No Code

The brave new world of codeless collaboration

subhed tk

Updated July 22, 2019

"Knowledge is power and so it tends to be hoarded. Experts in any field rarely want people to understand what they do, and generally enjoy putting people down." — Tim Nelson, Computer Lib 1974

I remember feeling powerless on the other side of the technological barrier. In fact, there was a time where I was terrified of code, or rather, I was terrified what it would say about me if I turned out to be a designer who couldn't code.

My first interaction with a computer was in 1995, working for the student newspaper at my university. I was surrounded by journalists and no one was thinking about the internet yet. Knee deep in Photoshop layers and compressed QuarkXPress files, my adventures ventured only as deep the programs that were installed on the machine I was working on.

The creeping dread of obselecence would begin four years later when I was working at my first real job at a newspaper in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A fellow designer was dating the 'webmaster' and I hung around enough to begin understanding the possible impact of this oncoming wave. I knew this was going to grow and become and issue for my job as a print designer, but I had two major obstacles to overcome.

One, I had no idea how to bridge the gap between what I did as a print designer to the work being done online.

Two, I got a fat raise and was making significantly more than the webmaster.

I learned something very valuable in that moment that I still preach to designers today. Don't let a little comfort get in the way of your future. But that's exactly what I did in the moment. I let a little money put further education on the backburner.

It would be nearly a decade later before I would come back to confront my fear of failure. The birth of my daughter provided an opportunity to take some time off from work for a few weeks and my wife and I celebrated the arrival of our newborn with a special splurge for ourselves. We both got a new gadget called the iPhone.

As much as I would love to tell you that fatherhood convinced me to overcome my fears, it was the iPhone that dictated my next steps. That gadget was going to remake the world and my print career was officially over.

During these moments of transition, you're rarely to be the only person who sees the change coming, so there will be others around you looking for people to join the fight. In these moments, you need ethusiasm more than experience and that's exactly what I had. I new nothing about development but tons about communication design.

While it was a good move, I was stuck in an old organizational mindset which meant that I was simply taking requirements, creating photoshop mockups and throwing them over the wall to engineers.

I was working on digital products, but strangely no closer to actually participating in getting my work online.

Something told me that trend wouldn't hold over time, but I didn't

Entering the workforce as a designer in 1998 meant that I was just outside of the window when

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