Coding for Graphic Designers: Everything you need to know

Screen showing multiple lines of code

Graphic designers used to primarily work with print, designing attractive posters, flyers, and logos.

As time passed, the world started shifting to digital and so did graphic designers.

Every website that you see on the internet today is made with some kind of code. Coding languages such as HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Node are the most popular among these.

Good knowledge of coding helps graphic designers collaborate with web developers to design the website. Graphic designers do not require coding skills for the design itself but rather for the functionality and application of the design.

Some positions require graphic designers to have coding skills such as web designers.

I wrote a post comparing graphic designers and web designers, in which I outlined the importance of coding for web designers and how they implement HTML, CSS, and Javascript into their designs.

In this post, we’ll look at how important knowing how to code is in graphic design.

What Kind of Coding Do Graphic Designers Use?

Graphic designers don’t need to have the same knowledge as full-stack developers. The most productive kind of coding to learn for graphic designers would be the front end rather than the back end.

Front-end development deals with the visible elements of the website or app. The user interface or things that the people can see and interact with.

Back-end development deals with data, databases, APIs, servers, and other things too complicated for you and me to understand.

Front-end development includes mainly 3 languages, HTML, CSS, and Javascript.


HTML stands for hypertext markup language and is used to design the structure and composition of the website. Without HTML your site cannot be displayed.


CSS stands for cascading style sheets and is used to style the elements of the website you created in HTML.


Javascript is a coding language that deals mostly with the dynamic elements of a website such as transitions and animations.

There are other programming languages such as PHP, Node, Python, etc. but these are the ones I think graphic designers could find most useful and relevant to their field.

Importance of Coding

As of January 2021, there were 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide – that’s 59.5 percent of the global population.

To tackle this volume, there are roughly 547,200 new websites created every day!

With internet users and websites growing at this rate, graphic designers are needed to properly design and format these websites to attract people from the sea of competition.

Graphic designers need to collaborate with web developers to ensure the design is properly implemented on the website.

Here are 5 reasons why graphic designers should learn to code:

1. Creating Web-friendly Designs

Graphic designers need to work with web developers to ensure designs are well-optimized for the web.

In programming, many web developers strive to bring in a great user experience and a smooth back-end operation. This may include:

  • Fast loading times
  • Proper formatting
  • Clean code
  • Responsive elements
  • Appropriate coding language

A graphic designer might want to create a super detailed, high-quality image with stunning graphics to grab the viewer’s attention.

Whereas, a web developer might have to decrease the image quality and compress it to reduce the size for faster loading times.

They may also choose to resize the image to be smaller so it takes less space which means all the detailing would be hidden.

By learning how to code, you would be able to understand and prioritize what really matters to users and developers.

You can use coding to create responsive designs, optimized for speed and a pleasant user experience across all devices.

You’ll also be a fan favorite of developers as they have clean and readable code to work with. This would make their lives easier and make sure the design is properly integrated into the website as you intended.

2. Making Your Designs Interactive and Dynamic

Imagine how boring the web would be if nothing were dynamic.

Graphic designers who have experimented with motion graphics might already be familiar with dynamic designs. However, making your designs interactive on the web is a totally different process.

The majority of interactive and dynamic design elements you see on websites had been coded with javascript.

Good knowledge of javascript can help you design clickable buttons, web forms, special effects, and CTA triggers. All of these are present in most modern websites.

Web designers need to have good coding knowledge to make an interactive web design that users would want to stay on and explore.

3. Remaining Competitive in the Industry

As a graphic designer having coding skills, you can prove to be a valuable asset for businesses.

Tech veteran, John Maeda, emphasizes this in his “Design in Technology” report:

“If you want to survive in design, you better learn how to code…

…When you can do both, you can do things no one else can do. Technology companies that innovate tend to have these unique people.”

John Maeda

Coding can prove to be a great addition to your skillset as it will open up a lot of career opportunities for you in the future. Some examples include:

  • User experience (UX) designer
  • User interface (UI) designer
  • Web designer
  • Visual designer

Keep in mind these are careers you can apply for including the ones that are already available to you as a graphic designer.

By learning how to code you will become a better team player as you can communicate effectively with developers.

However, some designers and businesses might not support the idea of a “jack of all trades” and be more willing to hire a person who specializes in coding or graphic designing rather than both at the same time.

This is because people have limited capabilities, you simply can’t be good at everything.

Especially given the amount of time you’d have to invest in learning both skills individually and then combining them in practical situations.

4. Job Security

By investing your time and efforts into coding you are gaining a skill that will stay relevant in the future.

Just like graphic designers saw a decline in traditional print media they may not be able to keep up long-term with A.I. as well.

Graphic design tools such as Canva and Glorify are immensely popular amongst many businesses. Some business owners may also ask why they need a graphic designer when they can just do everything themselves.

Canva alone boasts a user base of more than 15 million active monthly users.

Graphic designers are becoming more and more competitive in producing content no A.I. can come close to but still these programs are making many well-learned designers jobless.

However, the internet and online marketplace don’t seem to be going anywhere rather their demand is estimated to increase.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of web developers and digital designers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of web developers and digital designers is projected to grow as eCommerce continues to expand.”

Since you are a valuable asset to the business you may be hard to replace giving you job security.

Even if you do leave your current job you may find it easier to find a new one due to your skillset.

Most companies nowadays require designers to have at least basic knowledge of HTML and CSS.

“It’s not going to kill a designer if they knew a little bit about how to write some HTML and CSS, maybe a little bit of JavaScript.”

Aaron Walter, VP of design education at InVision

5. A New Side Hustle

Graphic designers learning to code can tap into another source of income.

Coding and designing website templates and selling them in online marketplaces can be profitable and a good source of passive income.

Website templates are very popular amongst website owners as no one wants to go through the trouble of learning and coding their own website from scratch.

Also, many of the free themes that are provided by CMS such as WordPress and Blogger are not good quality so people are willing to invest in good design as they are proven to attract more people.

Coding and selling WordPress themes have a lot of potential and are something graphic designers should look into if they have the time.

Why Don’t Graphic Designers Learn To Code?

Everybody has their own reason to not learn a new skill but for graphic designers, these might be the common issues:

  • Not convinced it’s worth the time and effort
  • Think that coding is a very difficult subject to learn
  • No clear idea on how to start

These are all genuine concerns as I also had them when I first had the idea of learning code.

Since I know the basics of HTML and CSS (yeah, I ain’t messin’ with Javascript yet) I can guide you on the fears you may have.

Firstly, we have already discussed the importance of coding and in my opinion, it is worth the time and effort, if you can find creative ways to implement it.

Coding is pretty difficult but coding languages such as HTML and CSS are not.

Nowadays there are many excellent tutorials and websites you can check out to learn HTML and CSS and all you need are the basics.

As for Javascript, it is a bit more advanced, which is part of the reason I haven’t learned it yet. It would also require more time and effort as it deals with scripts, functions, and commands which are foreign to many designers.

To start coding you can check out on YouTube and

These are the two resources I used to learn coding and are best for beginners to learn how to code.

You should first learn the basics of HTML, then move to CSS and then Javascript in that order. This is because they are linked in that way

You design the structure in HTML, style it with CSS and then make it dynamic and interactive with Javascript.

Do You Really Need to Learn Coding?

It’s not necessary for graphic designers to learn coding as most deal with static design elements.

However, coding is a great skill to have in your arsenal as it will make you a valuable asset for companies and your own personal brand.

You can use coding to become a better collaborator and make sure none of your designs get lost in translation when going through developers.

With coding you can:

  • Create web-friendly designs
  • Make your designs interactive and dynamic
  • Remain competitive in the industry
  • Increase job security
  • Create a new side income

These are great reasons to learn coding but then again, not a necessity for designers.

I didn’t know how to code when I started and scored clients.

The only time I have used my coding knowledge is when tweaking certain themes according to my preference.

Want to start learning how to code? Check out these resources:

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