State Of Interaction Design

{🚀} – The Real Digital Design Revolution Is Now

It is such an exciting time to be a designer. Our work has never been more meaningful and the products we create more impactful.

Modern design tools have changed more in just the past few years, than in the preceding few decades. But somehow our Creative Process is more complicated and confusing than ever… today, we spend more time struggling with our numerous tools, than actually being creative.

Some say that digital design is too dynamic and complex to be done with visual tools. They say why don’t we abandon them and design directly in code? Code is powerful.

It’s true that code is dynamic and flexible, but in the Creative Process, it slows everything down. Somehow, it doesn’t seem right that we can design with visual tools games, movies, cars – all complex and dynamic things – but not websites and apps?

How do we rethink our Creative Process? Let’s search for the answers in the history of creativity, then pick up the pieces of our broken workflows and see how we can put it back together.

No Limits To Human Creativity

We humans have always searched to push the boundaries of our creativity. From cave paintings to the present day, we have worked tirelessly to invent new tools and techniques to express ourselves better.

We have always wanted to create more impact on the world around us. It’s human nature. Even the word Creativity itself comes from the Latin word “creō” – which means ‘to create’.

Making an impact has never come easy though.

Up until the 15th century, we were forced to do hard, repetitive work just to store and share our knowledge. This was until one visionary, Johannes Gutenberg, invented the printing press and finally made large-scale printing accessible.

Gutenberg print
Photo by Hannes Wolf on Unsplash

Everything of course changed with the rise of computers. During just a few years in 1980s graphic design and printing quickly saw a dramatic change.

Apple, Adobe, Aldus, and Hewlett-Packard each invented key technologies which made printing simple and accessible and straightforward.

Apple Macintosh computers, combined with HP LaserJet printers and Adobe’s PostScript page-description language, sparked the beginning of a desktop publishing revolution.

macintosh personal computer
Photo by Federica Galli on Unsplash

With these innovations, we designers could now create unique print designs with this new set of accessible and visual WYSIWYG desktop publishing tools.

A whole new generation of Visual Designers emerged, with fresh ideas and a new approach to design.

Most of them would never know how tedious the Creative Process had been just a few decades earlier. Having experienced such a radical change in just a few years, the Creative Industry seemed to have matured, with the dust settling on innovation in the space.

But it wasn’t meant to last.

Beginning Of Digital Revolution

Just a few decades later, the Digital Age was born.

From only 1% of information stored digitally in the 1980s, we reached 50% by 2002 and an overwhelming 99% by 2014.

This was something the Desktop Publishing revolution, in print design software, had never seen coming. The worldwide web had emerged.

Very soon, print design stopped monopolizing the center of the Creative Industry’s attention – the Internet had taken center stage. New content formats appeared, and web products could now reach and impact hundreds of millions of people.

This new Digital Revolution opened a whole new world of opportunities.

Creatives quickly began to grasp the new creative matter of the web – namely, code. Finally, there were no limits to creativity…at least, theoretically.

Code - the new building material of digital space
Code – The Building Material Of The Web

The problem with doing design in code was that it was complicated and tedious to manipulate, so the complexity in Digital Design increased dramatically. As Frank Chimero put it in his article “Everything Easy Is Hard Again”:

“Except with the websites. They separate themselves from the others because I don’t feel much better at making them after 20 years. My knowledge and skills develop a bit, then things change, and half of what I know becomes dead weight. This hardly happens with any of the other work I do.”


Even 20 years later, the novice web designer can sometimes have as much leverage as an industry veteran.

Emergence Of Interactivity

CSS took the world by storm at the very dawn of Digital Revolution. Web pages now had their own styling and layout language. This also meant responsiveness, where the same pages could now work in different digital contexts.

The web also added a whole new dimension to creativity – interactions. With a few lines of JavaScript and CSS code, we could now create powerful effects right in the browser.

Nothing similar had ever been possible in print, or print design tools.

Interactions emerge - new medium of creativity
Interactions – New Dimension To Creativity

This caught some designers off guard. Unlike print design, websites and apps were dynamic and responsive. Static images weren’t enough anymore. So Creatives now had to design and work with interactions – but how?

Creative software companies had grown big and wealthy over the decades, following the desktop publishing revolution. When the digital revolution came, it seemed they had already lost-touch with the Creative Community. Rather than their former drive to build new products that empower designers’ creative process in new mediums, they were focused more on new revenue models and sales strategies.

So instead of investing in new products built from the ground-up for the digital age, they tried to duct-tape new solutions onto the existing print design tools. What we got eventually are same old tools desperately trying to pretend they worked with modern digital design requirements.

The resulting print design products did less than half of what creatives really needed to accomplish on the web, and the resulting gaps these tools left then fragmented the creative ecosystem, with multiple new niche tools each trying to patch (not solve) the problems left in our digital creative process.

Digital design then…become artificially stagnated for us modern designers.

Fast forward to today, and years after this digital revolution emerged we are still designing with static images, hacking basic screen-to-screen interactivity on top of print design’s output.

Instead of adaptive digital screens, we’re still working with print design pages. Even our design libraries support almost nothing beyond SVG symbol elements. We can’t work responsively, interactively, in components, or in our teams…

How are we even supposed to design real digital products with those tools? Built on this history, of digital designers work on hacked print design products?

Dublicating screens - visual representation of interactions
Duplicating screens – basic interactions on duplicated fixed-width artboards

One solution is to turn to code. It’s true that code is limitless and flexible. It allows us to create full-fledged interactions and prototypes.

And yet – code makes our Creative Process painfully slow.

If we look back at all of human history, our Creative Process in design has always been visual. And that’s how all of our Creative Software has evolved – movies, games, even architecture or engineering a car – it’s all done in visual tools.

Except of course, websites and apps. 

It’s time we bring digital design into the visual realm. It’s possible to create fully working prototypes with visual tools, and it’s something we designers deserve. 

The Real Digital Revolution Is Now

We want designers to enjoy more time being Creative.

Our team spent years rethinking our design tools from the first principles, to accomplish this with visual tools and help modern designers reclaim their creativity. 

Finally, we can say with confidence – the digital tools revolution has begun.

Interactive digital products, without code and limitations – coming in Phase v1, this fall.

Create powerful interactions visually and intuitively, with the basic building blocks of interactions. Advanced interactions that used to take 5-15 minutes in code, now take only 5-15 seconds in Phase.

Editor UI Phase v1
Phase v1 – {All About Interactions}. Coming This Fall

The Real Digital Design Revolution is not only about reshaping our tools. It’s also about a continuous rethinking of our work process. Only via the collaboration and transparency can we handle the ever-increasing challenges of the digital era. 

If you want to contribute to next the issue of Phase Magazine, just drop us a line:

Nick Budden Avatar

Nick Budden / CEO @ Phase

Designer, and sometimes-writer. Canadian in Taiwan ✈ Berlin. Trying to help people enjoy being creative.