design vs deveLopment?

Before working for my present company, I worked in a position where I was expected to attend technical meetings, understand specs, create a layout of what the training might be, write the training, have it edited, and then publish the training – be it in print or live or via webinar.  We were not fussy on graphics, except that images that showed the described steps had to be clear and neatly outlined and formatted well in Word.

I didn’t use the words analysis, gap, needs, architecture, storyboard, design, development, or delivery.

In my current role I use these words.  The formality of “instructional design” has given my thought process a defined framework that I can talk about.  I didn’t realize, 3 years ago, that I was creating architecture or writing a storyboard.  It wasn’t part of my vocabulary, although it was certainly a part of my process.

In some companies, design and development are two different roles.  In speaking to an Instructional Designer who owns her own company, her opinion is that one role, designer, is worth hiring for, and the other, developer, she contracts out in piecemeal fashion.  Her argument is that our role, as designers, stays the same no matter the media we are designing in.  Architecture, storyboards, creative ideas.. they are constants.  On the other hand, the developer’s toolkit changes – authoring tools, graphic design, web design, mobile, etc – and flexes for industry preference.  Who cares if you know Lectora if Captivate is the next big thing.  Who cares if you can create vector images if the customer is hungry for flash.  In her shop, she employs designers to do the heavy lifting and contracts in developers to put the designs into whatever format her client wants.

Perhaps this is because the skill sets between designers and developers are so different.  While both have the hallmarks of creativity, they are the difference between an author and a painter.  Neither is better than the other, but you wouldn’t hire a painter to write a book.

But then you come to in-house design teams where people’s background is both design and development and being asked to do the same job.  I’ve thought long and hard about how efficient this is.  Part of me thinks it’s excellent development for both parties and then part of me wonders if our learners get what they need.  With rapid development tools, it’s no longer difficult for a designer to develop – but what tools exist for the developer to design?

What’s the future of instructional design?  Are we to become developers who offer flashy, pretty things on screen to keep people interested?  Or is our job to navigate the space between distraction and boredom and try to influence the learner in between those lines?  Will we be expected to have both design and development skills, and if so, to what proportions?