A user interface is the product of a design. A design is a set of decisions about a particular product.” — Rebekah Cox, Quora


Colm Tuite recently wrote a great article over at freeCampCode discussing the modern “dilemma” of the designer in todays digital world and work flows.  The disconnection of design in the product development process is a highly visible issue seen across the industry and one that many designers and businesses want solved.

The TLDR of this article is that graphic design is evolving, and so are the tools.  Being closest to code deployment is powerful in terms of controlling what gets deployed to production.  Designers make a lot of decisions, and while a picture is worth a thousand words, too many words are often left behind or forgotten, as design led projects go through later cycles of business and technical requirement processes.   Tools are needed to solve this gap, and convey more meaning along with the designs.

It is encouraging to see how many people in the industry are feeling the disconnection among cross discipline product development processes, and the need for tools like Swarm.  Read more below, and follow the link above to his full article.  It is well worth the read.

From Colm Tuite’s “The Design Tool Dilemma” …

“Design teams, companies, and investors have invested huge amounts of both time and money in supporting a broken design process: the traditional image-based workflow.

An entire industry has been built upon this shaky foundation: tools to draw pictures, tools to add interactions to pictures, tools to version pictures, tools to store pictures, tools to extract data from pictures. Each of them attempting to make these static imitations seem more like the real product—as if by layering simulations on top of simulations we could somehow bridge the impossible distance between vector graphics and interactive software …

… What does it mean to design digital products today? Which aspects of design ought a design tool expedite, automate, or simplify?”

“But such nuanced product decisions cannot be captured in a collection of vectors, even with interactions layered on top.

Earlier, I referred to “developer handoff” as being controversial. What I was getting at is this: the heavily promoted workflow of going from static mockups to code makes little sense considering the vast differences between the two mediums.

The problem with “developer handoff” is not in the name. Nor is the problem in the implementation. Even the notion of designers passing their work along the production line is conceptually sound.

The problem is that there is nothing useful to “handoff”. Getting the information out of the vectors is not the hard part. Honestly, most of it is useless anyway. It’s getting the necessary information in that’s the challenge. This is the reason that vector-based drawing tools are not well-suited to UI design. Vector graphics are physically incapable of holding the kind of information necessary to adequately inform the design of a digital product.

But even if we could somehow pack these decisions into vector graphics, illustration tools do not provide an environment conducive to making key decisions about a digital product. You cannot make well-informed product design decisions in an environment that lacks any context of the medium you’re designing for.

These are the decisions that make or break digital products. If you want to be the one to make these decisions, you must become familiar with the many environments in which your product will exist.”

“Production code is a surrogate for decision-making power. Production code is the source of truth. It is the realtime sum total of all the conversations, all the decisions, all the politics…it is everything. Whoever is pushing code to production is running the product. Everyone else only has influence.”

Rebekah CoxQuora

“Rebekah proposes that the people with the most decision-making power are those closest to the code.

If our design tools are to provide us with the same level of product influence that developers have enjoyed exclusively for decades, they need to move on from the broken workflows of the past and continue to embrace the interactive mediums of the future.”

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