Person wearing two different shoes

Hybrid Designers – why you CAN have it all

The usual order of a web design process goes like that: designers take care of the looks of a website and developers put those plans into reality. But then there are those professionals who can’t just do one thing for the rest of their lives. Deciding between the two sides comes hard to some people. And if you’re into both of these fields, then what even are you?

“You’re a hybrid designer, Harry…”

OK, maybe that’s not exactly how it goes in the movie, but you get the point. One article by Ashley Gainer sums it up nicely: “Very few designers will actually design a site and then code it from scratch. And those designers who do aren’t really designers at all. They’re hybrids.” Because designing and coding often seem like two different worlds, it’s not easy to find people who have both of these approaches packed into one brain. That’s also why they earned the special name “unicorns.” “Many believe they exist, some know someone who hired one, few claim they saw one in the past, always in strange circumstances” – says Katherine Martinez, a UX designer and developer.

Not an actual unicorn / Photo by mark glancy from Pexels

Why are hybrids so special?

Let’s dig deeper. There must be something great about them besides the fact that they’re hard to find, and there is. Hybrids see the web design process from a very different perspective. They can, at the same time, think about the looks and the mechanics of what they’re creating, which allows them to reach that sweet spot, that perfect balance between what’s possible and what they want to be possible. This is the kind of thinking that has the potential to save a company lots of time and money, which is why hybrids are so in-demand.

Reasons to become a hybrid

Well, as mentioned, one reason to become such a curious creature is for those big companies to fight over you. “One-stop shops and hot commodities” (again said by Martinez) – that is what the startup world sees when they think of hybrids. Job prospects are pretty sweet in this case. But money shouldn’t be your biggest influence here. Besides a decent income, being a hybrid designer seems to be the perfect option for people who would die of boredom doing just one thing all the time. Also, it’s kind of cool to be able to create the whole deal from top to bottom on your own. There’s something really satisfying in being knows as the “digital Swiss army knife professional” (Martinez yet again).

A possible view into your future / Photo by OVAN from Pexels

But after all…

However exciting being a hybrid designer seems, it’s not the only right, universal option to choose. We don’t all have to be well-versed in every possible direction – that would be insane! Focusing on what feels right for you should be the goal. You can be a die-hard HTML fanatic who’s having a hard time choosing colour palettes. You can be a design master, severely disturbed by any type of computer code. And maybe it’s better that way. Otherwise, instead of unicorns, we would just have a ton of people hating their jobs, and that would make keeping up the “nice Canadian” stereotype really, really hard.

World reset button

The IMA switch: what it’s like to leave Media for Interactive

When you start college, you enter armed with a bunch of expectations, future plans, a vision for yourself. At least these were the things I was supposed to have to convince my parents it’s a good idea to send their child from a small village in Poland to the other side of the globe. So when the program started, I went all in, overlooking along the way every single thing telling me that I might actually be more of an “Interactive” than I’d thought.

Detour road sign
Detour road sign / Photo by Luan Oosthuizen from Pexels

“But why would you even switch?”

“And what about coding?” Yes, coding is supposedly the biggest reason not to switch programs. The fact that you barely do any web design on the Media side makes it harder to keep up with this big part of the Interactive program. Unless you’re the kind of person who’d learn this “excruciating” content in their own time just for fun…

For a long time that was the way I played this game: learning Media by day and coding by night (here, insert the rest of Fiona’s curse from Shrek). That was until I heard that, best-case scenario, I would end up working in the news anyway. It took some time, fear, thinking, research, and a good piece of advice about following my gut, but the decision was made: no more worries about ending up in the news (unless I’m the star of the news story) – I’m switching.

Boy with a backpack
A boy walking away (not an actual photo of me) / Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

First days as an “Interactive”

It was really weird at the beginning – really, really weird. And scary. I jumped from a talkative group of movie enthusiasts, who’d managed to become my new family, to a quiet bunch of strangers who already had their inside jokes and friend groups. The only comfort was that at least the instructors stayed the same. Mostly.

I got through the first weeks, spending every moment of free time with my old Media group. Until one day they didn’t show up for lunch. So I had my first lunch with the Interactive people and everything else is, probably, history. It took that and a few more group projects to realize that those strangers are actually not as scary and strange as they seemed the first day.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” promotion materials

How it all turned out

The most important thing was that I was finally able to do what I enjoyed instead of something that just “looked cool.” Since the first coding class, I had no more doubts. It was still scary, it was, but I was reminded every day why I knew it was the right decision.

Looking back, I’d say you can’t always know what’s going to happen with your life and you can’t always be sure if you’re making the right decision. But then, you should probably follow your gut. Unless it leads you to the fridge at 1AM. Then maybe don’t.