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Is web coding a necessity in graphic design?


Junior Member
I've recently graduated with a degree in Advertising and wanting to go into the graphic design industry.
Before I did advertising I started out on a degree doing web development, which I hated. I was 'okay' with HTML and CSS, but despised MySQL, ActionScript, PHP etc. etc., and liked doing the front end stuff of websites only - hence the transition to advertising to focus on more print based stuff, along with logo's and branding.
I'm wondering now, whether my lack of web development skills are going to lessen my chances of pursuing a graphic design career? Or will I be okay with what I know/do currently?


Active Member
Its always good to know some coding especially HTML/CSS and will help in finding a job. Most graphic designers I know have no clue at all about code. Personally I think you're either good at one or the other.
If you have a good understanding of how things work and are built thats good enough with server side stuff.
I started to learn about PHP and like you got bored of it and wanted to see things taking shape, so put more focus on Java and jQuery.
So the answer to your question is no. But its always good to have more tools to use.


Staff member
I'd go with the view, know what it can do, not necessarily how it's done, which can be applied to pretty much every area of design really.

Like Jordan says, you don't need to know how to code but it really helps to have an understanding of what can be done with the code so that you can design a site around any limitations.

Sean Lee-Amies

There's nothing more frustrating and painful than a conversation between a graphic designer who doesn't know anything about programming and a programmer who knows nothing about graphic design - unless you're the graphic designer or programmer in that conversation.
"Can't you just...?!" "But it's so easy..." "How can that be so complicated..." "It's obvious what needs to be done..."
Those are the kind of things that will be going through both of their minds, and eventually it will affect your working relationship quite severely. By having at least a basic understanding of both worlds, you will be a much, much more employable person. Personally I advertise myself as a graphic designer and sometimes as a front-end developer. I know HTML and CSS, as well as a little bit of PHP, javascript and working with libraries like jQuery or Ajax. I know what's possible, and I know what isn't, so I don't have to worry about being in that position of promising something to someone that can't actually be done. It's not fun trying to explain to a client why that fantastic idea you had can no longer be done.
I personally thought that most designers would know a little bit of coding, and that was the standard. It turns out though, after having received comments about how I'm a rare breed, that I'm just what company x was looking for etc, that it's the other way around. To what extent, I don't really know, but I do know that a lot of older, more established designers are going to be reluctant to pick up on this new tech stuff. This doesn't work in their favour because a lot of companies now are looking to hire one person that can do both jobs to a sufficient level. With all the technology available to us now, it's not outside the realms of possibility, with all of these plugins and what-not. Most companies aren't looking for award winning websites, with completely customised functionality. It also makes for a great talking point, because people are surprised, and interested about what you can and can't do. This also has potential for leading on to dozens of other topics and questions for both parties, which is very useful for networking events!
So, I guess my answer would be that if you're looking to differentiate yourself from the vast majority of people offering the same services, and you want to offer great value to your clients, then yes absolutely learn about coding. However, I would personally focus on HTML, CSS, basic javascript (and libraries) and then some CMS stuff. There isn't much need for PHP unless you're working on larger or more complex projects, in which case there will most likely be dedicated programmer anyway.
Is it 100% necessary? No, I don't think so, but it sure as hell helps you stand out!


Staff member
Yeah the days of one specific task per designer is gone, you've got to have a slightly more expansive knowledge now tech has progressed to the point where using computers is the defacto method of design for most people... unfortunately a lot of the old skills will likely die out too :(

Most of us on here are likely a perfect example of the shift from single to multi skill sets. My main area of expertise is product design, with more focus on the 3d presentation side of things which means I need to know about presentation (did photography anyways so that was covered)on both paper, online and in video.

So if you look at what I know about it's quite a wide range of things:
Product design which includes engineering, structural analysis, material choices on top of making a nice product and figuring out how to produce it. Also includes hand rendered images using marker pens, hand drwan technical drawings (now usually done via autocad etc)
I know about 3d printing - I actually want to buy one to play around with at home but I want one with more than one colour output while still being cheap :)
3d design - modelling, rendering and even animation
Basic video editing for composition of animations.
Basic to average responsive html5/css3 and how to add jquery plugins to a site to get things like the slideshows
I know about graphic design in a fair bit of detail (needed to do this before product design anyways)
Photography - I started this as a hobby a good 15-20 years ago but don't get to do this as much these days.

I have no interest in learning illustration like some of the others do on here but I do know where to go if I need it :)

So as you can see, I have a speciality in my product design/3d areas but I have an understanding or limited skills in the others.
In my opinion, a graphic designer today needs to be as skilled as web designer. There are shared notions in both disciplines (i.e. design principles) and aspects that are more peculiar of the two worlds (i.e. prepress notions vs HTML and CSS). But web design should fall under the graphic design bigger category. The problem is that too often employers don't see the boundaries between web design and web development (I wrote this article a while ago on this subject). I believe web designers shouldn't need development skills because they are not design related. Knowing some scripting language is of course useful, but in order to interact with a web developer an understanding of the logic behind programming should be more than sufficient. If you are a multimedia designer the question is a little different, but this subject doesn't fit in the topic.


Staff member
I think if you are going to be a generalist then it's useful.
A bit like being a general builder and knowing a bit about other aspects like carpentry, electrics and stuff.
If you want to be a specialist then I think it's more important to concentrate on being good rather than being able to do a bit of everything.
I personally can't code shit.

Sean Lee-Amies

It depends what opportunities are available to you, what type of work you're realistically able to attract and whether or not you're able to evaluate that situation correctly. If you're likely to, or already are getting paid lots to do a specific type of job, then there wouldn't be much point in becoming proficient at a basic level in other areas of work. However, if you're just starting out and just want to make a living, well then it might be a good idea to learn a few more areas so that you can secure a better income.
Scotty, Sean,
i totally agree with both of you. In an ideal world, one should be able to pick the "sub-category" he/she prefers and go for it. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford such a choice because there are bills to pay and a tough competition out there.

On the other hand, being knowledgeable on everything without excelling in anything is the sad consequence of a market that doesn't recognize the value of good design. Just to choose a random sub-field, today's typographic standards are way lower than what they used to be decades ago. Even a good designer might not know which kind of apostrophes, accents, quotation marks, en/em dashes to use in a particular circumstance. That's because typographers should be doing that work that it's instead expected from a graphic designer who also has to be a front-end developer.

To summarize then, yes we should be specialized but people expect more from us because they don't know the deep degree of knowledge one single discipline of graphic design requires.

Sean Lee-Amies

I think that not only is it the case that standards are falling because professionals are expected to combine tasks from similar fields, but when it comes to typography, there are other factors to include. For example I think that in the past, when typography was probably an even more exclusive profession than many other fields of design, there weren't so many people doing it whereas now you have access to hundreds of often high quality and free typefaces. Language use also has a large part to play in this, most people today simply don't care if you have used the right quotation marks, or if you've used a hyphen where you should have used a dash. Sure, the big companies still care about that stuff, and always strive to have the most professional image, but there is such a large number of businesses out there who don't need to have that specific image in order to be successful in their job that those high standards aren't a requirement, and neither are the high costs that come with employing someone to do it all 100% properly!
as far as i know, web coding is done by web developers and graphic designing is done by designers. if a designer has the web coding skills, then its great otherwise these two lines can be kept separately.
To solidify what has been said so far: You should know enough (And this goes for anything) to hold a conversation with another professional.
In terms of your personal skill set, if you plan on being a successful front-end web designer, it would make sense to get a strong handle on HTML(5), CSS(3), and some javascript / jquery. If you just plan on being a print designer, then it's not really necessary.
Yes obviously web coding is necessary in graphic design to make your Responsive Design Website so it is very crucial to include responsive web site design.
It's better to know that HTML and Java. Because sometimes it's necessary of making for a graphic design like logo design, website design and many more.