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As a graphic designer, you probably went to a graphic design school and learnt all the necessary skills: typography, color management, Photoshop, Illustrator, drawing, and much more… Once you started working, it’s highly probable that your employer or one of your clients asked you if you could design websites. You probably said yes, since you can create Photoshop mockups for a website, but is that enough for a graphic designer nowadays, or should you learn how to code to be even better at designing websites?

html5.jpgImage credits: Josef Dunne

No, you shouldn’t learn how to code

We will first try to examine what reasons could lead a graphic designer to want to stay away from coding.

You are not a developer

The world of web design is complex, and website designs will be better if everyone focuses on their task: information architects structure the website, developers code it, and graphic designers… design it! If you plan on focusing your career solely on the visual aspect of your work, you should definitely not learn how to code, there will be no need for it.

It’s time consuming

This might be stating the obvious, but learning HTML and CSS will take away some of your precious time. Even worse, those technologies constantly evolve, so it will also be time consuming to keep up-to-date. If it’s not crucial for your career to learn how to code, your time may be better spent on other work.

You will never be done learning

I need to add to the previous point that not only will you need to stay up-to-date with the latest technology, but you will also probably be tempted to learn javascript, PHP, or MySQL to have a deeper understanding of modern web development work and also be able to handle bigger web projects on your own.

You will spread yourself too thin

Unfortunately, learning more also has down sides, and learning in too much from different fields could make it harder to learn anything in-depth. Do you really want to become a do-it-all graphic designer that doesn’t do anything really good?

There are tools to design websites without coding

If you are not going to design a dynamic website, you can very well do it with tools like Adobe Dreamweaver or other WYSIWYG editors. These software allow you to create well-designed websites without touching a line of code.

css.jpgImage credits: Colin ZHU

You can outsource the coding

Do you want to know what is good about outsourcing the coding to some PSD to HTML service? It’s very cheap and they usually do a much better job than you would. There are many companies that specialize in turning PSD mock-ups into full-functioning HTML pages, or even better, into a template of the CMS of your choice. These services are usually very cheap and deliver your coded page fast, within one week at the most.

Yes, you should learn how to code

Now that you know every reason why you shouldn’t learn how to code, I will try to give you the good reasons to learn front-end web programming.

You will learn new skills

As a graphic designer, you should strive to learn how to create visuals on new supports. These new skills such as coding in HTML and CSS, will give you the possibility to create web projects much better than if you rely on someone else to code your websites.

You will understand how it works

You may ask, why should I want to understand how website coding works? Well, why do you want to understand how printing works and what Pantone colors are? Simply because it makes you a better graphic designer and helps you to be conscious of the possibilities you have. It’s just as true with coding as it is with printing.

It will bring you new work opportunities

The web design market is huge, and companies nowadays are often more willing to invest in a website or a web application than to redesign their logos. If you land yourself a website contract but you are only able to work on the visual mock-ups, you will not even be able to bill half of the work you could have if you knew how to code websites.

You will be able to work with coders

Web developers often get very frustrated when working with graphic designers. Very often communication is an issue and they cannot work together as well as they should. If you learn how to code just HTML and CSS, coders will be more willing to work with you. If they have to choose between you and a non-coding graphic designer, they are more than likely going to choose you. If you get to work with programmers, it will also be a great opportunity to learn more.

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It’s where the industry is going

You may remember a time when all graphic designers worked without computers. You had to work with lettersets, paint, sketches, and other tools that have almost disappeared from the graphic designer’s regular toolbox. When the first computers appeared, many graphic designers were reluctant to even try it and considered that it wasn’t their job to work with that evil machine. Would you still even consider not learning how to use a computer for your graphic design work? I don’t think so. Maybe the same will happen with website coding, it could become a necessary skill for any designer.


It can be quite intimidating to learn how to code websites, actually if you limit yourself to the learning of HTML markup and CSS code, you should be able to pick it up fairly quickly. In this article you have read both the negative and positive aspects of learning how to code. In my opinion it is becoming a crucial skill for designers, but I might be wrong of course. Whether you agree with me or not, this article should help you make a decision if you haven’t already. One thing is sure, choosing to code your designs by yourself or not is not an easy decision; it will probably impact the rest of your career as a graphic designer.


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FYI – This poll closes at midnight Pacific Time on July 2nd. The results of the poll will remain hidden until then so we can reveal the results in a follow up post early next week! Thanks for voting and all your comments!