If I Do Not Like Coding, is a Graphic Design Degree Right for Me?

graphic design and computer science

Graphic design is an appealing and exciting field of study for talented artists with creative ideas and a passion for communicating information and emotion through visuals and graphics. Because our society spends so much time on the internet and interacting with technology, graphic design and computer science often go hand in hand.

Graphic designers interact with various mediums, producing graphics for books, animations, flyers and more. One of the largest areas of graphic design today is website design. Since website design is such a large portion of what graphic designers do, knowing how to code can be a huge advantage for an aspiring graphic designer.

Many people prefer not to learn how to code because they find it disinteresting or difficult. A disinterest in coding will not disqualify you from a career in graphic design, but it does make it important to pinpoint what area of the field you want to pursue and ensure that you are skilled in your craft.

Individuals who are interested in building computer programs are often torn between the worlds of coding and graphic design, a factor which leads to an important question: Is coding for a graphic design degree right for me? By learning more about the fields of coding and graphic design, you can make an informed decision regarding which career path would be most appropriate and advantageous for you. 

What Is Coding?

coding in graphic design

In the world of computers, coding is defined as the process of writing, assembling, or otherwise compiling computer codes. The “code” is basically the instructions for hardware and software that make them function properly. For example, HTML is a type of computer code or “language” which you can appropriate for the purpose of creating a web page. Coding is an integral aspect of computer processes such as the analysis, understanding, and problem-solving work pertaining to the world of algorithms. Specifically, coding work involves the implementation of an algorithm in a target programming language.

What Is Graphic Design?

Although both coding and graphic design involve the use of computers, the latter field is vastly different from the former. In short, graphic design is a field that involves effectively conveying messages to an audience through the use of words, space, and image. (This field is often viewed as a subset of communication design and visual communication, but it can also be deemed synonymous to the aforementioned fields as a result of the fact that the skills involved in each sector overlap.) To convey meaning to their audiences, graphic designers employ visual arts, typography, and various page layout techniques to create an aesthetically appealing and/or idea-rich concept. Oftentimes, graphic designers make use of logos and branding, print advertisements, billboards, posters, signs, and/or website graphics to communicate with the public. One reason that many people feel drawn to pursue graphic design professionally results from the fact that the images and ideas produced through it are ubiquitous and can have a profound effect upon their observers. As AIGA notes in discussing the scope of the field, “From humble things like gum wrappers to huge things like billboards to the T-shirt you’re wearing, graphic design informs, persuades, organizes, stimulates, locates, identifies, attracts attention and provides pleasure.”

Coding vs. Graphic Design

Individuals who find themselves torn between pursuing a career in coding and graphic design often do so because of their love for computers and the creative processes they involve. However, recognizing the distinctions between the two fields can help you decide which will be more appropriate for you. For example, coding generally involves working with numbers and computers in a somewhat methodical, mathematical way that is more scientific than “creative.” On the other hand, graphic design affords individuals the opportunity to make use of their artistic and creative abilities through the construction and modification of images and words. If you prefer being creative in a manner that involves playing around with language and icons in order to produce a meaningful and aesthetically appealing final product, graphic design may be an excellent alternative to coding.

Do I Need to Code to be a Graphic Designer?

graphic design and coding

The short answer to this question is no. Many artists pursue graphic design without a background in coding. As with any field, there are multiple layers to graphic design and multiple subsections within the field. Although coding can be helpful in multiple areas of graphic design, there are still subsections where it is not necessary. For example, print design is still a necessary design form and can be produced by hand or through digital programs that do not require coding. Programs such as Photoshop and After Effects allow you to perform digital design without coding.

Although you do not have to code to be a graphic designer, when looking for jobs, it is likely that many positions will prefer or require coding experience. Employers are often searching for graphic designers with a wide skillset and the ability to work within multiple mediums. If you are trying to steer away from coding, the job search may take a little longer, but it is still possible to find a job without worrying about coding.

Is Coding Helpful for Graphic Design?

Learning to code is not absolutely essential for a graphic designer; however, the knowledge can be very beneficial. We live in a digitally-focused world, and the internet is now an essential medium for graphic design. Much of the world of graphic design is directed toward gaining the attention of consumers through websites, emails and social media, and manipulating code is a key component of this process. Since many people interact with products or events through the internet, understanding web design can be a huge benefit for a graphic designer as it allows you to design a webpage or other online content in a way that is appealing and easy to navigate and that will ultimately draw others in.

At the same time, as the demand for digital and web design continues to increase, the number of tools and programs available to cope with it will also increase. There are many programs available already that allow you to manipulate a webpage or online content by doing most of the coding work for you. For example, WordPress allows you to design an entire website through a series of tools that will provide the code for the design that you choose.

What Are the Different Types of Graphic Design?

Graphic design is often broken down into two main categories: print design and digital design. Print design refers to design for physical publications like magazines, newspapers and flyers. Print design is often used for marketing purposes. Digital design is any form of design that is developed and viewed on a digital platform. Digital design is used for a variety of purposes, including social media graphics, informational graphics on websites and email visuals. Of course, digital design is more likely to utilize coding and require more expertise working with various computer programs. However, print design is often created using digital programs and then printed into a tangible form.

When Is Coding Used in Graphic Design?

using coding in graphic design

Coding is becoming an unavoidably important area of graphic design. With the versatility and accessibility of the internet, many potential employers are seeking a graphic designer who can assist a company in having a strong online digital presence, including through social media and a website. Graphic designers who are responsible for designing web pages will encounter code frequently. Designing a page on a website requires the ability to manipulate visual and text elements of the page, often using coding languages like HTML, CSS and Javascript. Because these coding languages are the most common foundations of websites, it is helpful for a graphic designer to have a certain level of familiarity with each.

Many aspiring graphic designers prefer to avoid learning how to code, which is not a disqualifier for entering the field, but it is still important for many graphic designers to have at least a basic understanding of how coding works. Even if a graphic designer does not directly incorporate their graphics into a website, it is important that they design a graphic that will easily translate to the medium that they are creating for. It is unhelpful to design a website graphic that cannot be easily placed onto a website. Taking the right courses throughout your degree program will help you understand what to consider in your design.

Can I Get a Graphic Design Degree Without Coding?

It is becoming more and more commonplace for graphic design and computer science to come as a package deal, especially in graphic design programs. Many graphic design programs will incorporate classes that include computer science concepts like coding and programming. However, it is not impossible to find a degree program that does not incorporate coding, and it is important to note that many successful graphic designers do not utilize code.

Even if you do not enjoy coding, it is important to be open-minded. Many other aspiring graphic designers will be very talented in graphic design but have minimal to no experience in coding. Therefore, classes that include coding will account for students of various experience levels. Overall, coding is a useful skill to have, and if you are presented with the opportunity to acquire it, it is a good idea to take it. Degree programs are designed to help you find employment after you graduate, and having at least an understanding of coding will only increase your chances of finding a job after you do.

What Are Areas of Graphic Design Where Coding Is Not Necessary?

If coding is not your strength, then you should probably avoid web design and web development. Fortunately, there are many other ways to be involved in graphic design that do not require these skills. Programs like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and CorelDraw do not require coding knowledge. These programs can be easily used for print design for newspapers or flyers that will not end up online or that are easily placed online by another person. In addition, many companies utilize promotional material for events, bands or movies and utilize graphic designers to help them develop appealing imagery and attract attendees or listeners.

At larger companies with larger teams, it is possible that you can find a role designing informational graphics and visuals for websites or digital mediums while there is another position dedicated specifically to website design and development.

Social media is also now a crucial component for any business, and companies benefit from visually appealing content for their social media, providing plenty of opportunities for a graphic designer to fill the role appropriately.

What is UI/UX Design and Does it Require Coding?

If you are pursuing graphic design, then UI/UX design is a term that you will come across quite a lot. UI stands for “user interface design” and UX design stands for “user experience design”. User interface design refers to the interface on a digital device or system and how it presents to a user, while user experience design refers to how easy or difficult using a device or system is. The goal of a UI designer is to make a product appealing to a user and easy to use.

As society continues to move toward smart devices and digital products, the UI/UX design field is expanding quickly and offers plenty of opportunities for graphic designers, who are skilled in using visual appeal to attract individuals and enhance their overall experience with a product or page. Many schools offer UI/UX design programs as part of, or as an extension to, graphic design degrees.


If you are thinking about pursuing a career in coding or graphic design, you should know that either field can offer personal and professional benefits. By learning more about the difference between the two degrees and the type of work you would do within the respective fields, you can answer a simple and important question: “Is coding or a graphic design degree right for me?”

Ultimately, your future in graphic design is what you make it. Coding is not absolutely necessary for a graphic design degree, although it can be very helpful in finding a career and expanding your capabilities. Embracing the available opportunities to learn to code can be a positive and worthwhile challenge, but if you are a talented graphic designer and are absolutely against learning to code, then it is still possible for you to have a fruitful career in the field. A variety of online tools and platforms allow you to design web content without coding, or you can avoid web design and avoid coding altogether. With enough dedication, you can craft your path however you desire.

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