Not sure what area of developing I want to go into?

Hello there! Absolute beginner here.

I am interested in design ethics but am not sure what specifically I might be working towards with that. Is my starting point to learn code?

I am interested in the work of the center for humane technology, and also in the inclusion of communities and marginalised people within tech.

I do not feel my skills align to working in policy, and so I am just wondering what does the path to becoming a designer look like? How do I know if that role is a good fit for me?

Somewhat overwhelmed with all this (and inspired) so I hope this makes sense.

Thanks for reading, hope to speak to some of you soon!

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the usual path for a designer is a degree in design, I have not heard of self-taught designers, but I imagine it can happen that a developer with some experience may be able to move sideways and in some way move from developing to designing.

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It makes sense, but there are few different areas here that you’re talking about that inform each other but don’t necessarily overlap in terms of work done.

Design !== development, they’re different areas that need different skills. There is a significant distinction between the two areas – it is unusual for a developer to know much about design (and vice versa). Because you’re asking about it here, I’m assuming you mean design as it relates to technology, so there is an overlap. But they’re quite different paths. Design is difficult to learn yourself [imo] because training normally involves group work & lots of group criticism, and that’s very difficult to get outside of a taught (uni/college) environment. Programming can be self taught.

Ethics is going to require understanding philosophical, legal, political and social issues. That, again, is generally a significantly different area requiring different skills, but in your case as you’re not interested in the policy side so much, it’s something you would want to specialise in alongside learning design (or development). It’s actually very useful w/r/t learning, as it’s going to heavily inform the areas you want to focus on.

Where are you at w/r/t career etc? Are you just starting out (school/6th form/college/uni?), or are you currently in a different sector/job and want to transition across? It’s an important and I think pretty interesting thing to want to focus on, and it’s most definitely something that would get you a job. It seems like a daft job interview-style question, but where do you see yourself going with this? Where would you want to apply knowledge, be of help?

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Thank you for your reply Dan.

So, I’ve spent many years in administrative positions, my most recent role being in a refugee and migrant charity that gave legal advice. I became very interested in this area of law, and feel very passionate about human rights. However I was made redundant in October due to the pandemic. I am a single parent to my 3 year old, and so I’m looking at a new/different career path, one that may offer flexibility, a good enough income and also one that will keep my brain stimulated whilst being aligned with certain values (as mentioned above.)

I graduated from university in 2014, after studying Illustration. It wasn’t the right course for me but it was a decision made from spending my years throughout high school and college enjoying art.

I’m not sure if you are open to responding to my responses or if you are just posing the questions to me to be helpful (either way, I’m grateful - thank you) but to answer your Q, where would I want to be of help…

I would like to be of help in the creating of programmes that are fighting against the current threats posed by the attention extraction economy, etc. I want to see a more embodied approach to tech that is inclusive of communities, mindful of children and how programs are developed to be more child friendly… I suppose there are many things that I can imagine but I do not yet know enough about the industry to be able to articulate exactly how I can imagine actually doing these things.

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Hello @apricot_jam, welcome to the forums!

So I think there are 2 things here

  1. Getting a job as a designer, so you can apply your Illustration background to web design.

  2. Working as a designer doing projects that impact what is important to you, IE fighting for humane technology, and inclusion of communities.


So both can be important to you, however both aren’t always as important to employers. What I mean by this is you can pick what kinds of jobs/companies are important to you, but you need to have the technical skills to be able to get the job. If you have the right level of technical skills to any any job, then applying for the ones that fit with your interests in marginalized communities would make a lot of sense for both parties.

However, without the right skills, getting those jobs might be hard for the same reasons other kinds of jobs are hard, which is the competition in the job market.

So I’d focus on getting the technical skills as a designer, and later once you have those technical skills, look for jobs at companies where you can make an impact.

However, the concept of an “ethical designer” might not be that big of a term, I honestly think this is the first time I’ve heard of such a thing. As being ethical might be more about you as a person, rather than your skills or title.

Good luck, keep learning, keep building! :+1:

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Yeah, similar for me: I graduated in 2010 with a design degree in an specialisation that in retrospect wasn’t right for me. I’d gone school → foundation diploma in A&D at college, so it was just kinda natural progression rather than as planned as it could have been. I definitely wish I’d waited to go to uni until I was more ready for it, but it’s worked out long-term

I just worked for a few years in non-design jobs, eventually started picking up a bit of freelance work (illustration, mainly), eventually amassed enough of a portfolio to apply for design jobs. I’d been doing a bit of web-related work when freelancing, and pushed to learning web-related stuff, and the first good job I got was web design and development (2014ish), and I just gradually went more all-in on development after that – it’s difficult to maintain multiple specialisations.

All I can really advise with the design side is that you likely have enough of a grounding in it and a short enough gap between graduating & now to pick it back up. But it’s so heavily based on portfolio; to get back into it you need to be able to build that back up again. This forum is possibly not your best resource for this. Once we’re out of lockdown, look at meetups in your area for design – your best bet overall is possibly meeting people face-to-face and asking the questions. And use places like Reddit which have large design communities to ask the question there: how can you get back into a career in design after a 6-year-ish gap between graduation and now. And reach out to people you knew at university who are now employed on FB and LinkedIn for advice there (I realise illustration is somewhat different to other design/applied arts subjects re. employment, but I’d assume a fair % are in design-related jobs). And it may well be worth your while figuring out which companies and which public bodies are dealing with the issues you’re interested in and reaching out to people in charge of design/development there – it won’t hurt to ask for advice from them, and most people are more than happy to help.

If more of a development-related path interests you, then that can definitely be self-taught. Be prepared for it taking a serious investment in terms of time (and very young family makes that difficult – I’ve got a four-year-old, and even with my wife there keeping focus has been difficult whilst stuck at home for a year). Though as I said in my first post, knowing what you want to focus on will help greatly in terms of learning. It’s slightly difficult to reconcile the design + dev sides, to keep up with both at the same time, but having a design background makes some things drastically easier to understand when learning. CSS, for example, is at core basically just “how to style text and lay stuff out in boxes”, and if you’ve got experience with print-based page layout programs, grid systems, etc., it’s a textual language for getting a web browser to do the same thing, the difficulty then is just (“just” heh) translating your existing knowledge to it.

Retraining (uni/college) I guess is likely out of the question – it’s not like this is made at all easy, once you have a degree that’s it, generally that equals no more funding. But it may be worth your while looking at MOOCs - for example https://www.futurelearn.com/ has a set of short courses on various aspects of ethics in tech.

Design + development is attractive to employers. Further to that, design + development + strong domain knowledge re ethics is likely to be really attractive to a large set of employers. What you’re describing is already very important and becoming more so. Just design + strong domain knowledge re ethics, possibly less attractive in terms of “we need to look seriously at this candidate”, but I’m not 100% sure on that, and it obviously depends on employer.

I’ll leave it this for the minute

Edit: so the original question was “should I start learning coding”. Very, very tentatively I would say yes but not to jump in until you’re slightly more sure of where you can go because: what I think you’re talking about re. ethical design is likely to be highly technical and relate to UX/UI more than anything else. So knowing the technical constraints/freedoms available, having that grounding , is likely to be very important. As I say though, thats very tentative, and probably needs more thought.

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Thank you @bradtaniguchi ! What kind of things would a designer be working on that differs to a programmer? It seems through this thread I’m realising I will need to choose a path and learn the skill set needed, so my question is becoming, what is the difference between a designer and a programmer?

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There are a number of “terms” and “titles” that are worth going into.

  • A designer, usually designs a system. In the realm of web-development, a designer usually focuses on the user experience, and user interface, IE how thinks look and act from an end user perspective, so it not only makes sense to the user, but also does what its suppose to for the job at hand. For example, this forum software was designed by a designer so you can easily read, find, write posts with other users’.

  • A developer is the one that takes those designs and implements them. So in the realm of web development, a web developer would take the designs from the designer and implement them using code and other tools. There are some cases where the developer is the design, but usually splitting up the work means each side can focus on their respective jobs, thus resulting in what should be a better product.

  • A programmer, is someone that writes programs, this term is synonymous with developer, and possibly even synonymous with “coder” and even maybe “software engineer”.


Practically speaking, a designer would be the one that creates a “mock-up” and gets feedback on such a mockup earlier in the process. They would take into account different requirements for what needs to be done, what would be best for the end user, and take into account other interests, like accessibly.

These mock-ups and specifications would then be handed off to the developer who would implement it using programming and other tools for the given platform.

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Some food for thought here, thank you for your reply.

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I’m definitely interested to look into the future learn link you sent.

What is UX/UI ?

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UX stands for User Experience, UI for User Interface, it is what a web designer give shape to. They are not the same, because you may have a wonderful UI, but something like needing 32 clicks to delete an account is terrible UX.

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