In-house libraries still serve as idea centers from which architects and interior designers can gather physical samples, materials, and swatches to create project inspiration boards. But it’s tough to keep up with the Internet. More manufacturers are uploading their latest wares to the Web before or in lieu of refreshing library binders, while more clients come in hand with ideas scoured from social media sites.
The New York–based design team the Morpholio Project, whose apps include Morpholio and Trace, wants to merge the professional design library with online collaging with its latest app, Board (iTunes, free). Designed for iOS mobile devices—namely the iPad and iPhone—Board is a digital work surface on which a user can lay out and present swatches, colors, and furniture pieces clipped from the Internet, a personal image library, or the app’s built-in gallery of more than 1,000 design objects from a host of collaborating manufacturers, including Herman Miller, Spinneybeck, 3form, Graypants, Filzfelt, and Nanimarquina.
Collaging has always been a link between architecture and pop culture, says Morpholio co-creator Anna Kenoff. “There has never a time that [Board] would be more important than now when everyone has a camera and is completely saturated with images.”
Yes, the Morpholio team has heard of Pinterest. But while users of the popular pinning social media website can gather and share pins to virtual boards, they can’t juxtapose their items with strategy or purpose as designers do with presentation boards. “Once you pin your board, how do you use all that imagery you've gathered to shape design?” Kenoff says. “We're trying to intervene at that moment. This is a way of taking this to the next level, to break down the glut of imagery into a thoughtful, forward-moving design … and turn it into some kind of vision statement.”
Kenoff acknowledges that designers can also create virtual boards by saving and laying out images with software programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Adobe InDesign. But those layouts tend to be serial in nature, showing just one image per slide, and hard to revise, she says. “[Board] makes it much easier to overlay imagery and think about design boards as they were in their large format. … You can juxtapose images, a plan, a precedent image, and a section in ways that have been important in architecture for years.”
Board users can clip, arrange, and switch out collage items using the typical hand swipes and finger controls associated with touchscreen devices. The app will track and email a list of items and their provenance to the user for reference and attribution. Board also offers an enhanced web clipper, called the Portal, to erase image backgrounds to isolate objects for clean overlays, and a selection of entourage for further board customization. A conference table feature serves as a virtual pasteboard or working surface on which users can keep design options beyond the layout’s margins for switching in and out in real time during charrettes with colleagues or clients.
Users can mark up and write on their virtual collages with their finger or a stylus, and email, print, or publish them to social media sites, such as Instagram. Kenoff says the Morpholio team wants to develop a board sharing feature next.
Board has been in the works for about a year, with much of that time spent developing and testing functionality and teaming up with manufacturers to build out the gallery. The Morpholio team will provide standard Web analytics, such as number of impressions, that it has gathered from the app’s backend and Morpholio’s EyeTime technology to the manufacturer collaborators, but Kenoff says that specific user data is not tracked or shared.