Collaboration isn’t always as easy as it should be. As design professionals, though, we are always working in teams and the ability to share thoughts and information with our partners is crucial. At The Neue Guild, we believe collaboration should be second nature. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of digital tools that can help make this process easier at all phases of design. 

1. Workflowy
 For Pre-Design Brainstorming and Team Management

We first learned of WorkFlowy through a colleague who used the tool to organize his team’s assignments. While it’s not made specifically for designers, we recommend WorkFlowy because it’s the best brain-dump/list-making/note-taking tool out there. The software is lightweight and intuitive. Tagging options and the ability to drag and drop make it easy to write first and organize later – great for brainstorming sessions and non-linear thinking creative types.  Syncing on mobile and desktop, WorkFlowy is a smart list-maker that helps you collect your thoughts and share them with other people. Imagine team meetings or conference calls where members have been contributing to the agenda beforehand and everyone shows up with the most up-to-date version on their phones. With WorkFlowy, that dream is possible. 

Quick Details

  • Launched in 2010
  • Free and paid options
  • Syncs over all devices – easy user interface – it’s just a smart list    
  • Great for early brianstorming – no graphic capabilities 
  • Can share lists with team members, add notes, use tags to assign tasks or group ideas, # and @ symbols
  • Lets you ‘brain dump’ and sort later
  • Can be useful throughout an entire project
2. Adobe InCopy
For Marketing Tasks, RFPs, etc.

Adobe InCopy is the solution to the nightmare-ish, thankless job of staying in the office until 4 am before a deadline to compile/format/retype team members’ text contributions to an RFP or other document. If [like the author of this article] you’ve been that person, you know the pain. InCopy pairs with the InDesign software you and your team are already using to share layouts and ease the formatting process. Contributors know exactly where their text is headed and can plan/format it themselves based on your guidelines. See this help doc for notes on the workflow. 

Amazingly, Adobe InCopy isn’t new –  it’s been out there for a very long time! So, why aren’t we using it? One reason may be that it was never included in that Photoshop-InDesign-Ilustrator-Acrobat bundle we bought in school or that our firms purchased back in the early 2000s. But now  Adobe licensing is going the way of Creative Cloud subscriptions, and bundles are an antiquated way to think about software. 

Quick Details

  • Pairs with InDesign – and you likely already use InDesign
  • Can eliminate hours of work spent re-formatting other team members’ text
  • The shift to Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions means you may be wasting time [and money] by not using a tool you already have access to!
3. Modelo 
For Design and Documentation Phases, Presentations to Clients

Who’s better to build a tool for designers than designers themselves? At The Neue Guild, we say no one. That’s why we’re excited about Modelo, a powerful 3d visualization tool that lets you annotate, comment, and collaborate on the fly on top of your 2d and 3d work. Built by a team with architecture and industrial design backgrounds, Modelo aims to create a product that’s easy and enjoyable to use, and we think they’ve fully succeeded in that. This tool is great for high-level design discussions with your team. Mark-up the design within the space of the model itself – no more second guessing what your notes were actually about or asking for clarification. We also appreacite the youTube tutorial series which makes learning to use Modelo easy. Finally, The elegant user interface makes Modelo ideal for client meetings – add their comments into the design file as they come! Not only does this ensure that you’ve captured everything correctly, but doing so is also great for the client-designer dynamic. See a video demonstration of the UI here.

Quick Details

  • Created by designers, for designers
  • Lets you visualize and quickly mark up 2d and 3d files, including adding 3d annotation
  • Great for high-level design discussions with your design team
  • Friendly and visually pleasing interface makes it great for presenting to clients
  • Useful youTube tutorial series makes it easy to get rolling

“At Modelo, we don’t want to forcefully insert a new component into architects’ existing workflow, simply because a ‘web-based collaboration platform’ is the answer, but rather want to rethink about the most painful parts of our working process that can be improved by leveraging new technologies. In other words, we want to do what is right for the users, instead of only focusing on the newest technology. We believe at the end of the day, exciting concepts and new technologies aren’t the solution if the developer doesn’t introduce them to the users properly.”

-Qi Su, Founder, Modelo

4. Autodesk A360 
For Design and Documentation Phases

AutoDesk is already a huge influence in the daily lives of many designers. Some of us spend what seems like 95% of our day using its programs. Enter Autodesk’s A360. This cloud-based sharing platform helps teams stay up-to-date on current project files and allows team members access to those files from all their devices. A360 lets you compare drawing versions and reviewing designs collectively, all from a centralized file system. Beyond internal team use, A360 lets you share models and files built in Autodesk software with anyone through a browser-based viewer. Think of it like a window into your project’s progress that you can open for clients and other project stakeholders – without disrupting your team’s workflow.

 

Quick Details

  • Cloud-based file sharing helps your team stay up-to-date
  • View 3d models for team reviews
  • Access files across multiple devices
5. PlanGrid
For Construction

Another product built by people with the right experience [Construction Field Engineer + Civil Engineer], PlanGrid is your CA life saver. The company may only be 5 years old but, in our personal experience, the software has transformed construction administration in the best ways possible. The desktop-to-mobile platform gives you access to all your drawings, specs, codes, etc. in the field while making punch listing and other tedious CA tasks a breeze. The platform offers a centralized system for RFIs, document keeping, and lets the team share information with everyone who needs to be in-the-know. You’ll also appreciate how quickly your drawings render in the field, making it easy to flip through a set, zoom in, etc. 

Quick Details

  • Offers a centralized system for RFIs, document keeping, and punch listing
  • Freemium model lets you use the product for no cost on small projects, prices then adjust based on number of sheets you add to the cloud
  • Punch list items can be assigned to team members – used more by contractors in our experience, but still highly useful
  • Keeps drawings, specs, codes, and other files at the ready for all team members who go out to the field
  • Helps make sure everyone’s working off the most updated drawings, including addenda, sketches, etc.

“Even after planning and design are completed, it’s critical for architects to stay involved to see their vision through to completion. Designers and builders use PlanGrid to collaborate throughout the construction and delivery phases. They can share documents, take progress photos, and capture and resolve issues right from their smartphones and tablets.”

Alissa Briggs, Head of Design, PlanGrid

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