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From design to development: working across disciplines at CDS

I took Interactive Multimedia and Design in school, where I learned a solid foundation in both design and development. Professors said we’d likely end up working between these two disciplines, as a bridge. Towards the end of my program, I chose to focus primarily on design. I didn’t realize that, some short years later, I’d be learning how to code again.

Fast forward to today, where, working in a hybrid role as an interaction designer and front-end developer, I’ve refreshed my development skills, re-familiarizing myself with Jekyll, HTML, CSS, Markdown, and GitHub, and learning Javascript, React.js, and After.js. I’ve had the chance to shadow colleagues to better understand the work from their lens, and I’ve learned much more being paired with other designers and developers than watching tutorials or reading articles.

Here are three ways learning to code and working across disciplines at CDS has enriched my work:

1. Becoming a better collaborator

In many ways, design is a practice of empathy. To create a great product, a designer learns about and empathizes with their target user. The same can apply to members of your team. Learning basic front-end development skills helped me empathize with the developers I work with. It also helped me communicate design and code-related decisions more effectively and put me in a much better position to contribute to the team.

2. Understanding the scope of tasks

One of the most annoying things you can do is underestimate a task, for example, asking a developer for a change that’s perceived to be small but actually requires a lot more underlying work. Learning about development helped me scope projects, by better understanding the limitations of the work involved and the time it might take to complete.

3. Being able to create functional prototypes

Prototyping is essential for testing usability and revealing parts of a design that might need improvement. While some software allows designers to create prototypes fast, development often can’t continue seamlessly. Starting with a basic HTML/CSS prototype provides a base that can be built upon without having to convert static visual mockups into functioning code. It helps the team by laying a solid foundation for future iterations of the project.

By taking an interdisciplinary approach, I’ve been able to broaden my skills and collaborate to build better products.

Interested in joining our team? We’re hiring interaction designers, content designers, service designers, and visual designers.