I don't have coding or UI/UX skills, and in today's mobile-focused world, I'm wondering if I need to bite the bullet and learn this stuff.

So far I've been able to specialize in non-coding graphic design like collateral, graphics for the web (banners, custom images, etc.), trade show booths and other print design.

I freelance and currently am in a lull - normal for freelancing but it's got me a bit worried about finding more clients who don't need the coding aspect.

Are there designers out there who are doing well without the coding and UI/UX component? Is it better to specialize as I am doing, or is it worth learning this other stuff when I'll probably be mediocre at best with it (just not my thing!)?

  • IMO this is too opinionated of a question. Seems more like you just wanted to vent and I don't see any way to provide a meaningful answer.
    – Ryan
    Oct 28, 2016 at 0:03

3 Answers 3


It certainly can't hurt. If you are in a lull and have free time, why not expand your skills?

Here is my story and reason for saying "Go for it."

I started much like you--design only. I went to an aeronautical university, so I am by no means a trained designer, but I have always played around with Photoshop for fun.

This led to me applying to a graphic design job, while in college. I got hired strictly as a front-end designer, but in my free time I began messing around with coding and asking my employer to let me do a wider range of projects.

This "willing and able" approach towards taking on new projects and teaching myself skills has since led to me learning about print/publishing, product design, 3D modeling/animation, photography, videography, color grading, video editing, audio editing, etc. and not only allowed my creative career to flourish (so much for that $50k/year degree in aviation), but also led to me really enjoying some of those other things!

I would never limit yourself to only doing one thing, when you can do many. Even if you aren't an expert at them all, having some basic knowledge might get your foot in the door on a project that could lead to bigger and better things, while at the same time allowing you to expand your skills...not to mention, the more you can offer to a company the better your pay.


I agree with Manly. By all means, have a niche that you are awesome at, but in our industry, generalization can be helpful. I spent 10+ years in print design, but I did whatever I could to learn basic web design, video editing, even designing templates in Publisher for clients. All of which helped me get out of print and into a much better - and better paying - position which requires me to wear several hats (print, video, web, social media guru).


Multi-skill every time. I sussed this at university (Hons graphic design & illustration) working in a print room. Three good reasons (there are many more):

  • 1) You don't work in a bubble or the 18th century and whilst 'specialising' fits nicely with the concept of 'professional, dedicated, expert' the reality is our industry and communication in general is in constant flux. For example, I became a Quark Express DTP 'expert' whilst moonlighting at Uni on a magazine. Served me well for 2 years then Indesign came along and killed it. All my tricks, trade secrets, hacks GONE. Same for Freehand, Macromedia Director, Flash - I specialised and studied all these for several years - all gone now.
  • 2) It pays you ten fold to know the other guys job as you will be working in teams inevitably as your projects grow - the photographer, the coder, the printer, the stand builder. You wont be at their level of course, but the fact that you understand their requirements intimately accelerates process, avoids conflict and generally provides a better result PLUS they cannot BS you with techno crap and believe me they will try - lazy coder to designer "oh you cannot do that on mobile it will look awful" "me to lazy coder - "oh yes it will fuck nuts if I give you the icons and images as SVGs in a font hosted on the server - will scale perfectly".
  • 3) You want to earn a decent living right? Have a nice car, mortgage, look after your kids? Being multi-skilled has meant I am never in a lull, not in 15+ years. Right now I have gone from a regular gig as Creative Director for a finance company (digital transformation, rebrand, new website over 2 years) to lead creative at a web dev company, web and mobile apps and custom CMS driven enterprise websites - loving the challenge of getting my chops back up on web design and learning mobile UX.

I am not knocking someone who decides to be a specialist, and my route requires dedication, effort and self tuition to have a wide skill range BUT I think its dangerous and narrow minded to go down one channel as a freelance - unless you are so good people simply cannot do without you. Even then, your skills will time out if you dont invest in your hardware and software. You cannot get too comfy and sit still.

Best of luck

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