How I accidentally became a designer.

December 11, 2022

My name is Casey, and I accidentally design. That's right! I am a designer by accident. Of course, I didn't plan on accidentally designing. Instead, after years of designing by accident, (oftentimes unknowingly,) I've accidentally found myself designing on purpose.

Developer to designer

A quick look at my resume will tell you I've had more web development job titles than design job titles. That is correct! Design has always been a part of my web development process and has progressively become the most valuable and most satisfying part of my work.

Coding for bad design

My first awareness of my own design practice came while working an exclusively development job. When poor designs landed on my desk I felt ill. I was expected to code a UI precisely according to provided mockups, and I could not help but feel like the work would never live up to its promise.

Attempt to inspire change

Surely others could see what I was seeing, right? After all, they were experts and I was just a developer. They could not. I realized I understood something about users that my designer teammates did not. Any attempt to share this understanding was dismissed, and it was quickly made clear that development was my job and design was theirs. (I now know the understanding I had then was just the tip of the iceberg that is human-centered design.)

Pursue jobs that value design

I could not endure a career of developing according to bad design comps, so I moved on and looked for positions where design was valued in much the same way as I did. With both design and development job titles, I experienced various degrees of collaboration and friction with visual designers. The more I was included in the design process, the better my work and the more satisfying the results. The more I was excluded the less confident I was in the comps I was handed.

This is not to say that the designs were necessarily bad. I just was so unaware of the context of design decisions that I was completely in the dark. I had no way of knowing if the design was good or not and certainly was unable to make effective decisions when the comps resulted in ambiguity. To be most effective and fulfilled in my work, I needed that context

Embrace the designer within

Only at that point did I truly realize that I am a designer. Part of that realization was the number of coding decisions that are in truth design decisions. The rest was my realization that successful design brought me much more joy than producing quality code. Code has continued to be my most frequent medium for design, but make no mistake, I am a designer.

© Copyright 2023 Casey Yates