will feel more motivated to learn that language.


Brilliant post! I totally agree with you on all points. I find HTML and CSS easy, but find it hard to penetrate programming, though I’m determined to persist.

I used to be a teacher, and although it’s important to recognise the particular talents and learning styles of each student, it’s also your duty to help them develop in other areas as well, so that they are well rounded and adaptable to all situations.

@peanar; a good detailed reply! i don’t know where to start, i have so much to look into, like a web designer want to learn JS,jQuery and html5, css3 but then i have craze about php and unluckily i get called for php interviews but i can’t pass the interview. The passion is so much that i won’t let it go and yet i am unable to comprehend much like session n cookies and more complexity in programing just goes over my head, as for my learning method, i fail in that even. e.g i use tutorials on video to learn and apply it on my personal projects, but sometimes its totally too irritated position for me when i cannot comprehend and i am running into forums and can’t explain them and i can’t even do something myself and i give up being sad. just like that, if i take other other fields, like learning objective c for iphone development or learning graphic designing (as i m passionate for logos) and i cannot get anything right. it feels like i am in a totally wrong field and i ask myself that question,am i really in wrong field? as i been in freelancing for last 2 years and i have learned a lot. but now i feel like i have hit a barrier where i need to upgrade my skills to php,mvc,oop etc but then again i cannot comprehend. so its like i am being grounded.

Have you tried learning with others? This doesn’t necessarily mean taking a class but maybe you could find others who are learning PHP and/or find people with a good PHP knowledge and ask them how they did it. A lot of the time when we’re trying to learn things by ourselves we can’t see our mistakes. Others can teach us a more and practical better way of doing things. A good support network is necessary. Try to find a good mentor. I’m looking for mentors myself.

I was talking to a friend of mine about the same issue, talking about how I was struggling to understand Javascript. She studied computer science and she said they learned the fundamentals of programming before learning languages. She said it would be very hard to learn a specific language before learning how programming works but after learning the fundamentals, things would be easier because most popular programming languages (C, Java, PHP, Javascript) are similar, just the syntax differs.

On another note I’m a big 37Signals fan and on their site they had a blog post titled “Learning Rails made me a better designer”. They have a different definition of the term designer. To them a designer is not just someone who does graphics. I admit their view encouraged me so much to the point of learning ROR but I don’t do web applications so there is no point for me in learning ROR at the moment. I wonder if I could tackle ROR if an exciting job opportunity came up though…

A little background about me. I started learning coding 3 years ago from CodeAcademy and books. Progress was slow since the best learning comes from practice, not reading. 1 year ago I felt confident to do some freelance and also started doing Computer Science degree. At times I almost cried at how incompetent I felt when it came to programming even though as someone said here, I could understand everything on abstract level. However, I did not give up since I knew that everyone has to overcome the same struggles. Now, one year later, I feel much more confident. Concepts of OOP, MVC are not alien to me anymore. However, at first they scared the hell out of me. Now I work at local company and everyone is happy with my work.

I would suggest to be patient, not start panicking whenever some problem occurs and keep reminding yourself what is your ultimate goal. My ultimate goal is to become so good so I can execute any idea that comes into my head.

In order not to start panicking whenever you see a bug you must have a right mindset and look at the problems that occur along the way as puzzles, challenges to solve. However, in order to solve them you first must have at least some fundamentals so don’t stress out when you see OOP code and don’t understand it. At the very least read a book about OOP thoroughly. Don’t make assumptions that you are too thick to learn it. It’s really not that hard but it takes a lot of time to learn and properly settle down inside your head.

Also ask a lot of questions whenever you don’t understand something. I also ask a lot of questions and good developers sometimes get angry at my stupid questions but how else am I supposed to develop. That’s the quickest route you can take, ask questions.

I have been writing software since man landed on the moon. I have worked with numerous developers spanning a wide range of skill/experience. I spend a large part of my current full time job training other Software Developers.

Anyone who is upset with your quest to learn more (asking questions) is NOT a good programmer.
As a matter of fact, one way in which you can improve your understanding of anything is to explain what you know to someone else; who does not yet have a grasp of it.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” -Albert Einstein

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These all points are brilliantly explained… yes, it is build in talent but I guess that depends on what area you are in though…

I’ve worked with many designers who have A1 programming skills, and use these skills to their advantage. However, some developers simply don’t get the time needed to hack code and program, so ultimately their bias leans towards the design (and vice versa). I think it helps to have both, but ultimately you need to show a bias as some stage.

Hi @nofel;

Nowadays for consistency we use wireframes, grid etc. So designing is not as fluid as it once was. It’s more mathematical as design and dimensions needs to be consistent so they don’t look out of shape. First rule of designing “If it looks right it is, if not, then something is wrong”, worked well when we were designing on the fly, but things have now changed.

I myself am a designing. I would NOT consider myself as an arty designer, but I can design. If fact, the way I design anybody (even a programmer) can create a pretty sleek design. It’s all to do with grids and layouts rather than designing on blank canvas and having limitless options. We no longer have time to start things from scratch, time is money and if you can save a few hours here and there, why not.

Truthfully speaking there is not such a strong division from one another anymore. We can all do our jobs without depending on one another directly. If you’re not a designer, you can easily download a theme. If you’re not a program there are lots of premium plugins available that can probably do what you need.

Anyone can become a developer once they have the right concept. I started programming when I was 15 or so and I was definitely confused as hell… I’d say mostly due to crappy teacher I’ve had. Then, I’ve had excellent teacher a year after then a light bulb appeared on top of my head. I would compare programming kind of like riding a bicycle. You’re gonna have to fall many times to really ride and have fun with it. In my career, I’ve worked with a few programmers who really shouldn’t work in the IT field. One thing they have in common is that they weren’t passionate about their work. As long as paychecks are coming, they could care less about code quality. They all seem to have that narrow tunnel vision (like horse eye cover) and couldn’t comprehend how their work fits into the big architecture. They all hated using new technologies and just focus on getting things to “work” vs getting it done right. I actually heard “I don’t care if it’s ugly, I just want it working” so many times. Even during the time, I tried to help them…I can tell that they have no interest in learning. Still, at the end… we all have a family to feed and job is a job… Anyways, if you want to be a great programmer then be passionate about programming.

Also, I think it’s good thing they laid you off… Even if a co-worker is not a contributing member… I wouldn’t confront like that face-to-face. Most likely you perform poorly due to poor understanding or not knowing how to do things right. If my boss said that then I’ll quit… of course, I’ll allow him to say “That’s really dumb solution” when I realize it really is a dumb solution.

Don’t worry, that’s how I felt. It sounds like you need face-to-face course then trying to learn it on your own. Once you learn one programming language, the others will be extremely easier to learn. Either you take professional course ($1000~3000) or take a course from local community college. It sounds like you have a passion to learn but needs assistance to really learn.

Everyone has its own unique talent and this could be develop if the individual will work for it. A designer might be and developer as well depending on their functional focus. Designers will deal more with what the user will see and why they should see it in that way. Web developers on the other hand deal with writing the functional code: how to process the data sent by the client, how to get the menu to work once it has been decided that the menu should be able to appear/disappear, managing entries in databases, etc.


@peanar; true, but I don’t have a social circle plus I am a freelance
@Brownieable; the problem is to find real life projects @Kate_Willson; not really, when I started CSS I had no idea but I always loved CSS as how it transform a simple page into a beautiful thing, than Wordpress, I didn’t know anything till 2 yrs before and now I have 30 themes converted from psd to CSS!
@sg707; ouch!, I was contributing! We had a seminar in which I gave session on CSS and responsive designs and won 200$
Really good replies I see. Great input, I live in Pakistan so less resource but I been learning from…I m now a freelance and I think I am good in CSS and Wordpress (template), I find myself lazy and very bored. How do I get the juice? I feel like I can do a lot more as i m learning OOP in php and getting to understand it little by little.
As for asking again and again, it make people mad but @ParkinTgave a great example!
What makes u up and running in morning? What makes u wake up till late to do something and learn something new? Some ideas would be appreciated.

Simple $$$$$$. As of right now, the hottest skill is about cloud computing which is mainly something called Hadoop. It’s all about demand+supply. OOP is great and there are great demands but there’s ample amount of OOP developers as well…which brings down $$$$$$. For me, I learn the skill that makes the most. This Hadoop thing will go down in 3~5 years but until then I’ll rake in the cash. Recently, I earned Hadoop Developer certification. Also… drinking beer during study session gets it going for me.

This requires much more than engaging in traditional, person-to-person succession plan-ning, as important as that is. Talent-rich organizations do more than look just at individuals; they look at cadres of talent at different levels in the organization.

Hi all,

A bit late to the party here, but I watched this video last night and it seems to be addressing the question at hand here.
[JSConfUS 2013] Angelina Fabbro: JavaScript Masterclass

It relates especially to JS, but there are lots of wise words in there for aspiring programmers everywhere.
I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Enjoy :slight_smile:

This is a conversation that fascinates me. I studied heavily design centric subjects at school and then did a Bachelor of Architecture at university. I then went on to teach myself to code and worked for a decade as a programmer. It never felt like the right fit but it was easy enough. I had no passion so while I did my job every day, I never really built anything that I was proud of.

I’m rambling a bit, but I guess what I’m saying is that yes – anyone can learn to code or put together a cohesive design, but unless you have a true love for something you’ll never change the world.