The Real Benefits of Learning To Code As A Designer

Path Unbound
4 min readJun 2, 2021


A skill you don’t technically need but one that can open doors

Written by Gyeongwon Kwak, social media content writer at Path Unbound. Edited by Stella Guan, Founder & CEO of Path Unbound.

Many designers today think they don’t need to know how to code to do their jobs, especially with the rise of no-code platforms like Webflow. Coding is a skill that’s often overlooked and not explored enough by designers.

Samuel Kang, a multi-disciplinary UX designer at Microsoft, and Stella Guan, the founder and CEO of Path Unbound, had the opportunity to talk about how coding is underutilized by designers and how his variety of talents contributed to his design career.

Video version of Samuel Kang’s interview

Kang took a coding class as an elective while he was attending school and despite not receiving the best academic grades in it, he fell in love with the freedom of being able to create something from scratch. His artistic background and love for coding eventually led him to pursue a career in design.

Attracting the right people

Guan took notice of Kang’s incorporation of humorous elements in his portfolio (and his love of ducks) and asked him about how important personal branding is for designers. By designing his contact form in an unconventional way, Kang knew that not everybody would like it and that he could’ve missed out on some employment opportunities due to it not being “corporate-friendly”.

Cover photo for Samuel Kang’s interview

Instead of seeing these missed opportunities as a downside, he sees it as a plus by stating that he wouldn’t have worked well in those types of strict, traditional work environments anyways. He prefers more casual work cultures and knows that the quirks on his portfolio will attract the right type of people he would work well with.

Designers can cherry pick who to connect with by showing off their personalities in their work.

Companies look for more than just technical abilities in designers — they also want to see their work style and workflow to find out if they would be a good match for the company’s work culture.

Do designers really need to know how to code?

When asked about the importance of coding for designers, Kang replied that coding is both a nice skill to have and a skill that designers should have. Kang believes that designers should at least know the limitations and restrictions of what engineers can and cannot do — and this doesn’t even require designers to really know how to code in depth.

Knowing how to code can improve communication within and between teams, and save time.

Knowing how to code can improve communication within and between teams, and save time.

How coding helped a designer define themselves

When creating his portfolio, Kang wanted to sell the point that he was a multi-disciplinary designer with skills in vector illustration, UI/UX, web design, interactive design, painting, lettering and animation. He was able to achieve this by redefining what a navigation bar could be.

By just looking at the navigation bar in his portfolio, anyone can recognize that Kang has a background in coding, design and art. The standard horizontal navigational bar does its job but sometimes, designers need to be able to think out of the box to stand out.

One of his personal projects incorporated what he learned about Swiss design and CSS grid, and combined them into a Swiss Poster Generator. He was able to use his skills in Javascript, CSS and HTML to create this project.

Some advice for new designers

Based on his personal experiences, Kang thinks it’s inevitable that new designers are going to find it challenging to break into the design industry. He suggests designers to be open to trying new things and to not doubt themselves in their learning processes. This is how Kang found out about coding and was able to use it as something that makes him stand out from other designers.

Be patient with your journey in design. Everyone starts somewhere.

Be patient with your journey in design. Everyone starts somewhere.

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