Balancing the Left and Right Brain

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The jobs landscape within the creative industry is an ever-changing thing. Long gone are the “Mad Men” days of cut and dry creative teams. Many of our roles have evolved, which in turn has demanded more out of us. But because we live in the Information Age, we are able to learn and adapt to these roles.

Many of us have described ourselves as belonging to one of two camps—”right-brained” or “left-brained”. This is usually a reference to our individual learning styles and personality. The science, however, reveals an oversimplification of terms. What we are actually referring to is the complex process known as brain lateralization wherein specific regions of the brain are called upon to carry out behaviors and cognitive skills. The functioning associated with the right hemisphere includes creativity, intuition, general information analysis in order to formulate a ‘bigger picture’, and controlling motor skills on the left side of the body. The left hemisphere carries out functions associated with detailed information analysis, organizational systems, understanding language (both spoken and written), and controlling motor skills on the right side of the body. Bridging the two hemispheres together is the corpus callosum, a bundle of roughly 200 million axons, which essentially acts as an information highway relaying information back and forth from one hemisphere to another. The terms “right-brained” and “left-brained” are misnomers, technically.

Pretty cool, right?

In many cases, the jobs we choose are typically contingent upon the traditional understanding of the brain. It’s not often that a person will fall into a career that requires them to actively call upon the two hemispheres, incorporating both the creative with the analytical, though.

Web Designer vs. Web Developer

The relationship between web designer and web developer in the collaborative process is similar to two puzzle pieces. Or to draw a better, commonly used analogy, web designers are the architects and the web developers are the builders. They are both essential in the conception and execution of a building, just as designers and developers are both essential in making any website or application. A recent trend within the creative sector has given birth to a new type of designer…the hybrid designer.

The Hybrid Designer

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How They Work

The hybrid designer synthesizes the roles of both the web designer and the web developer into a singular workflow. In terms of communication, they can speak both design and developer languages, becoming both the native speaker and the translator. Internally, this is huge due to the fact that when designers speak to developers, it’s like trying to decipher Klingon. For example, a hybrid should know their way around the framework that the lead developer has set up in order to apply styles, make structural changes, and know how to effectively communicate the structural logic to designers for a better user experience AND user interface. Their value lies in offering different perspectives to the creative process. Through this streamlined workflow, projects would ideally run smoothly and not eat up the budget, making both the internal team and the client very happy.

How I Work

As a designer and front-end developer, I have to push myself to think logically and intuitively. Again, just like building a house, you must first work out the logic of the structure through a blueprint (sitemap and wireframes) before hiring an interior decorator to work out the look and feel of the inside of the house. Taking on both roles becomes a discipline in which you are forced to go through the process in a very methodical and deliberate manner. The screenshot below illustrates a website, with the user-friendly interface and clean aesthetic.

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This is the same website, but this time, illustrating how my brain filters aesthetics and styling, breaking the layout down into all types of <div> tags, or to put it simply—boxes. In accordance with it’s function, the left-brain is organizing information and structuring it in a logical system (the user experience), which will then pass the framework onto the right-brain where said boxes will house text, images, and other data in a visually appealing manner (the user interface).

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Certainly there will be some overlap, where one will need to consider visual elements of the layout in order to make structural or hierarchical decisions. Typically, this happens during the wireframe phase because consideration must be paid to certain visual elements which are contingent on structural elements, and vice versa.

The Takeaway

There isn’t one hard and fast way of thinking about web design and development; and certainly for myself, it is a constant learning experience. The way in which designers and developers think is changing and it will continue to change so long as the fast-paced trajectory of technological evolution remains the same.

-Samuel Adam, Designer + Developer

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