2014: Bringing design to life

Why Photoshop vs Sketch doesn’t matter, making things move and live does, and why it’s a great time to be a product designer

James De Angelis
Jan 2, 2014 · 6 min read

The year of the prototype

This is the big one: The age of static, lifeless PSD is over. If your designs don’t move, animate, become interactive in some way and tell a story with liveliness, they’re about as impactful as a wet tissue in a boxing match. The past 12 months have introduced amazing tools like Flinto, Framer.js, Marvel app and Xcode’s storyboards and they are letting us do this easier than we ever thought possible. Additionally they afford a crucial step into our process: Allowing us to use the design we’ve created to test for flow issues, learnability, intuitiveness and overall feel. Best of all it lets us to work exponentially better with developers, PMs and clients because they can touch and feel what we’ve designed. If the the best documentation is working software, a good prototype is next.


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Interaction design is being pushed to the forefront

Ironically the biggest effect of iOS7 on visual design was to de-emphasise it by flattening it out, making it harder to differentiate on aesthetic. This, coupled with the web’s obsession to flatten everything in sight (lest you look as modern as a rotary telephone) has resulted in a spotlight on interactions and UX. Naturally the prototype rises as the champion for designers to create this and is the best tool we have to tell the story of our products.


Static design tools are declining in value

This is a macro trend mentioned previously. Photoshop, Sketch, Macaw et al. are simply static tools. In the age of the prototyped (or better yet, shipped) product, the time you spend in these static tools will become less and less important. They are still excellent for concepting and exploring design options (I could never start in the browser), but getting into the browser or the device as early as possible will net the biggest gains.


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Recent add-ons for Photoshop

The expandability of Photoshop

Photoshop isn’t dead just yet, 2013 saw an explosion of add-ons to extend and patch its capability and continues to serve digital & product people well. The teams at UI parade, Macrabbit and Piffle have plugged the most common problems around slicing images, asset libraries and getting CSS values for selected objects. For Sketch and other competitors, winning this space will require something 10x better than what we currently have with Photoshop, and even then, will it be worth it considering the learning cost and their declining value?


Designers will learn to love Git

It’s a little scary at first — and certainly not the most intuitive process — but version control is here to stay and we can benefit greatly from it. If you make things for the web or devices, even contributing exported assets or other design bits will help greatly in assuring quality and keeping your work up to date.


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Designer founders book cover art

There’s never been a better time to be a Product Designer

If 2013 showed anything, it was that design has risen to take its seat at the adult’s table and finally be taken seriously outside of agencies. This is a really huge shift, and probably the biggest thing to happen to digital design in the past decade. There are finally options to do great design outside of client work, and that is incredibly freeing for those who don’t fit into that model.

Design Life

Thoughts + musings on Design

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