How do we link the two ideas of designer VS developer? Does the problem lie in the way we teach the subjects, and if so, do we need to rethink the education system? As we open the call for Design Academy 2017-18, Google's Mustafa Kurtuldu discusses tackling and changing perceptions in education.
Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “Let no man who is not a Mathematician read the elements of my work.” It seems odd that someone who is known as one of the founding fathers of the rediscovery of knowledge, or Renaissance, would suggest such a strong connection between science and art. We teach and treat both subjects separately.
Art is the representation of the human spirit, a spiritual discipline that today is separated from modern life, confined to old dusty buildings. Science, on the other hand, is seen as an example of the new world and new knowledge, a guiding light from the darkness of the old ages. Creativity versus Logic.
This separation exists in the design world also, as Louis Sullivan, the often misquoted architect, once said: “form ever follows function.” This quote has become a mantra for design since the early part of the 20th Century, heralded by the Modernism movement that saw reason as the guiding principle, condemning the perceived decorative and ornamental ideas of old.
Designers versus developers, spiritual versus rational, inspiration versus reason. Both disciples seemingly suspicious of the other, not understanding or empathising with each other's role.
These ideas also affect the world of tech. Designers versus developers, spiritual versus rational, inspiration versus reason. Both disciples seemingly suspicious of the other, not understanding or empathising with each other's role. Designers are passed off as extroverted creatures who are sociable. But look at the way we work we are anything but, with designers sitting in our ivory towers, hiding the process entirely of how and why we design the things that we do. This is mostly due to the way we work. Only one person can design a single thing, like the interface of a product or a logo. We do have design crits, where others can chime in their thoughts and feelings but our role is often a lonely one.
Developers, on the other hand, are seen as the introverted species who seldom leave their cave. The way they work demonstrates that this stereotype is a falsehood. Writing code, building products are almost always done in collaboration. Github and other version control systems are designed to open the process as much as possible. So no, developers are the collaborative creatures we seek to be, and it is us designers who are anti-social.
It is troublesome understanding what each other does, especially when there are so many misconceptions. As a designer trying to explain the rationale, my work process has always been a challenge. Usually, it involves staring into space, trying something out, hating what I have done, crying in the corner that I am no good, sleeping on it. Then in the morning, I arise with a new concept and a joy that didn't exist the night before. This cycle is what we call the creative process.
So it comes as a shock and revelation that there is a creative process to writing code that without trying it out, one misses its intrinsic beauty. Because mathematics is beautiful and I feel this is what Leonardo was trying to say. How can we understand one discipline without the other when they are linked. To me, the medium and application might be different, but the process is the same.
So how do we relink these two somewhat divorced ideas? I believe the problem lies in the way we teach these subjects. Perhaps we need to rethink our education system. But what about those already in the industry? Well, this is something I have spent my career on tackling, changing perceptions, to help both disciples work efficiently together and advocating that both try the other's role at least once.
My goal is to get everyone talking about these challenges. Even an acknowledgment of their existence is a start. From here we can collectively solve these problems and end up working better together.
It is for that reason that I started my show on YouTube called Designer Vs Developer. You see I've worked in the industry since 2001 and seen a lot of contention between developers and designers, then when I joined Google, I saw these amazing conversations and debates happening behind the scenes. I thought 'wouldn't it be great if we looked at the problems head on and filmed it.' The subjects we speak about personal challenges I have had, such as the feeling that the world of UX is over regulating the creative process to figuring out how best to work with one another.
My goal is to get everyone talking about these challenges. Even an acknowledgment of their existence is a start. From here we can collectively solve these problems and end up working better together. It also gives us an opportunity to learn more about new things, and if we were to come up with a definition of design, then it would be the process of discovering what we did not know before. So what are we waiting for?
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