You're already a designer. Coding could be your superpower.
The value of coding, way back in art school.
Way back when I was in art school, we spent four years learning all manner of design fundamentals - color, typography, composition & layout, how to crash all the Adobe apps, how to print in CMYK.
And when it came time to graduate, our teachers all said “You’ll need a website, to show your work & get a job.” Everyone said “…how the heck do you make a website?” And they responded, “…Um. Google it.”
I was the only one who happened to have taught himself to code over the years – and all my classmates flocked to me to make them a website before our big senior show. I legit could not keep up with it; we went to a small school but I suddenly had two dozen clients, in the last few weeks of graduating college.
I decided to build a site where my fellow students could make their own sites. A Good Portfolio™ was born, and suddenly I had the bug – I’d gone from an idea of a cool thing, to the cool thing existing.
I invented it, I designed it, I branded it, I made it work.
And on top of that, I suddenly had paying customers. People were paying me every month to either make or host their portfolio on my system, with a thing I’d built entirely myself. Certainly didn’t make me rich (it was for college students, after all), but it sure showed me a whole world of inspiration, where I felt empowered.
Why some designers are scared to learn to code:
Now, here’s the thing. I certainly wasn’t born to be a coder, I was a designer.
I certainly did not have a natural talent, and math classes were the only ones I’d actually failed in school.
But Problem #1 – I needed to figure out what tech to learn.
So I scrounged the internet for advice. Someone definitely has figured this out already, so I just need to see what the right thing to learn was. And good lord – it was too much. One blog post would say “Want to be a programmer? Use Python!” Another said “Never use Python! Ruby is the Future!”
I got lucky at the time, and happened to pick the right one, that helped me build what I wanted to, and soon exploded in popularity.
But even twelve years ago, that first problem was legit. The internet’s conflicting advice jumbled my beginner brain – I barely even knew which tech to consider learning.
I feel for anyone starting out these days; there’s 20x the amount of opinions on the interwebs now, and without a lot of luck or magical insight, or someone to help guide you, it’s easy to put a lot of effort into learning the wrong tech.
Then came Problem #2 – I had to learn to code it all on my own.
It was all new technology at the time, which is true too often still, with the changing winds of tech.
At best, I had at my disposal a few tutorials, some very confusing & obscure documentation, maybe a few highly technical screencasts.
I cannot describe how impossibly hard it felt to watch someone quickly breeze through ginormous confusing concepts on video and then say “I’m sure you get it, moving on!”
There was so much to learn, and I didn’t know a soul who could help me figure it out — the closest thing I had to a code tutor was some guy “teaching” on the other side of a pre-recorded video, who couldn’t see or hear me, and couldn’t ever tell me what I was doing wrong or go back to explain something a different way.
But there was still an issue.
Problem #3 – learning to code isn't just learning programming languages.
Obviously, you need to learn how to make the sites & apps you're dreaming of. That's a whole journey itself. But that's not all you have to learn.
Modern web development involves tools to build & compile code. Git, to keep track of changes. Github, to add to it. Hosting, CDNs, APIs, and SSL.
Terminal commands & magic lines of stuff I’d copy from some forum, without really knowing what it did, and — as a student of mine once described it — paste & pray. 🙏
I truly don’t think you can imagine the dozens of dozens of weird Linux commands, acronyms, obscure help pages, and opinionated suggestions I had to wade through when I was learning, just to get my apps online somehow, ready for humans to use.
It's such a wild world to have to navigate, when you're learning to code on your own.
There are alternatives to learning to code on your own, of course.
You can always buy courses on super specific code topics.
Honestly, you’ve probably already considered these; I know I see more and more useful looking courses every week.
You can always find a pre-recorded course — there are few really great courses that make parts of learning to code easy, doable, and fun.
But something pre-recorded isn’t going to meet you where you’re at. Not to mention, while a pre-recorded course might let you rewind and play stuff back if you miss something or get stuck, but it sure won’t explain it to you a different way, or go over an example if you’re not getting it.
Coding Bootcamps are another way to learn.
Here’s the thing — I actually used to design the curriculum for one of the biggest & most well-known full-intensive bootcamps in the world.
But coding bootcamps cost a lot.
They charge upwards of $15,000, usually entirely upfront, and you either have to quit your job to attend (!) or start working nights somehow. You’re in a classroom with a bunch of other random folks for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
It's hard to join a 3 month bootcamp and still work.
Not only are you draining your bank account to start, you’re also realistically losing the ability to work while you learn; that boot camp becomes a full time job, trust me.
But you could learn to code with a little help.
Let’s play the imagining game, and start by imagining that we get to learn how to code, at a sustainable pace, without having to quit your darn job.
And imagine how much less terrifying this journey to unicorn greatness could be if you have someone you know with you, who cares about your success.
Someone to help you every at complicated confusing step, explaining what it does & why it works & tricks to remember it in the future.
Someone who’s experienced enough to be able to help you learn when to use which tech, and how to choose yourself later on.
Someone who can start where you’re at, and crafts a curriculum to match what you know and need to know.
Imagine having something every week, where you have no choice but to make progress.
And imagine, learning by building your own darn heckin ideas. With a pro, teaching you how to do your specific ideas.
Maybe there's a way to learn like this.
At a certain point I realized, rather than teaching a big room of folks at a big EdTech company, or rather than spending all my time telling them what & how to teach — I can just work with awesome designers directly.
Learn to code, with me as your mentor.
And, tell ya what. I love working with designers.
As a designer, you and I already get each other.
We’re cut from the same cloth, cuz that’s me, too. I went to design school, I run a font foundry, I teach typography workshops. Teaching designers to code means we’re starting out with a common bond, one we’re both passionate about.
You just need the second half.
As a designer, you have half the hard skill set already — if you can dream up apps, draw out how they could look and work, but just don’t know how to make ‘em function, then that’s a heck of lot of quicker to get to the good stuff of making it real.
Your code tutoring offer:
Here’s what I offer, if you’re interested in learning to code with a mentor.
One-on-one tutoring, rather than a giant classroom, worse, Zoom room, full of people who are all trying desperately to keep up We start with what you want to learn & customize as we go, based on what you need for your ideas, instead of some inflexible pre-recorded curriculum We’ll meet every week, so you constantly keep making progress — even when life / your day job doesn’t exactly give you a ton of time to practice yourself You’ll get recordings of every session, so you can always go back in time & rewatch something that you thought clicked at the time, but maybe didn’t later For $1000/month, we work one-on-one to teach you exactly what you need to learn to go from designer to developer.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How much does this cost & what's the commitment?
Everyone’s at a different point in their journey, and that’s why it's a monthly subscription; you can stop anytime — whether it’s things getting tight one month, or you hit a point where you’re loving your skills and ready to graduate.
It's a flat $1000/month to work together one-on-one each week, and you’re in charge of how much you learn, what you want to accomplish, and how far we go.
What's the schedule like?
We pick a day that works for you, and we meet once a week, for 1.5 hours. That's a sweet spot, where your attention can stay engaged as we learn new stuff and you have enough time to both learn & get some practice in.
What's the curriculum? What am I going to learn?
That's the beauty of it, is that we start with what you know & move on from there. We're gonna focus on modern tech & programming languages.
We'll make sure you're good with HTML & CSS first.
Once that's good, we can move up to a more fun framework — React — to help you start building apps. There's tons to learn there, and fair warning, it can be extremely fun.
And of course, in the middle, we'll make sure you're proficient with tools of the trade — Git, Github, terminal commands, deploying your sites live & hosting. We'll get chances to learn what APIs are and how they work, and we'll learn about open-source libraries that will be like programming on steroids.
But the magic is that we can stay flexible. If a topic isn't sticking, we'll revisit & find another way to do it. If you already know something, we can skip it & learn something else. If you're especially interested in a certain type of app to build or certain tech, we focus on that.
It's just you and me — we'll make it about whatever you need to learn to code.
See if having a personal code guide will help you.
Honestly, if you’ve always wanted to design your own website or web app or SaaS but never quite could learn how on your own — one-on-one might be a good way to learn. But I want to make sure it's actually a good fit, and you'll benefit from working together before we jump in, so we can just start with a nonchalant intro meeting.
Let's chat & get to know each other a little; I'll ask about what you know already and what your goals are, you can ask whatever questions you have.