Designer v.s. Programmer

Artists vs. Programmers – a personality study

For web clients and contractors here a guide with things you need to know about Programmers and Artists/Designers. If you follow the information in this articles you can maximize the productivity in your web project and help you understand the psyche of artists and programmers.

Key points to ponder…

  1. We are people too, not objects or slaves
  2. You hired us because of our skills sometimes its best to let us do what we do best
  3. The contractor/contracted relationship is symbiotic either one can end the contract
  4. Artists and programmers alike survive by being able to show their work, if you tell an artist that they can’t show people what they have done for you expect to pay A LOT more for the work

Key points about artists

Artists are somewhat quirky people and particular in how they do things and what they like. It is important in choosing a designer that look at other work they have done to make sure that their particular design philosophies are inline with how you envision your graphics to be. The following are some key points to remember when dealing with artists.

  1. If you ask an artist their opinion on some thing they will give it to you if you are not going to listen to them then don’t ask their opinion.
  2. When an artist sends you a concept the first time that is the artists vision for how they see your design and revisions to the original concept are to tweak it to your vision.
  3. If you are looking for someone to create exactly what you envision with predetermined colors of your choice and not to be creative then you are generally not looking for an artist you are looking for a technician.
  4. Be completely honest with your artist in the beginning about how you want things to work. Are you going to be involved heavily in the creative process? Are you leaving it up to the designer? Are you a picky person who requires lots of revisions? These are key factors in how effective and efficient the process will be.
  5. They have egos and feelings that can be hurt keep that in mind when you are providing “feedback” or “critiques”

Key points about programmers

Programmers are generally solitary people that are extremely opinionated about their work and many other topics. Programmers work best with out supervision, all they need is to be told how you would like something to work and let them do it. The following are some key points to remember when dealing with programmers:

  1. LEAVE THEM ALONE – If you interrupt a programmer when they are deep into coding they could completely lose hours of work and that will cost you.
  2. Programmers plan their code out before it is written out, the process map is in their head once it begins to be written any interruptions can cause the previous point to occur.
  3. DO NOT engage a programmer in conversations about religion or politics. In general they are extremely opinionated and these topics can usually lead to debates which are counter productive.

Key points about the hybrid or multi functional developer

If you are lucky enough to find someone that is a multi talented graphic artist who can tackle programming and or other tasks such as Flash, 3D or Video production/editing then you should do everything you can do to build a solid working relationship. Someone of this caliber has specific requirements for their working conditions. The following are some key points to remember when dealing with Multi Purpose Artists that I shall call Hybrids.

  1. The most important thing to remember is that efficiency is based on milestones and phases during a project.
  2. Programming and Graphic Design use different sides of the brain, people that are capable of doing both well have developed ways to change their thought process in order to switch from one to the other. This is not an instant process which is why they set milestones on projects. It takes time to change the thought process and switch sides of the brain. SO don’t call your hybrid while programming and ask them to look at some design elements or images. “O.K. go program for an hour then we can look at design stuff” does not work out very well, nothing of any consequence is going to be accomplished and if you are paying hourly its going to cost you.
  3. You will save large amounts of money by hiring, contracting some one of this skill set as they generally work at a single hourly rate but can provide all services.


I hope this article has given you some incite into the minds of artist and the programmer. By understanding this I hope you can build a long term and valuable working relationship. Being a Hybrid myself I have had many clients that have been through a few artists and/or programmers before finding one that they can work well with. Not always is there anyone to blame for these break downs. A lack of understanding and communication causes the majority of these working relationships to break down. The artist/programmer needs to understand the mind of the client and the client needs to understand the mind of the artist/programmer. I wanted to write an article that details the mind of a client based on my 10 years experience in the retail and sales management industry but I am hoping that the comments on this article will be based on helping each other understand the minds of clients and artists/programmers alike.

Written by Matthew Paul Chitty


  • Ernie (8 years)

    I’m glad to discover that you can survive being a hybrid, I wonder if that holds true for the games development industry. I’m currently trying to figure out if I should study programming or do art in order to become a 3d modeler and texture painter. The nature of the industry I want to get into (games) seem to require so much specialization and I’m interested in both, wish stresses me to figure out which side of my brain to use for the rest of my life. I’ve taken programming classes which I enjoyed, and I also do lots of tutorials om modeling and have a little project going there right now. I was entertained by your observation of opinionated programmers, the only one I know is exactly that.

  • admin (8 years)

    Well the gaming industry is completely specialized, the programmers and the artists are in opposite departments.

    In gaming you will need to specialize in Modeling/Texture, Rigging, Animation. They are the major categories. I applied to the gaming industry and was told by EA that I had to specialize in one category.

    The gaming industry is very different from web, a web programmer with an eye for design and some Photoshop skills can also be a web designer. In the CG (TV/FILM, Gaming) industry it is too difficult to maintain a level of understanding and quality when you spread yourself across modeling animation and rigging. I know people that are good at all but only work in one field. I also know people that are fantastic modelers but can animate they are also working in the industry.

    So in closing it is a good practice to have a working knowledge of all the area as they are in some way intertwined but specialize in the one that interests you the most. If you want to be an animator learn enough about modeling and rigging to build your self a nice little character and animate it until the motion is perfect and put together an animation reel of that character doing every kind of motion. For a modeling real for gaming I would recommend to model really high quality textured models with poly counts that are equal to what the current industry standard for that form of model is. Then render 360 views of those characters. If you are looking for film or tv well thats a whole other can of worms. I have worked in film doing swarm effects, modeling and simulation for “Killer Bees” and modeling for the TV series pilot that I am contracted to work on right now.

    Final note: There is work in all the industries so you should really pick what you want to do a tailor a demo reel to that industry category to maximize the chances of getting a job. If you go freelance I would recommend to go hybrid as you never know what work will come in at a given time.

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  • Kabuqueci (4 years)

    very interesting i also trying to be a hybrid artist and this year i will enter to school but i don’t know if i want to do web design and development game development or digital film maker.
    i have a big interest in 3d this but i like also interactivity.

  • Leith (4 years)

    If you can, be an artist that can program, not a programmer who can draw.

  • Alan (4 years)

    Really funny about the politics and religion on programmers, I always tought it was just me, because most of my classmates don’t really care about politics and are happy going to church once a week (I’m a very aggressive anti religion atheist, don’t go around talking trash about religion, but once it starts, I always finish).

    And listen to the “Leave them alone” advice. I think sometimes I start working like a computer, different things on my mind “at the same time”, planning ahead, a mental image of a design, what is going on at the moment, how it is affecting other stuff, etc.; and a distraction can be like a reboot, all gone and I have to run them again.

    I’m still kind of a freshman, but I’m really looking out ahead for “common mistakes”, good practices, and anything else that could make me the best candidate for a job I’d apply to. Reading certainly made me realize I needed to pay more attention to all my physics and maths assignments, since not a single teacher has once said when or where I’d use it.

  • Aldo (1 year)

    It’s confisung to be hybrid. Trust me.

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