Yesterday I read an interview with Erik Spiekermann, one of modern design legends. One thing resonated with me.
Learn as much about our culture as you possibly can, by reading, by traveling, by involving yourself in things that go on. But don’t become an artist. Don’t think, “I’ll do it intuitively.” You have to learn if not to code at least to appreciate code, to understand code. Because code is what nuts and bolts were a hundred years ago.
If you don’t know anything about mechanics, you can’t survive in this world. If you don’t know anything about how a computer works or code works, as a communicator, which is what a designer is — the interface between machines and man, that’s what we are. We are the interface, we interpret what the machine says into visible language. If you don’t understand how the machine works, you’re going to be laughed out of the room by the engineering guys, because you can’t communicate with them.
Maybe I’m biased because my background is computer science, but I’m discounting that because Erik and I have very different starting points (graphic design for him, programming for me) and are two generations apart, and still came to the same conclusion.
As designers, we don’t have to build cars with our own hands or use machine learning algorithms, but we need to know concepts and how they work. If we don’t know the vocabulary, how will we communicate?