I saw this question on UXSE but thought it might be interesting to see what the response on graphic design SE compared to stackoverflow or programming SE:

Just a bit of background though... I originally saw the question posted on UXSE by user, but it seems like the question should be answered by both sides of the fence, so I posted on StackOverflow (with disastrous consequences) because it should have been posted on Programmer SE instead. But I think the problem applies to many professionals involved in teams that collaborate on design and implementation work, hence I tried to post here on Graphic Design SE (also with disastrous consequences).

It would be nice to get some answers because the comments are quite long, or if it is inappropriate as a question then some ideas on where this should belong (please)...

So now onto the question:

A quotation from an interview with a practitioner with a technical background and role:

Developers are all smart people; they don't enjoy their work if somebody tells them this is what you need to do and this is how you're going to do it. Nobody wants to feel like a coding monkey.

This is the so called 'coding monkey dilemma'. I am sure many of you who have worked in different types of development teams or work with UX have experienced similar situations in which the role of a visual, graphic designer or similar is somewhat considered a 'threat' to job satisfaction of developers. It seems like in some ways they may be perceived as being 'difficult' to work with due to the lack of understanding about each others' roles in the project.

What approaches (processes, tools, methods, etc.) do you use in your work to overcome the 'pixel monkey dilemma'?

I would also like to read more about this if you know of any references.

  • While a fine question, it seems very much like a duplicate of what's already over on UX. Given the amount of cross over between UX.se and GD.se, I don't think we want duplicates across sites (my 2 cents...)
    – DA01
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 0:27
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    In design, what you describe is a rare sub-type of a very common type of "Clients From Hell" situation; people without relevant experience micro-managing the creative process. It's actually pretty rare to come from programmers, beyond "ugh, do you really need X, Y would be so much easier / more efficient" - much more common from clients and "middle-man" execs or managers. I'm sure we've got past questions on it but I can't find them... this is kinda close graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/1007/… Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 0:35
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    From a designer: For designers, it's important to: Mention the expectations, Give some guidelines, Briefly explain the nature of your work, What you don't want/need (anticipate common mistakes), Sometimes vulgarize your explanations (some designers don't ask enough questions), provide examples to beginners as a reference. If you can, work with designers who love to learn and are more the multidisciplinary type. The worst type of dev for designers and clients is the one who's trying to prove something, has too much ego, can't explain things simply, isn't assertive about what he/she needs!
    – go-junta
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 6:00
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    @DA01 I wouldn't waste your time, he also posted it in StackOverflow and Programmers as indicated by the first sentence which he didn't bother to edit before posting here (and confirmed by checking his profile). Voting to close because: A) disrespect, B) too broad, C) we're by and large not programmers/web developers, D) the request for references further leads me to believe this is some sort of survey/homework/thesis.
    – Ryan
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 12:59
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    Since i am a Mechanical engineer is my monkey problem called a grease monkey?
    – joojaa
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 14:04

1 Answer 1


This is a subjective question, so my answer has to be subjective as well.

To me, the more experience a designer will have, the least concessions he'll be ready to make for other members of a team such a devs. It works the other way: the more involved you are in code/script/dev tools and languages, the less time and care you might have for "good design". I've found that it's very hard to even find a good dev who understands what "design" means/is and why it is important to design "well". And this works the other way around too.

It all comes down to this: you can be a visually-oriented person/artistically-minded, or scientific-minded person, but hardly both. You can dream of becoming a designer, or a coder, but rarely both.

As a designer, I have a lot of respect for developers and people who code, but I cannot think that one person can keep track with the design world as well as with the developer world and not lessen their talents in one field or the other.

I think balance is key, but at the end of the day, the client is always right ("le client est roi" in French: the client is king). So if a website delivers visually and on the UX level, and if it works the way the users will expect it to work, the website is successful, no matter how the design / dev balance was (or wasn't!) achieved.

To a certain extent, I would say that design is always a little more important than code, because you are reaching your audience through the way it's designed, and designed to function. For me, it explains the importance of design in companies such as Apple: people love devices that look good and GUIs that look good and are intuitive. Code / development has to serve the user's experience.

Some tech companies will also encourage their teams to be more creative . And you can always go check out awesomely designed websites when you're working, whether you're a designer or a developer...

And then there are some people who claim that you have to be very good at both, and who end up saying things that, I think, sound ignorant or extremely subjective.

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    I can't agree entirely with this. Yes, some people are purely visual. Some people are purely code. Some people are both. These aren't rare people--though sometimes they are rare positions in org charts. Which is unfortunate. The reality is that there are a lot of designers are are not only interested in, but capable of, writing great viable code, and there are a lot of coders who are not only interested in, but capable of, good web and interaction design. It's just that a lot of org charts suppress the cross-discipline talents of a lot of people.
    – DA01
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 5:08
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    But +1 for "I think balance is key".
    – DA01
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 5:09
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    Visual orientation and scientific approach are not mutually exclusive, not more so than playing music. But even a great graphics designer that is a superior coder, needs to do what he is best at
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 6:40
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    @DA01 I've upvoted your comments as well... and as I've said, subjectivity brings subjective answers :) I'm sure I could have elaborated more, given detailed case studies of complex websites I've worked on, and the way this "balance" was managed... But my answer actually started out as a comment, and when it broke the comment's limits, became a full-fledged answer. In such discussions let's keep in mind that we design/create for others, not ourselves. "Good code" isn't necessarily palpable by most users. Create products that everyone can use, or don't create anything at all. It's a base rule. Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 6:53
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    All that said, to go back to the original question, I think the problem really is org charts. Especially in larger organizations, there's a tendency to place people in buckets and never let them explore outside that small, defined space. That's how you end up with organizations with highly siloed teams that can merely toss something over the fence and hope the other side gets it. It's the antithesis of collaboration--which I'd argue is the only real solution: Always be collaborating.
    – DA01
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 7:18

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