Organizing Inspiration

Collecting inspiration is an important and strangely challenging task for most creatives—ourselves included. Jeremy shares a few nice web apps for your idea gathering.

When I begin a website design, I typically like to start by building a mood board of inspiration for that project. I also spend a little time reviewing the client's competitors. My goal is to establish a general visual direction for the site. Nothing too specific at this stage, just something to get a jumpstart.

Occasionally, I want to share this mood board with others and allow them to contribute to it as well. This usually happens when it's an internal project or we're partnering with another creative company. I've never really found a consistent or easy way to do this. I've tried a lot of things in the past that include creating a set of bookmarks and arranging screenshots on a page in Illustrator. All of these processes seemed messy.

A couple of years ago, I started using Image Spark by Teehan + Lax, which allows you to grab images and arrange them as desired on a scratchpad, essentially creating a custom mood board. For the most part this worked great, but it only allowed you to create a couple mood boards at a time, and the collaboration aspect wasn't there. Now it seems it's on the kill list anyway.

There's no shortage of sites that allow you to organize inspiration. Pinterest has proven that organizing images and found inspiration is something people want and need. I enjoy Pinterest for perusing cool stuff, but I haven't yet started using it consistently for organizing content. Dropbox's file sharing is invaluable to my workflow (and our workflow as a company). Gimmebar is great for organizing and collecting web content.

But I guess I've finally come to a crossroads where I'm looking for the perfect storm. Call me a purist, but I've been looking for a single place where I can create a mood board and share it with a co-worker, or create a list of items I'd like to buy someday, or share a set of trip photos and videos with family. I'm looking for something that is less focused on social functionality and more focused on collaboration.

Obviously, others have reached this crossroads before I have—I've seen that much as I've been playing with a few other web-based apps that are out there. I imagine others are in a similar place, so here are a few solutions I've found that closest fit my criteria.

Enjoy. And do share your own solutions. I'd love to hear them.

Dropmark

This service has been around for a few years and has actually been recommended to me by others in the past. At the time, I'm not sure I realized the value of it. Or at least I wasn't in a place where I could envision using it consistently. But I recently took another look at it, and I found that it has a lot of what I'm looking for. I've used it for a few weeks now and really like it.

It's built around the idea of the collaboration of teams working on projects together "without the social media clutter."

Basically, you create collections that are made up of nearly anything: photos, videos, links, text—you name it. You specify exactly who has access to that collection, or you can create private collections for your personal use. You can even create full-screen photo presentations.

Another nice feature—when you share a collection with a non-registered user, they don't have to sign up for an account to see the content. If they do decide to register, the interface is nice, simple, and intuitive. I'm looking forward to using this one more often.

Kippt

Another very similar app is Kippt. You create collections, specify them as public or private, and invite collaborators. The main difference that I see is that Kippt integrates social media features such as following other users and commenting on collections. It seems to me that Pinterest now owns this market, though. Generally, the interface is quite nice, but I've found that on some screens pixel real estate is consumed with comments and social functionality.

Icebe.rg

Iceberg is one of the newer apps that looks promising. It is currently in private beta and appears to be most similar to Dropmark as it doesn't incorporate social features other than sharing content via Twitter and Facebook. You can create "Icebergs" (the equivalent of collections in Dropmark and Kippt) that consist of web links, photos, videos, documents, or text. You can also write notes on your Icebergs and Icedrops (a single Iceberg component) and create sub-groupings within Icebergs. The interface is gorgeous and easy to understand and navigate. The big downside to Iceberg right now is that collaboration features don't yet exist, but they're promised in the future. I'm definitely keeping my eye on this one. If you're interested, DesignWorkLife did a great review on Iceberg recently.