In engineering driven organizations design is slightly undervalued almost by nature. I’ve witnessed many times how challenging it can be to achieve excellence in design when company spirit is rooted in engineering.
Having worked in this environment for most of my career, it made me appreciate engineers who care to engage with design, that I could team up with to get the most out of design under the specific circumstances.
Most of the developers, however, are in a different group. They are soldiers. They conform to the very distinct lines of responsibility: Designers design, and following the specs developers develop. Writing software is already intellectually demanding enough, so keeping these two activities distinctly apart seems like a reasonable thing to do. And many companies, depending on their size, simply must become more procedural as they grow.
I used to instinctively believe in that division of labour. When I was younger, I’d secretly roll my eyes at comments coming from non-designers because they, of course, should never lecture designers about design. But soon I’d begin facing problems where I’d ran out of capacity when challenged with too much complexity. And as I would almost instantly learn, the feedback I was getting was routinely much more clever than anything I could come up with on my own.
I would slowly realize that the principal duty of designers is to hear and understand all sides and perspectives, and compile that into the biggest value for their users. In this process, everybody who informs design is incredibly important.
In every team I’ve been a part of, I worked with developers more eager to participate in design than the others. They understand you’re on the same job, just with different tools. Their feedback is priceless. They introduce us into the inner workings of the system, unlocking perspectives we would otherwise struggle to discover on our own. They make design better and they make us better designers. They’re my 10x developers.
Individual credit in any business is a myth. There are incredible musicians and artists, individuals whose wonderful gift leaves you speechless, but not in software. No matter what popular culture persuaded us to believe about Zuckerbergs and Musks of the world. Indeed, some people are more talented than the others and can have significant impact on the organization, but what we end up admiring in software is always the result of collective effort.