“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Why designers do need to know code …

Today on Twitter @odannyboy and @russwilson were doing a quick back and forth about whether designers need to know how to build what it is they are designing for. In the conversation @odannyboy pointed to this well reasoned piece explaining the point of view that it is actually bad for designers to not only know how to code but to build their own stuff if they happen to.

The summary is that you will either:

  1. Limit your creativity because you cannot obvious think outside of technological constraints
  2. You cannot be for both good, clean code and a good user experience at the same time

It is a well written and organized piece and worth the read, so here’s the link again. (by @lkm)

Here is my response on twitter:

@odannyboy @russwilson I think that piece is a truism. it is true because the writer says it is so, not because it is proven that it is …

@odannyboy @russwilson the other clear argument is the more you control the execution the more likely they will be executed as designed.

@odannyboy @russwilson last pt: asking a designer of interactivity to not know code is like asking a sculptor to not know the prop of clay.

Explaining a bit more this last point. No one would ever tell the artist that they are less creative because they know the technology of their medium. In fact, many in media arts push towards the code itself being an aesthetic property that effects the aesthetics of the interactive experience itself. That is not merely building blocks. But I cannot truly speak to that as I am not that good at my programming.

I do think that one CAN be a good designer without doing their own code as part of the product lifecycle, but knowing the intricacies of the medium you are designing for/with alone or in collaboration is never a bad thing.

Also, to the point about building it yourself. Whether industrial design, fashion design, architecture, or interactive design. The more you can control the elements that lead to final execution whatever form that takes the more the execution will look like the final design intent.

Of course, this can all be played with too. A more open designer will argue that design intent is not nearly as important as the moment of unpredictable co-creation that occurs between designer, service/tool provider and the human being consuming that offering. But this is at a different level. What is being offerred still needs a final form that is a design artifact in and of itself who’s execution is tangible and absolute.

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