Developers + Designers

One of the newest trends within the developer community in Japan is various ways of collaboration among the developers and designers. As the apps and websites' quality increases, demand for better UI and better design would be expected.

Example1: Simeji

A developer called @Adamrocker (Masahiko Adachi) created a Japanese IME for Android called Simeji as his side project while working for a tech company full time. It became one of the most popular Japanese IMEs, but his friend and a designer Rin Yano felt that there should be improvements in the UI as well as the logo. She started to help the project as the designer, and greatly improved the service. Last year, Baidu - the largest search engine in China bought Simeji, and the two of them joined Baidu.

Example2: Hackathons with developers and designers

Some of the hackathons keep the developer vs designer ratio to be 50:50, or don't have a target ratio but invites designers to join. This is awesome, since it increases the quality of UI which is always better for the users, the gender ratio of the participants gets more balanced (developer only hackathons ends up with a very high male ratio), and developers and designers get a chance to meet (usually they don't go to same events) which leads to future collaboration in other projects, not just the hackathon itself.

At one of those hackathons I organized that invited designers and developers, designers would start designing characters and logos for games that developers were making, start making mocks and wireframes while developers were coding, design beautiful background images while developers tackled new APIs. They can reach a different level just in one day hackathon.

EXP Hackathon

EXP Hackathon

EXP Hackathon

EXP Hackathon

Example3: html5j

html5j, the largest HTML5 community in Japan started as "HTML5 developers JP" community. Last year, they felt the need to open the doors to the designers and collaborate with them. They changed the community name to "HTML5 developers and designers JP" which is too long so shortened it to "html5j", they organized a conference called "Chrome+HTML5 Conference" which had a developer track as well as designer track, and secured seats for designers (there were 1000+ registration for 200 seats, so this was important).

Example4: Designers to learn xml

Chihiro Akiba, Asami Yamamoto and Adamrocker started a series of events for Android app designers to learn xml  so that they can increase what they can do with their app design, and to ensure that what they designed will not be wasted when it is implemented by the developers. "In the past, the role of developers and designers were separated, and designers were frustrated because their proposals for better design would not be implemented by the lack of understanding about the importance of design on the developers' side- and the developers were frustrated because designers would propose designs that were pretty but wasn't functional as the developers expect." says Chihiro. "If Android app designers learn xml, designers will be able to realize what they wanted the design to be, and the developers will be happy since you are decreasing their burden." In fact, some developers who joined the event told me they learned a lot from her lecture too. "I actually didn't know we can do such design work with xml."

Her first lecture was about 9-patch.

At her second lecture she further explained what designers can do using xml.

The third lecture will be about Custom UI.

Example5: Design Terrorism

"How can developers and designers better collaborate?" is a common question nowadays. Designer Teppei Machida proposed something called "Design Terrorism".

"Use of Github is very common among developers- they can create, publish, share, add to other people's code, and collaborate. It's awesome. Designers should be allowed to join too! But you need to be able to use that scary green screen..."

"So I made a service called Kuroigamen(black screen) to enable designers to post their designs to github without using terminal. Developers will be surprised if they received a design on Github."

@machida saw this website

 ...and sent this design.

Saw this website
 and sent this design.

The reason why it's a "terrorism" is because developers aren't expecting those designs to arrive, but I think it is the best terrorism in the world... ever ;)

BTW, the terminal being black might have been the scarecrow for designers. In Chihiro's lectures, she mentions "don't be afraid of the black screen"

 "Make it white and it's not scary any more."
"You even can make it brown. Don't be scared!"

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not reflect those of my employer. -Fumi Yamazaki