Programmers Are Not Designers

As a Creative Director, I often wish programmers were designers. And designers were programmers. Unfortunately, it’s rare. I respectfully blame Steve Jobs for the headaches this causes me. Since Jobs created his “anti-Flash” policy, good banner design has been endangered.

Whether you call HTML5 a markup language or a programming language, it requires a totally different mindset and skill set than Flash. Yet to get around Job’s policy, many websites are entertaining the idea of using HTML5 for online banner campaigns, shifting them into the hands of more “coders” and fewer “creatives.” This translates into more utilitarian executions and less visual storytelling.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against programmers. They’re just too left-brained when I’d like them to be right-brained.

Right-brain kids tend to be creative, artsy, and conceptually driven. Their parents push them to go to college for graphic or digital design (so that they can actually pay their rent when they graduate).

Left-brain kids are the “smart” ones; they’re good at math, detail oriented, and analytical. They go to college to become engineers or computer programmers (moms never worry about them). These are the ones who’ll create a secret HTML5 handshake.

This is not to say that hybrids of the two brains don’t exist – those who can both design and code. (Jeff and Byron, I’m talking about you.) But there’s a dearth of them. Yeah, I said dearth.

Once online publications start requiring HTML5 for banners rather than Flash, we’ll basically need two people for every banner ad — one person to design and storyboard it, and a programmer to bring it to life. It’s an added expense, it’s added time, and it will add to everyone’s frustration (except programmers, they’ll be pretty psyched about being more in demand).

Listen, I like online banners. I appreciate them. At db&r, we do loads of them. They can and should be artful, playful, creative, and most importantly, impactful. And I want them to stay that way. But, I fear that the more widely used HTML5 becomes, the less creative banners will become.

Oh, and if you’re a “hybrid,” email us. We’d love to talk to you.

1 Comment

Filed under Advertising, Digital Media

One Response to Programmers Are Not Designers

  1. BG

    Good design is good thinking. Good programming is good thinking.

    As an advertising agency, if you want to actually capture and nurture the talent that is the “hybrid” few you talk about, then your wages need to go up. If you can’t compete with Google, Facebook, Apple, and every new VC-funded startup, then you’ll never be able to get the creative programmers you’re looking for.

    I hate to be so negative, but its articles, and even mindsets, like these that cause the advertising industry its pain. I graduated with an Art degree and a minor in Advertising. I don’t even want to use my minor, the work doesn’t look fun or BIG enough for me. I also make iPhone apps. All parts of them, from the backend algorithms, data manipulation and memory management to the user interface, graphics and music. We hybrids aren’t as hard to find as you’d imagine. You’re just not gonna’ get amazing stuff with unpaid internships when the hybrids in the CS program can guarantee $70 – 80k after college. You’re not gonna’ get amazing stuff with someone in Accounts hammering on about deadlines. You’ll never get amazing work when an “ideas” person who can’t personally build anything is teamed up with someone who then has to create everything. Amazing work flows from those whose curiosity has been peaked and without too much oversight. We hybrids prefer autonomy. We know it’s where the best thinking occurs. We know it’s where the best programming and design occur. We know it’s the best way to work.

    My advice is to stop thinking of roles as left-brain vs. right brain, when you should only be hiring people that use all of their brain.

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