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Every graphic design project requires interaction between the designer (you) and the client (or team). Tasks like discussing project ideas, sharing mock-ups, and getting approval for your designs are time consuming. If you don’t get them right, they cause endless delays.
With the right digital collaboration tool, you can ease up these time bottlenecks and get on with your work. Here are six such tools to pick from. They’re specifically built to align with, as well as simplify, graphic design workflows.
With InVision, you can enhance your graphic designs with clickable hotspots, animations, gestures, and more. This transforms them from flat prototypes into interactive entities.
At every step, your clients and colleagues can see how the design will look, feel, and behave when it goes live. This means no more “What happens if I click this?” guesswork on their part. They can click the element right then and there and see how it responds.
InVision comes with a presentation and white-boarding tool called LiveShare. Make use of it to discuss your designs and get real-time feedback from collaborators. If you’re a Mac user, install this plugin to present your designs from within Photoshop.
The app also provides version control and integrations with other collaboration apps like Slack, Trello, and Basecamp. All your project assets stored in Dropbox? Perfect. Invision plays nice with Dropbox, too.
Pricing: Under the Forever Free plan, you’re limited to one active project.
Notism is another tool that takes a similar approach to InVision. The main difference is that the former also supports video content and allows you to communicate within video timelines.
Marqueed is a good choice if you’re looking for a simple solution. Upload a design, invite people to view it, and discuss the design right there on the image screen. Want to highlight an element or explain an idea? Use the freehand tool to annotate the image as you go along.
Check out Marqueed’s cool intro video:
As simple as it is, you can do more with Marqueed if you wish, such as label images, group people, and take quick snapshots of Web pages. But as it says on the app’s home page, with Marqueed the main idea is to markup and discuss images online. It’s perfect for designers.
Pricing: No restrictions here, folks! Just sign up and start using Marqueed.
Red Pen is another simple app worth mentioning. Two designers who were frustrated with the complexity of existing solutions decided to build the app they wanted to use. The result is what the makers call the fastest feedback tool for visual teams.
Like Marqueed, Red Pen limits itself to a straightforward upload-invite-discuss workflow. Project organization and version control are the two extras you get by way of features.
Check out Feedbag.io if you want an even more minimalistic tool for collaboration.
Pixelapse (Free Trial)
Think of Pixelapse as a cross between GitHub and Dropbox but for designers. Its prime benefit is version control. Once you have Pixelapse installed on your Windows or Mac (sorry, Linux lovers), it syncs every design iteration to the cloud automatically.
Bring people in to share their views on your designs. You have minute control over what each collaborator can see and comment on. You can compare iterations side by side to spot even the smallest of differences between them. The best part? Thanks to unlimited version history, you can restore any particular iteration at any time.
Pixelapse supports up to 50 file formats. You can upload files from various software including Photoshop, Illustrator, OmniGraffle, and Sketch. View real-time activity related to file uploads, revisions, comments, etc. on Pixelapse’s beautiful timeline.
Some of the other notable features in Pixelapse’s extensive feature set are fast-rendering previews, easy image annotation, Markdown support, and Dropbox sync. Pixelapse is now part of the Dropbox family after a takeover by the cloud storage giant in January 2015.
Pricing: All Pixelapse plans come with a free 14-day trial with no restrictions. For public open-source projects, the app is free. Otherwise, pricing starts at $15 per month.
Prevue is a reasonably priced, ad-free collaboration tool aimed at design agencies. It’s pretty straightforward and does not attempt to be everything for everyone. The app’s interface is minimal, pleasing, and retina ready.
Projects and images appear in a grid format. You can edit them, discuss them, add custom branding, and use Google Analytics tracking. Lock down projects with a password to keep them safe from prying eyes.
Pricing: The Basic Plan is free and comes with a limit of one user and 30 images. There’s no cap on the number of projects, though.
Frontify facilitates more than collaboration on graphic design projects, although that’s an important part of it. It’s built to keep everyone — designers, developers, and clients — on the same page and reduce the number of iterations required. The app’s workflow is complex yet well defined. You can choose between a cloud-based solution and a self-hosted one.
Use Frontify to conduct design research, take visual notes, create prototypes, collect design feedback, and make components reusable. Make interface specifications related to color, typography, and measurements for granular control over your designs. Create style guides and share them with the developers to help them follow your design specs properly.
The app has some features for coders as well. By giving designers and developers a shared toolset, the makers of Frontify hope to reduce the dissonance between the designer’s vision of an interface and the developer’s implementation of it.
Pricing: The free plan comes with one project and a 10MB storage limit, but it supports unlimited authors and observers.
Mural.ly (Free Trial)
Mural.ly’s workflow begins from the idea generation stage of a design project. Start by creating a mood board using Mural.ly’s versatile canvas. Bring in content from platforms like YouTube, Google Drive, and Evernote to get your thoughts across better.
Then, move your ideas around and organize them till you find the perfect composition. It’s just like moving around colorful sticky notes on a whiteboard.
Next, invite others for a quick brainstorming session right within the app in real time. Collaborators can even vote on specific ideas to weed out the non-viable ones before the project has moved too far along.
You can zoom in to explore each idea in depth and zoom out to see the big picture. Track project changes and discussions via Mural.ly’s activity feed.
Pricing: Mural.ly comes with a free 30-day trial, after which you can opt for plans starting at $29 per month. You get unlimited murals and storage no matter which plan you choose. Pricing varies based on the number of users in a team. There’s also a discounted set of plans for students, teachers, and schools.
Work Better Together
I was sure that digital brainstorming sessions couldn’t be interesting and fruitful, but I stand corrected as I see them happening all the time on Slack at MakeUseOf. If you also have misgivings about the effectiveness of online collaboration tools, give them a try. They’re sure to win you over.
The apps in this roundup are all geared toward one benefit – giving graphic designers a platform to store, present, and discuss their designs as seamlessly as possible. You might need to experiment some to see which app gels well with your workflow, but it’ll be worth the effort.
Which collaboration platform do you prefer to use for your graphic design projects? Which of its features can’t you do without? Share your choice in the comments.