I Am a Designer. Why Should I Learn Marketing?

Do you sometimes feel like you are Kali, the Hindu goddess having 4 hands? Being a designer is never enough for the employer. You should know much more than Photoshop alone!

Image source: AQ Studio on Dribbble

What do you call yourself? Are you a product designer, UX designer, web designer, graphic designer? What skills do you possess?

Do you know how to code? Do you think this knowledge makes you a better designer or, on the contrary, you are neither an artist nor a good coder?

As for me, I don’t think that designers MUST code. However, some of them need to code to get closer to their materials.

Say, if you visualize some data, you probably want to turn the knobs for yourself. But this does not mean that you should code. Such kind of approach is too primitive.

Why? Because both coding and design are deeply interconnected practices. Are you sure you can be on your ground with both?

Who knows, maybe you are the reincarnation of Julius Caesar (a Roman politician, general, and notable author of Latin prose, the first person praised for his ability to do several tasks simultaneously).

The truth is that multitasking is not for everybody. A rare person can replace the whole band, that is why most of the designers prefer collaborating with skillful coders.

As a rule, the collaboration works well as it allows the team to utilize their strengths to the best while distributing their learning and workload.

But let’s return to this metaphor with the band. A lot of musicians can sing, play the guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards. But are they great at all of them? You should be a genius to have an outstanding vocal and play all those musical instruments professionally.

Though, your band will never be a success, if you don’t appreciate other instruments, roles, or skills. You will never get a standing ovation without this sort of understanding.

Of course appreciation and understanding are not the only benefits of learning the related skills. Broadening your outlook is much more important as this makes you a better designer.

Look at the famous sportsmen. They train all groups of muscles to reach outstanding results.

Besides, drilling down into the relative working processes saves you from doing same things day in and day out.

Did you notice that web design has taken a weird place today?

Some designers make cute things. Dribbble is full of stuff like that. Their peers visit such kind of galleries for inspiration and then just imitate one another. It’s a kind of design for the sake of design that raises designer's self-esteem.

The others (design philosophers) are always happy to attend the next conference, where they have an opportunity to speak about design as an abstract notion.

The latter group is just as self-serving as the former, but thinkers are much more deluded. The doers are spending their days polishing their works to perfection while the thinkers believe they can understand the deeper meaning of design, convey their awareness to others and finally save the world 🙂

As for me, the things are not as they seem. We won’t change / improve the design speaking of unattainable substance.

They say “You can talk the talk but you should walk the walk”.

What I am trying to say is that the more we talk about design, the less action-oriented we seem to be.

Just agree that the act of design is forevermore compelling than any, even the most interesting discussions about the nature of design.

Why do we fall in love with our work?

Because of creation! Can the process of creation be compared to the debate over product / UX / UI / whatever design? No way! The discussions are dullsville life.

Now about the problem with the “façade designers”. They often have a distorted perspective. You won’t save the world with design making it for dribbble (intended as a showcase only).

It’s challenging to create something worthy having such purpose in mind.

As I see it, producing a sound design is possible only having a particular task at hand. But this requires us to understand our user's / client's obstacles and needs.

After having consulted with Athena [goddess of wisdom] I have concluded that design isn’t about the designer, it isn’t about the dialogue surrounding the profession; it’s not about what others brand you.

Anyone who knows anything will agree that design is essentially about clothing the purpose into form. The lack of that purpose component is a plague for many design solutions.

Have you read the “Vanity Fair” novel by William Makepeace Thackeray? In that work, "Vanity Fair" refers to a stop along the pilgrim's route: a never-ending fair held in a town called Vanity, which is meant to represent man's sinful attachment to worldly things.

It seems to me that bad designs come out of wrong [vanity] desires: winning an award, peer admiration, or building a portfolio, that get in the way. Whereas designer’s principal concern must be facilitating a suitable outcome.

So, why marketing is so damned important?

“I don’t do marketing!” How many times have you uttered the phrase? And you had your reasons for that. Marketing is challenging, it's difficult to quantify, it can feel cheap, it may seem to be a form of trickery…

Nevertheless, all the above arguments don’t make light of it. Marketing is necessary. Moreover, you’d be okay as a designer if you never learned a single line of code and started thinking as a marketer instead.

Does this seem contradictory to you? Well, let’s put on our thinking cap.

I am not proposing you to become a marketer. Still, I believe that you can benefit from learning how to think like one.

Recommended reading that will help you step into marketer's boots:

How users judge whether the design is good or bad? A good design is found in the end product although it's not limited to that.

The final product is a result of endless conversations, debates, and revisions. What drives all those conversations, discussions, and revisions? Gut feel, internal power structures, some popular trends? Missed! No one of the answers is suitable.

Designers need to think like marketers because doing so breaks their biassed mindset.

They are forced to ask questions like:

  • Who will need my design?
  • Who will use it?
  • Where is my target audience?
  • What are they using at the moment instead?
  • Will they appreciate what I've done?
  • How to make them care?
  • What should I do if no one pays attention to what I've designed?
  • …the list goes on.

Answering the above questions and try to think of some new tactics you can use when you start the next project. Tactics that will help you pick design elements wisely without spending days on end selecting a single typeface. You will know which font matches the particular project best of all (or at least your list of fonts will narrow down to several types).

I am sure you understood me right – a good design requires all those big questions to be sorted out, so the smaller (more detailed) decisions are made appropriately.

Double-faced Janus

The main notion I want to impress upon you is that web design and marketing are like the ancient Roman god – Janus (the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, doorways, passages, and endings). He is usually depicted as having two faces since he looks to the future and to the past.

In other words, design and marketing are two sides of the same coin.

Yes, more and more of it...

Consider this: designers who think marketing is the domain of “someone else” relegate themselves to the role of craftspeople. Is this role for you? Or are you more ambitious? Is it ok with you to act on instructions provided by others or do you take them as an unnecessary limitation of your designer’s skill?


It’s difficult to predict the reaction of designers who have just read this article. There’s plenty of commentary out there about what designers should / shouldn’t do.

In any case, in my not so esteemed opinion going a little narrower and focusing on the topic leads to better results.

Designers are making things or want to make things of their own. But the tough part of the process always spins around how to get anyone care. And we come back to marketing again.

And now I would like to ask what do you think about knowledge a designer should have? Which related / not related to web design skills are helpful? Do you agree that designers MUST learn marketing to make their projects streamlined, appreciated and popular among the audience?

I am waiting or your feedback in the comment section.

Many thanks for every ‘Like’ and ‘Share’!

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Helga Moreno

Experienced writer passionate about highlighting all the topics related to web, design, marketing, SEO, and more. Follow Helga on Quora.

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