9 Reasons Why Graphic Designers Need Coding Skills

Posted on June 19, 2018 | Updated on November 14, 2022

Perhaps you went into graphic design because you’re artistic and love creating something beautiful from nothing at all. However, design is so much more than making eye-catching art. At some point in their careers, most graphic designers also must create websites, upload files and complete many other tasks for small businesses that need their designers to cover a multitude of areas. Learning coding might seem daunting at first glance. After all, it is much like a foreign language, with its own rules and words. However, once you learn one coding language, the others will come much easier to you. Here are nine main reasons graphic designers need coding skills:

1. Rise Above the Competition

Graphic designers are in a rather competitive field these days. Art departments tend to reduce, not increase, their budgets, thanks to faster design options and the rise of artificial intelligence. If designers want to be competitive in a tough marketplace, they’d be wise to add as many skills as possible to their repertoire. If you were looking to either hire a designer for your company or use a freelancer, wouldn’t you want one that had additional skills to round out their resume?

2. Open up New Opportunities

Designing via a variety of software gives you greater flexibility. Rather than being limited by only what your software is capable of, you can hand-code a few things for a killer website that is unlike anything the competition can deliver. Understanding the basics of HTML and CSS also allows you to experiment with a wide variety of colors, while still creating something that will work well with Internet browsers.

3. Reduce Number of Hands on a Project

If you’ve ever worked with a team of people to create a website design, you know it’s easy to lose sight of your original concept. It isn’t a good use of time to keep going back to the designer for a new mockup every time someone in the company wants a change. That means another coder likely makes changes — and they may not match your vision. That’s a real problem, because the overall design and your name and reputation are linked. If you know how to code, however, you can reduce the number of people involved and make these changes yourself.

4. Save Time

Want to deliver projects ahead of schedule to your clients? The ability to both code and design allows you to make changes on the fly without waiting for a coder to get back to you. You’ll easily shift between design mode and coding mode, allowing you to get a website up or a logo change in place in mere hours, instead of days.

5. Create Job Opportunities

Whether you’re looking for an outside job or you work for yourself and want more clients, adding skills to your resume opens an entirely new realm of job opportunities. While coding might not be your first choice of career, it can help you get your foot in the door with a company so you can work your way into the art department. If you freelance, offering a one-stop solution for clients is quite attractive and might help you land that design gig over another designer who lacks those skills.

6. Become Self-Sufficient

If you work with a team, they likely give different projects a priority rating. At the same time, you might have your own deadlines, and a programmer may not consider your coding project a high priority. If you know how to code, you won’t have to wait around for the coding, but can do it yourself and move on, meeting your deadlines and keeping your client — and your boss — happy.

7. Change Your Thought Process

Steve Jobs once said he felt everyone should learn to program because it teaches you how to think in a different way. Coding allows you to look at projects from a different angle, such as how something will work for a user or if the interface is smart enough to withstand use. While you might not immediately think these things are important, the overall design can impact these factors. Understanding the back end of design allows you to better execute on the front end.

8. Communicate With Team Members Better

Even if you end up having to get help from a programmer to complete a portion of your project, understanding basic coding allows you to communicate your ideas and needs more effectively to those coders. It’s much easier to explain how you want something to work when you know how it works.

9. Create Job Security

With technology, job security is never a given. What designers do today, computers will do tomorrow. If you want to keep working, it’s smart to keep learning. As the opportunity to develop new skills continues to evolve, take time to learn new things. There are convenient, online courses you can take in your spare time from your home. Start with one type of coding language, such as HTML, then add more complex coding as you go along. Since many sites run on a WordPress CMS platform these days, you may also want to learn PHP.

You Should Learn Coding

Even though you don’t have to know coding to be a graphic designer, the reasons listed above explain why graphic designers need coding skills. You can teach yourself a new programming language with just a little effort, and the rewards are evident in additional job opportunities. Add coding skills to your resume, and see your designs rise to a new level.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

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