Rive Blog

The era of Runtime Design

It’s time for a new format with new tools, built specifically for our runtime world.


Monday, January 30, 2023

Rive Editor State Machine
Rive Editor State Machine

At its core, Rive is a new graphics format. It’s a type of graphic that can react, animate, and change itself at any moment. The format and its players are open. As a business, we offer a suite of design and dev tools to support it.

The problem

Current design tools are still stuck in the old media world. They primarily export static formats (like .png, .jpg, .svg, .pdf, .psd), which are all rooted in the world of print. Even video formats are just a sequence of frames, originally designed to be printed on film.

But most of the graphics we consume nowadays run in software. Browsers, apps, car dashboards, TVs, games… they’re all software. Unlike print, software is interactive. It can change state at any moment while it’s running.

Graphics formats and the tools to create them haven’t caught up. These days, designers can use tools like Figma or After Effects to mock up different states, but then the effort of building something functional is handed off to developers.

That handoff is messy, time-consuming, and often results in redundant work. What the designer envisions, depending on the language or tools used, could be extremely complicated, or even impossible, for developers to execute. These issues are further compounded when attempting to achieve consistency across different platforms.

It’s time for a new format with new tools – built specifically for this purpose. It’s called runtime, and it’s what Rive is all about.

New tools for a runtime world

Rive is designed for the world of runtime. Runtime is the period of time during which a program is running. Our tools help you create interactive graphics using our new format. These tools empower designers to think more like devs. At the same time, they free up engineering resources, not requiring a dev to be involved in every design iteration.

Rive Editor

The Rive Editor lets you design graphics that can change state. With old formats, this functionality typically has to be written in code. It requires a complicated handoff between designers and devs. It’s an ineffective use of both teams that makes it hard to iterate. With Rive, the designer controls how the graphic behaves in the Rive Editor. This allows you to be wildly creative while rapidly iterating.

In the example above, the software that will ultimately load this file doesn’t need to know anything about the design, shapes, or the sequence the animations need to play in. It just tells the Rive graphic that an area was hovered; the visual state machine controls the rest.

Rive Runtimes

Rive’s players, which we call Runtimes, let you load and control our format. They’re open-source libraries that are available for most major platforms (including web, iOS, macOS, Android, Windows, and more). We offer a simple high-level API or a more advanced low-level API, allowing you to choose how technical you want to get.

We also offer no-code integrations (like Framer and our Share Links). These use our runtimes under the hood, but you interact with them through visual tools that don’t require any programming knowledge.

Sounds a bit like Flash?

The fundamental concept of Flash, which was fantastic and a huge inspiration for Rive, is that it let you build, experiment, and iterate on experiences that were ready to run. It combined the design tool with the runtime format. Rive has a few fundamental differences:

  • Rive's format and runtimes are open-source.

  • Rive's runtime gets packaged into your app/site. Flash was a plugin that the user had to install.

  • Rive’s performance and light weight allow you to easily use it either for the whole experience or just for components of a larger runtime experience (e.g., embed in native iOS apps).

  • Rive uses standards across all our supported platforms, with the ability to abstract the renderer.

Dive deeper into these concepts

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