Don’t Be the Unicorn: Be the Horse!

The following video is from WordShesh 2013. In this presentation, Jake Goldman and I discuss the idea that a great designer/developer hybrid doesn’t exist, just like the mythical unicorn. We also debate whether a person who wants to be known as a professional web designer, should adequately know CSS and HTML. and whether CSS and HTML is the common language between designers and developers.

Don’t Be the Unicorn: Be the Horse!

In order to help you understand the background to this discussion, I’ve included some important references that tie into our session:

Further Thoughts on Unicorns and Horses

I believe that it’s important to reiterate that the original discussion by Sara Cannon was inspiring. She made some excellent points and I appreciate her viewpoints, even if I disagree with some of what was said.

I also feel that there was more to be said on this topic, but due to time constraints and some of our segments taking longer to communicate, we weren’t able to leave with a “final note.” Perhaps there will be a follow up webinar but I want to go ahead and put some ideas down here for discussion.

There is nothing wrong with generalists or utility players. All of us serve a purpose and there is value in freelancers or team members who have a basic understanding of both design and development. While Jake Goldman may focus only on hiring specialists in his agency, generalists can contribute greatly in the right setting or role.

You can be an expert designer or expert developer, but not both. There may be rare instances that we find a person who excels in design and development both (I haven’t found that person yet) but the reality is that most of us can only be great at one of these disciplines.

Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. This point ties in with the one above, but there are many people I’ve talked with and coached who think that they must be well-rounded. This is not true! When you focus on your strengths you can soar higher in your abilities, your skills, and your career.

Go against the grain but be open to the insights of others. Don’t always listen to people and conventional wisdom. People told me that I would never make it as an entrepreneur or web designer because I didn’t have the skills or training required. Yet I have done very well for myself and have been successful in my industry. On the flip side, you should be open to the advice or insights of others because it can help you. You just have to discern between what to accept and what to reject.

CSS and HTML may or may not be the common language between web designers and web developers. I wanted to spend more time thinking and talking this through before and during our session. There is a great argument that this is the common language, but I wonder if there is more or something else that we missed. I will have to come back to this at some point.

What Do You Believe In?

Are there really unicorns and should we aspire to be one? Or do they not exist and should we focus only on being a horse? I’ve seen a few great conversations online about this recent WordSesh session and I would love it if you share your thoughts and opinions in a professional way right here.

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  1. Patrick Neve says

    You guys made some great points. And it’s just another great example that confirms that I need to focus more on my strengths and find team players to tackle my weaknesses. It’s absolutely exhausting trying to be the unicorn all the time. It also becomes less fun. When the thrill fades it’s never a good thing. Thanks James! Great webinar!

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