As a traditional designer and illustrator for over twenty years, making the transition into code, especially aiming for production ready code, is not easy.

Much like learning how to draw the human body or perfect your leading or kerning in design, coding takes time and patience.

I was at a Creative South, a convention for designers hoping to meet other code/designers to talk with and was surprised just how much others didn鈥檛 know about code. In fact sometimes when I was chatting about code they stared at my blankly as if I was from another planet.

Creative South Event

One person I met said he wanted to learn code but didn鈥檛 know where to start and it all seemed so daunting to him. It was then I realized I, as a traditional designer turned code monkey, have the opportunity to share my thoughts about how to get started.

First and foremost I want to explain how I see front end coding (which is good for a designer, just skip the backend stuff unless you are really, really interested in a new form of Hell).

The front end consists of three things:

  • HTML(Hyper Text Markup Language)
  • CSS (Cascading Stylesheets)
  • Javascript

HTML is like the bones of a body, the skeletal structure makes up the what the muscles, joints, tissue, skin all hinge upon. And speaking of skin, CSS is much like the clothes, looks, appearance you make for yourself. Lastly Javascript (not Java) is the commands your brain issues your muscles and bones.

Take your hand and hold it out in front of you and wave. Your brain had to tell the muscles to move the bones. This is my best explanation for Javascript.

Where do I get started?

There鈥檚 a lot of places to get started, my favorite is Wes Bos鈥檚 (link) tutorials on CSS Flexbox (link), Vanilla Javascript (link) and ES6 (link) courses.

While he expects you to know a little bit of code, Wes鈥檚 tutorials are very good and thorough. I often take them just to keep fresh on my coding skills.

Another great service is Team Treehouse (link) which will start you in the shallow end of the coding pool and ease you into the deep end. It鈥檚 very worth your time if you want to learn more about coding.

I鈥檓 completely lost

Yep, I know that feeling well. There鈥檚 another helpful place called StackOverflow (link) and while it may seem daunting at first, you can ask and also find your question there. Yes, the first few times you may not get it right off the bat but keep at it and it becomes a valuable resource to help you.


As with anything, persistance will pay off here. You will get stuck, you will get frustrated and you will walk away from your computer. But honestly if you continue to hammer at it, there鈥檒l be a breakthrough, I鈥檝e seen it too many times in my own coding challenges. Just take one chunk of it at a time and master that, move onto the next chunk after that and also remember the words of Calvin Coolidge:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.