Yes, that crazy IxDA LinkedIn thread, Do Designers need to be able to code?, is still running. It took a short breather a few months back, but then somebody resurrected it. Most recently, Jessie Nunez asked, “Will the deep skill set that we took most of our lifetimes to develop, hone, and enhance ever be enough?”
No. No, it will not. You see, Jessie, Interaction Design is very, very young. I was in the third graduating class of the very first Masters of Interaction Design program, and I’m not yet in my forties. At that time, the World Wide Web was brand-spanking-new. There was no such thing as CSS. The Inmates Are Running The Asylum had yet to be published. Yes, we’ve come a long way in a very short amount of time, but to think that the current state of the industry is the be-all and end-all of Interaction Design is foolish.
If we peg my career as an Interaction Designer starting in 1998, the year I graduated with my masters degree, then I’ve been practicing for 14 years. Assuming I live to a ripe old age and continue to work in the field, which I have every intention of doing, and conservatively retire at 65, that gives me 27 years in which to continue to grow in my profession—almost twice the time I’ve spent so far.
Should I rest on my laurels, satisfied that I have mastered my trade? Of course not. I will continue to learn, pushing myself to become a more valuable contributor to my team/employer/customers. I do have a pretty good handle on Interaction Design at this point, and I have a degree in Graphic Design as well. Where do I go from here? I see three primary directions to branch out: business, research, and programming.
By research, I refer to hard-core usability testing, human factors studies, psychology, and anthropology. That’s the area in which I’m least interested. Programming is going to give me the most immediate bang for my buck. The more I can spread my influence across the development of a product, the better the end result is likely to be, and the more satisfied I will be in my work. I’ve already started down this path. Business is a longer term goal, one that I’m slowly absorbing from working with my superiors, as well as reading. Strategically, that is what is likely going to get me ahead on down the road.
In the mean time, everything is going to continue to change at a rapid pace. So, no, it will never be enough. That’s the way I like it.
Designers don’t retire. We die. - Jeffrey Zeldman