The chaos and harmony of design tools

How design is changing as it becomes digitized, and how we’re building Purple to address a major issue.

Arguably one of the design world’s most important design tools is the wall. Yep, a physical wall. It’s not something you think of immediately since it’s always sitting in the background. But when you think of a world class design studio, you inevitably think of a wall that’s covered in sticky notes, wireframes, and user interview photos. What makes them so important for designers?

  1. You can post anything on them. All of your team’s work.
  2. Everyone can see the whole process at a glance, or can lean in to see the details if needed.
  3. They facilitate insightful conversation.

But in the past 5 years, we’ve seen a huge shift. More and more of the design process is becoming digitized. With Google Docs’ real-time collaboration, project plans are always evolving, so it feels weird to print them out and post them on a wall. And gone are the days of printing out your designs. Invision’s prototyping capabilities have made it so that designs are best showcased in the browser, not on paper. Even Agile has taken away from the usefulness of studio walls. Feedback cycles need to be ultra-tight now. By the time you post your design process on the wall, you might need to take it down for the next project.

Design is growing more and more chaotic.

So where are we left? You’re now searching through your email for that shared Invision prototype link that a teammate sent you last week. Our clients are left confused as they stare at a Dropbox full of documents and designs. Other designers in the company have nowhere to look if they want to see what else is going on around them. I’ve even seen great user research insights get totally left behind because it’s stuck in the digital void as a file within folder after folder.

So that’s where we’re starting. We wanted to bring harmony back into the chaos of design. We’re doing that by building a product that brings the benefits of the humble wall to the arsenal of digital tools that you’re familiar with. Purple makes it easier to plan, display, and discuss your digital design work by keeping it all in one visual place.

A Purple board is made up of cards that you can lay out in a row, and each card has a different function. For example, you can write design specs within Purple using the Text Card, or you can use the Google Docs Card to bring in a document from outside of Purple — and it will show up right there. Or maybe you need to upload all of your whiteboard photos into an Image Card. Then, you might want to embed your clickable prototype of the final designs using the Invision Card. And once you have a bunch of cards laid out side by side, your design process is made super clear for everyone.

It turns out that our goals for Purple are the same as the strengths of a wall. We want this to be the best place for you and your team to keep track of projects, showcase work, and have insightful discussions. We’ll be in a free public beta for a few more months before we officially launch. For now, give it a spin for your current project and let us know what you think.

Chris, on behalf of the Purple team

www.purple.pm