I wrote recently about my love of conferences; among other things they’re a great for getting a sense of what’s going on outside the office in the wider world of webmongering. One thing that always surprises is they’re chock full of designer-developers, exotic cross-disciplinary creatures that represent a distant ideal to me. Where do they all come from?
I’ve worked in agencies for nearly 8 years now, home of the design-development divide where capital-C Creatives never leave Photoshop, back-end developers have little interest in look and feel, and those with wider skill-sets are outright banned from practicing. It can get pretty bizarre: I’ve seen inexperienced freelance designers brought in at great expense because the guy who’d been designing and developing HTML emails for 5+ years had the wrong job title (in the end he had to redesign them anyway) and similarly tech PM’s forced to negotiate for a dev’s time to change some copy in a line of HTML.
In the ill-defined no-mans land between the design and development lies a handful of Front End Developers, the awkward go-between bridging the gap between form and function, coaxing Creatives into giving a crap what happens post sign-off, explaining to project managers that the PSD can’t be the canon representation of the site, and fixing the layout after the templates go through the CMS meat grinder.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the job and most of those problems can be fixed with a quick chat (few more blog posts in the works about that), the odd part is the identity crisis. Ostensibly as a senior dev I’m supposed to be an aspiring software developer, but I feel no affinity there. Being succinct and inventive with js/jQuery is sweet, but so is being terse with SASS, clean with markup, word-crafting a tweet or curating photos. I work daily with code, but that doesn’t make me a programmer any more than the fact I designed this site makes me a designer.
So I guess that’s part of the reason I take comfort in the designer developer conferences, and reassure myself that my position isn’t so strange. I’ve even reworked my CV to be more unapologetically unsiloed, because like fellow FED Brad Frost says, maybe there’s no des/dev divide at all.