Design collaboration is the cornerstone of any successful creative workflow. It's the fusion of various ideas, perspectives, and skills that creates a rich cohesion propelling a project towards success.
However, achieving seamless collaboration is often a struggle for many teams. This is especially true within teams where diverse skills and perspectives can sometimes lead to friction rather than harmony.
That's where design collaboration software and tools step in. These digital platforms act as a bridge, connecting individuals within a team and facilitating communication. They bring together the best of technology and human ingenuity to create a synergistic work environment.
What we'll cover
Table of contents
Why you need design collaboration tools in addition to design software
Busy designers may already be working with Adobe, Figma, InDesign, and other design software to create great work. Adding yet another platform may seem unnecessary at first.
However, design software alone can’t satisfy the entire design process. Here’s why:
Many collaborators don’t have access to design software
When you want to share a PDF, JPG, or video file, you may lose precious time trying to determine how to share the file in a way that everyone can view.
Some collaborators or clients might be unable to open a file if they’re not using design software. Even if they can open the file, it might display incorrectly or they may not be able to view at the best resolution. When they want to share their feedback, they may need to re-export the file back, creating a lot of extra work and potential errors in asset management between versions.
A design collaboration platform invites all collaborators into the same space and democratizes file access, where they can easily view and comment on the most up-to-date version of a design asset.
Project management platforms don’t always capture the nuance of design review
Often, creative teams will manage the flow of design work using a project management platform. However, while many project management platforms allow teams and clients to add feedback and post updates as design iterations occur, it's only within a singular task or card. Design is a visual medium, so what designers really need is feedback on the asset itself to keep work moving.
Design collaboration tools can act as a bridge between project management and design creation, allowing stakeholders to add specific annotations and even highlight specific pixels or video frames that they’re referencing. That level of detail is impossible to capture in creative project management systems where files are simply attached to a related task.
Design projects may include several different kinds of design assets created across systems
A multifaceted design project may involve several types of design mediums—including print materials, digital files, soundtracks, videos, and more—all originating from different design or multimedia creation platforms. That makes it difficult to present the “total package” in a cohesive way. Proper design collaboration tools can store and organize all files for easier viewing, use, and review across the entire design process.
Benefits of building out a design collaboration technology stack
Let’s take a look at how design collaboration tools help designers work more efficiently.
Iterate on design concepts faster
Rarely do clients approve the first version of a design. This initial version is what designers use to gauge whether they’re on the right track, so they need timely and specific feedback. Design collaboration tools improve the feedback process and shorten timeframes from the initial draft to the final deliverable.
Work directly with other designers and stakeholders
Design projects may involve internal and external collaborators. With design collaboration software, everyone can communicate within the platform, instead of using email (which is where important information may be overlooked) or sorting through project management tasks.
Maintain iterative designs in one location
Designers may need to review previous versions of an asset as they work. Design collaboration software stores all versions in a single place, which helps designers work more efficiently.
If you’ve ever tried to keep files organized across a team that's working within several platforms to produce and ship design work, you know how frustrating that can be. Design collaboration software syncs design changes to the cloud in real-time across design systems, so designers don’t have to worry about losing their work or critical feedback.
Design collaboration tools for every stage of the design process
Specific platforms support different collaboration needs at various parts of your design process. Here are some of the best niche platforms to integrate into your design process:
Best for project kickoff meetings
MURAL is a platform that helps remote teams set up and run organized meetings, which makes it ideal for creative project kickoffs. You can choose a template for your meeting and work through an animated, user-friendly map of ideas. Flexible viewing angles on large interactive walls such as 1080p HD Boardroom Ready Wallpaper helps display visual designs for larger screens.
Extend your meeting across platforms on multiple devices using MURAL's integrations for Zoom, Webex, and Microsoft Teams. Private Mode allows participants to come and go as they please without interrupting the whole meeting, which is ideal for design teams with a variety of collaborators.
Best for design project management
Basecamp is a software project management tool that makes design project management easy. With a simple user interface and support for shared files, chats, attachments, and message boards, project managers and designers can easily share project updates, define milestones, and adjust deadlines.
Every project includes a dedicated message board, schedule, and to-do list, along with real-time group chat. Busy teams can focus on only the tasks that they’re working on, which means fewer interruptions. With Basecamp’s automation, you can create recurring questions so you don't have to interrupt your team to find out what's going on.
Best for design concepting
Conceptboard is a whiteboard tool that design teams can use to collaborate on concepts. You can use it to brainstorm UX functionality, store files, and collect feedback, and the workspace offers handy templates to help create everything from customer empathy maps to daily standup agendas. A feature that Conceptboard promotes is its robust security. The platform is hosted in Germany, which is known for its security infrastructure and has ISO 27001 certification. That's key for design teams that work with sensitive or proprietary information.
Best for design mockups
Mockplus is a UX design collaboration tool that offers a fast and easy way to create interactive mockups. The platform includes plugins that let you export designs from Sketch, Adobe XD, or Figma with a single click. Full-view storyboards support project and task planning, and teams can add comments to mockups, as well as customize comment styling. Mockplus stores changes, so you can easily revert to previous versions if necessary.
Best for design review
Ziflow is a cloud-based design collaboration platform that allows teams to easily review creative content in hundreds of design and file formats. Precise, pixel-level annotation and commenting features help designers get specific, actionable feedback, without needing to wait for clarifications or additional context. Notably, with integrations for Adobe InDesign, Photoshop & Illustrator and the rest of the Adobe Creative Suite, designers can push all asset changes, comments, and more from within Ziflow to their preferred design platform to make real-time changes.
Automated staged workflows reduce administrative tasks for project managers and creatives—everyone involved in a project can communicate in real-time within Ziflow, which keeps design projects moving forward in the right sequence.
Best for handing off website designs to developers
InVision improves the handoff from design to development by offering wireframing tools and templates designers can use to clearly communicate their ideas. The platform helps teams avoid miscommunication and ensure that websites match the designer’s intent. If the constraints of a content management system prevent developers from implementing a design element, designers can easily rework their plan in InVision. This platform also offers an API, so you can integrate it with other design collaboration tools that have better feedback and collaboration capabilities.
Best for design presentations
If your work involves sharing your work in client presentations, Visme may be worth checking out. Visme is a web app built for both designers and non-designers that can convert your content into visually stunning presentations, infographics, charts, reports, or even web pages in seconds. Visme's drag-and-drop user interface makes it easy to create presentations and pitch decks. You can add dynamic elements, share proposed timelines, and showcase your best work.
Which design collaboration tools will you incorporate?
We get it: adding on even more software may seem like overkill for your design team. Given all the benefits of specific design collaboration tools, adding one more platform to your tech stack can streamline your design process.
Learn more about how design collaboration tools dramatically improve the review and approval process.