A smart new tool to demystify the design process
When Chris Kalani started at Facebook in 2011, he was one of 20 designers at the company. Two years later, they were 100 and keeping up with each other’s work was a logistical nightmare. “There were a lot of moving parts,” says Kalani. “We wanted everyone to see what we were doing, and we wanted to see what everyone was working on; it helped us to keep things consistent.
During an internal hackathon, Facebook designer Alexandre Roche came up with a solution he called Pixelcloud. The simple software allows Facebook design teams to upload screenshots to a unified platform, so teams can monitor what others are working on. It was an effective solution to a complicated problem, but it was not perfect. When Kalani left Facebook in 2013, he wanted to see if he could take the idea further. “I figured if someone hadn’t already fixed this problem by the time I left, I was going to give it another shot. “
That coup is Wake, software coming out of beta today that attempts to change the way designers share work in progress. The desktop software and iOS app allow designers to take screenshots of their work and upload them directly from their design tools (think Sketch, Photoshop, or Illustrator) in a grid timeline. Wake is home to Halfway Sketches and Frames, a journal of the many iterations of a project. Designers can leave comments and track the progress of the work. Kalani’s underlying idea is to increase transparency in the sometimes messy design process that will ultimately lead to a better product. In many ways, Wake is a more mature Pixelcloud. The software is still straightforward – the goal is to be as light as possible – but it has handy features like integrations with design creation tools and Slack, and the ability to upload photos directly from your iPhone.
Kalani started developing the software with Bakken & Baeck, initially designing it as a specially designed tool for the Norwegian creative agency. But the rumor has spread, and designers from companies like Airbnb, Artsy and Medium have asked to test the software. There was clearly a need.
Design is a process best served by consistent and frequent feedback. It’s all about messy iterations, interdisciplinary collaboration, and problem solving. Despite this, work is often done in siled and shared environments only during official reviews and reviews. An aura of perfectionism permeates the industry, as evidenced by pixel-perfect portfolios on platforms like Dribbble. In theory, says Kalani, people want openness because these conversations give designers more control over their craft. “But in practice it can be a little intimidating because you have to defend all of your decisions,” he says, adding that people have called Wake “anti-Dribbble”.
Making sure designers have regular conversations about what works (and doesn’t) makes the product development process more efficient. This is important for solving thorny design problems and creating a unified aesthetic. Wake’s most compelling use case, however, isn’t just for designers.