Back when I started coding, we did not have any graphical User interfaces. Positioning panels, text and buttons on the screens was trial and error. The result was just plain old ugly user interfaces. Just watch a movie from the 80s to see what I mean. But enough about the before times….
Next, we had GUI and designers on staff, but the toolset and mindset for creating applications were still a bit fragmented. I remember working for a company where we created, amongst other things, websites for car dealers. The coders ran the show and the designers were an afterthought. And time after time I saw beautiful designs getting butchered by the developers.
A typical designer compliant:
As a designer, you would create beautiful layouts - that when translated into code - just got plain botched. Does anyone remember the pale gray of the early nineties? Remember the beautiful table designs translated to ugly blocks? Are buttons becoming squares? Are colors just changing to something strange? Are fonts miraculously changing face and size? Where did my beautiful work go? And what happened to my image - why is it so pixelated?
A typical Developer complaint:
This code is just doing X - it can’t take this long to load. This toolset does not support this style/color / etc. This font is not available on 75% of the user’s browsers! I need to support it on every OS - not just the one you use to design. What’s the big deal about the fine details? It looks the same to me!
Enter the Design Technologist
With the advent of modern platforms, this line has become blurred. Enter the title of Design Technologist. Modern applications (not just websites) need to both look polished and perform well. In other words, they need to be efficient and simple while being beautiful - both to look at and how they work. At last, we understand that to have a decent user experience one needs both - design and the technology to support an instinctive and smooth experience.
Here’s an example of “requirements” I stole from a Design Technologist job:
Create Figma plugins to streamline work between design and development
Research and implement best technology solutions based on industry trends
Implement an optimized process that integrates GitHub repositories consisting of React UI components and Figma libraries
Ensure optimized performance for the WordPress site
Manage all technical aspects of the CMS including data transferring between CMS platforms
Experience with design systems and building tools
Familiarity with Style Dictionary or other design token management tools
Strong understanding of web accessibility, responsive design, and website performance
Knowledge in user-centered design and design thinking process
As you can see, there is more to this role than a Designer or a Technician. Its the right mix and equal expertise in both. I for one am excited to see the industry evolving and embracing the unicorns - those who can do both design and tech.
What are your thoughts?