We’re living in a world filled with interactivity. And as software is eating the world, these experiences are what it means to work with this software on human terms. They’re also becoming important – in Startup L Jackson’s tweet: “Y’all talk about UX like it’s just another feature. For a user, it literally is the product. Full stop.”
A few years ago, interactions were mostly clicks on buttons. Now we’re dragging, swiping, getting force feedback, and are manipulating touch- and gesture-based interfaces, with visual, acoustic and even haptic feedback mechanics. And if they’re done well, we do this without thinking: they just ‘feel right’.
As designers, this should be exciting: when our medium used to be pixels-in-layers, we can now think about interactions. And there is no shortage of prototyping tools to help us do parts of that. And yet most designers are frustrated about the state of their tools and workflow. Nobody’s really having fun and playing and exploring.
But that’s the problem: experiences emerge when we can combine all of our creative superpowers. And if we can’t do this fast, bad things happen: we only test ideas we’re already convinced by, and get attached to the prototypes we’ve crafted (sometimes with code) in hours, and prematurely try to solve problems we know – rather than discovering which ones matter.
John Maeda famously said that designers should build their own tools. And so we did. In doing so, we combined three sources of inspiration:
– Game engines (as places where design and code mingle, and designers have true ownership over the production output)
– Flash (the creation environment still mourned by almost every designer we’ve interviewed and shadowed) for the unparalleled creative tooling it put into our hands
– and special effects tools like Cinema 4D for inspiration how to combine advanced and powerful configuration into a single tool that’s “worth learning”
We did this to give designers three new superpowers: the power to truly own, from idea to production, the interfaces they are building. The ability to play with, explore, and compose the complex mechanics behind intuitive interfaces. And the opportunity to blend design tooling and code to make us faster and better.
We sometimes hear that “design is problem solving”. We agree with philosopher Konrad Popper that so is human life. Design for us is more than that: it’s a creative process to discover and refine non-linear solutions to complex problems. Our tooling should help us with that.