During my uni, whilst studying graphic design, I got more and more into programming as I enjoyed creating processes leading to a final design (from generative visual design to data visualization to programmatic animations).

With time I was building design tools and interfaces for myself and other designers and I grew more and more interested in programming interfaces, mostly for the web.

I was hired by a few companies with the goal of creating prototypes that will later on turn into real products and, in the process, I found myself learning more and more about user experience and HCI.

This year I finally enrolled into a (quite) prestigious HCI MSc mostly focussed on psychology and research. Most of its graduates now work as UX specialists. This is something that scares me a little as I would still love to be involved in the creation of prototypes and programming physical and digital interfaces.

I haven't chosen a computer science master as I'm aware that I would then specialise too much on the development rather than the design part of the process (not to mention that I may not have enough math skills!)

Am I wrong?

Also, would an employer be put off by someone that is both interested in researching and developing a product?

  • 2
    No, not all employers would be put off. In fact startups are always looking for a unicorn to hire: Someone who can code, do UX and graphics, and also project management. I think you're half-way to unicorn. :) If you're intending to work for a larger company, in a more structured setting, you might have a harder time keeping your hand in both skill sets. That's my 2¢. So my opinion plus another $2.48 will buy you a cup of coffee. – JeromeR Oct 11 '15 at 22:26
  • I run an established UX team (14) for a global brand. UX designers need to be able to prototype and demonstrate ideas. So we hire great designers who can code well enough to that. If you are truly passionate about UX design then CS and coding ability is a really good skillset to add. – Aidan Hall Oct 22 '15 at 8:11

It's a good combination of skills!

UX + coder is an extremely desireable profile here in San Francisco.

There a number of reasons for this:

  • Modern app development is a lot less siloed than it used to be, with small sprint and scrum teams operating cross functionally and following the life cycle of a product from conception through design and implementation.

  • Design has become a lot more important and is no longer a standalone discipline. Developers who have a design instinct and training are a good thing.

  • Ditto for UX. It isn't a standalone discipline anymore, but an integral and holistic part of the development process.

  • Modern UI frameworks have blurred the lines between coding and design. Frameworks like React and Angular bring declarative, object oriented programming approaches directly into building UX components. So many designers are finding themselves needing to learn programming anyway.

  • Convergence technologies like wearables and the internet of things create user interface challenges which can be quite technical in nature, because designing interfaces with physical limitations like a SmartWatch, LED, electronic ink, or other mechanical constraints often requires quite a bit of application-specific coding rather than traditional CSS and HTML type work.

By the way, if you do intend to do both, there are certain types of front end development where you could have a significant comparative advantage. Front end frameworks like react, angular, polymer and general isomorphic architectures like meteor really benefit from developers who can also build user interfaces, and they are the current hotness here in the valley.

  • @tohster thanks for your comment. Working in a small team for a big company is what I did in the past few years and I'm planning on continuing doing that after uni but with a better understanding of the "why" more than the "how". On another note, amongst the frameworks you mentioned I'm more skewed towards Polymer and a web components based approach (I've been burned my proprietary technologies and non-standards once and I'd rather not do the same mistake again :) ) – user74389 Oct 12 '15 at 9:32