Is a designer who can design codelessly a good designer?

6 min read
Jul 6, 2021 11:40:00 AM

Is a designer who can design codelessly a good designer?

Is there a fine line between development and web design? Are there advantages to mixing knowledge between these two disciplines when working in IT? How do these two professions communicate with each other?

Florentin Jakupi, UX/UI designer at Foyer, has been working in the IT industry for over 10 years. After having the opportunity to switch hats several times, he a Swiss Army knife role. Combining both a developer and a designer experience, he ultimately adopted a global view of business that comes back to the importance of knowing how to communicate well with one’s team. Hi, Florentin, we’re delighted to talk with you about your different experiences and all the lessons you’ve learned! Tell us a bit more about your background.

Florentin: You bet! I’m 35, and I’m a design consultant for Positive Thinking Company, on a mission for the Foyer Group since 2018. I started my career in 2009, after more traditional IT training, an IUT Service et Réseaux de Communication (University Technology Institute, telecommunication and network services), then a year of undergraduate studies in graphic design in Ireland, dedicated to graphic and web design, among others. After that, I had the opportunity to join an agency of the company Business & Decision in Caen as a PHP developer, with great French references, including Canal+ and BNP. I then joined the LunaWeb agency in Rennes, specialized in UX Design approach where I had the opportunity to evolve as a UI Designer on great projects like Payot. Finally, I joined World of Digits (Positive Thinking Company) as a UI designer consultant in Luxembourg, where I’ve been working for three years. You’re obviously multitalented, so what led you to design and then to become a UX/UI Designer?

Florentin: At the time, the IT sector was booming. Jobs were being created and evolving at full speed. When I had the opportunity to become a PHP developer, I didn’t think twice about jumping on the bandwagon. Having been a video game and computer enthusiast since I was about 12 years old, I already had a good knowledge of code and design. I was curious as a kid, so I learned on the fly, literally growing up with the different technological advances of the past 20 years. Becoming a PHP developer helped me get my foot in the door. Then, quite quickly, I realized that I could not become my best just being a developer. I’m a perfectionist, and I like to take my time and have the satisfaction of accomplishment — clean, tidy, beautiful work. Any developer knows that code can be messy at times — especially if deadlines for the deliverables are short. I think I just don’t have the “developer’s logic,” and that’s why I turned to design. I like the idea of being able to compose on my own, explore new design features, propose my ideas to my teams, and finally adjusting where necessary. Do you still work closely with developers?

Florentin: As a UX/UI designer, I’m in charge of creating the interface design of websites and apps to showcase our clients’ products and solutions. This job requires being creative, having a strong imagination potential, but also being a precise technician. The job includes several phases: marketing studies, analysis of customer needs, brainstorming between teams to make the product evolve, tests and drafts, documentation phase, relaying to developers… Inevitably, having been a dev myself in the past, I have a good vision of what can be achieved, with the limits of the project — but also the technical expectations and their feasibility. What do you think is the key to facilitating dialogue when working with other professions on the same project?

Florentin: Communication, of course! Without communication, missed deadlines and stress are inevitable! We must all, at our level and in our fields of activity, work together, exchanging, adapting, and validating interfaces step by step. If all the employees know where they’re headed and at what speed, then everyone is more at ease in the best conditions possible. Above all, you have to be human: have empathy, put yourself in the other person’s shoes, understand the problems they encounter. Take the other person into account in order to work better together. What do you think of the cliché of the hacker in a hoodie?

Florentin: One thing’s for sure: old habits die hard! We shouldn’t make generalities — and the same goes for any profession. We can find all kinds of personalities on a team of developers. So, do you think that a designer should necessarily have some knowledge of code in his job?

Florentin: That’s a question that I’ve been asked a lot in the last few years. Honestly, it’s quite possible to manage without knowing any code. That’s also the beauty of being a designer: everyone will approach it and create in a unique way. Ideally, a designer should be able to anticipate the technical difficulties encountered and warn to adjust if necessary. The same goes for the developers! Internally, why not set up small challenges between designers and developers — animations or micro-interactions, for example, to get them to break out of their routines and comfort zones?

One thing’s for sure: understanding one another on each partner’s level is crucial. Don’t command — understand! Do you have any collaborative tools to recommend?

Florentin: Without flinching: Figma! It’s a cloud-based collaborative design tool. The whole team can access it and follow a project’s progress. Everyone has a transparent point of view on it. You can collaborate in real time between several designers, create prototypes and demos to show to clients and stakeholders, and more. Features allow developers to easily retrieve elements of the design system to move forward intelligently and quickly. We wrote an article a while ago about the Impostor Syndrome. Have you ever felt this uneasiness during your career?

Florentin: This is a subject that unfortunately affects many of us. The imposter syndrome is not new, but the web community is particularly sensitive to it. As a self-taught person, it was sometimes complicated for me to assume my position as a UX/UI designer. I never went to Gobelins, for example, yet it’s been my job for more than 10 years now. I don’t have a diploma to prove it, but my years of experience are a seal of approval! Afterwards, I think it’s normal to feel a little lack of self-confidence — especially at the outset of one’s career. The management applied within the company can change this feeling for the better or worse. By working on it, it can be overcome! I was lucky enough to be able to give UX courses at the Digital Campus school in Rennes, and I gradually gained confidence in myself. Tell us about your typical day!

Florentin: I work every other week from home. Whether at home or at work, I am very lucky to have a lot of freedom at my job. At the beginning of the week, I decide which projects I want to work on and inform the team. Meetings are the only things that are imposed on me during the week. I control my agenda and my days as I wish. Tell us about your set-up?

Florentin: I have my trusty MacBook Pro with me all the time. It’s often connected to a 34-inch curved screen, so I have a real workspace when I’m in my models. My keyboard is a Logitech Craft, which I really like. And I also have a vertical mouse, again from Logitech. A detail that makes all the difference, to relax the wrist despite the day spent on the screen! What kind of music do you listen to at work?

Florentin: I like to listen to about everything: it all depends on my mood of the day! When I work, I like to listen to instrumental music, like electro, to boost and help me concentrate. I also have my old school playlist, which includes all the sounds I listened to back in 2000–2010, from pop to rap to R&B! Last, are there any designers who inspire you?

Florentin: They all inspire me, each in their own way! But it’s hard to answer this question without mentioning the famous contemporary industrial designer Dieter Rams. His work has had a definite influence on Apple’s design department in the creation and production of their products.

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