Every so often, a tweet or blog post would make me reflect upon my career in the web development industry. Being a hybrid design/coder, I can't help but feel out of place within in.
Over the winter break, I indulged in two of my favourite things - drawing and video games (three if you include eating - no regrets). While poking around on YouTube for concept art illustration videos, I stumbled upon a series by Riot Games - makers of League of Legends. This series is dedicated to making video games. It provides insight to various aspects of video game creation, such as sound design, 3D animation, tooling, and more. One of the episodes, was entitled "Technical Art".
Prior to a couple of weeks ago, "Technical art" was a term that I've never heard of before. It showcased a unique role, "technical artists", within the game development pipeline. This role required someone having expertise in both design and engineering. These people work with others from design and engineering teams (from 3D artists to game engine developers) to help streamline their workflows.
I got many chills watching this video. The work technical artists do is so strikingly similar to the work that I do! Except instead of working on web-based applications, they work on video games, which is way harder (in my opinion).
This was a meaningful moment for me. It helped me realize how important a design/engineer combo role was for an industry that involves these two disciplines.
I felt excited! I felt validated. I felt understood.
In contrast, the web development industry doesn't really have a role as established as technical artists do for the gaming industry. Because of this, it's sometimes difficult for others to understand or relate to the kind of work that people like myself do.
I mean, "Design Engineer" isn't really a common job title in the web development world. Other similar titles may include "UI Engineer", "Front End Engineer", "UX Engineer", or "Designer Developer". Even then, they all mean something different things to different people/companies.
So! Speaking for myself, I'm gonna try to describe my role.
I'm Q. I'm a Design Engineer.
I have experience in both design and engineering.
I help streamline the workflow for folks in both teams. I reduce communication gaps, acting as the bridge between both worlds. In other words...
I help these folks become better at what they do.
I do this by creating tools, frameworks, libraries, and processes. From tiny workflow boosting modules to full fledged design systems. I help others improve their craft by knowledge sharing through pair sessions, writing documentation, and making tutorial videos.
My end users are other folks on the team.
I create things to help them create things for our product end users.
If required, I can also assume the role of a designer or an engineer. I can...
- Write design specs
- Create wireframes, prototypes, or high fidelity mock-ups
- Implement code
- Rig up APIs
- Math through complex animations/interactions
- Architect data management systems
- ...and more
Although I enjoy this work, it is not where my passion lies.
My passion lies in the behind-the-scenes work that help make other folks on the team be at their best.
To put it metaphorically...
I am the fire flower to help designers and engineers kick ass.