Procreate wants little introduction. For greater than a decade, the world-class design app has served anybody trying to create high-caliber artwork: professional designers, calligraphers, influencers, colleges making promenade flyers, and just about everybody in between. Its ubiquity is equally matched by trade reward — in 2022, Procreate grew to become the uncommon app to take residence a second Apple Design Award, bookending its preliminary win again in 2013.
“For that to occur once more is humbling and disorienting and vastly energizing,” mentioned Claire d’Este, Procreate’s chief product officer. “I really feel like there’s now a hearth for us to maintain pushing tougher.”
Procreate’s newest win got here within the Inclusivity class; judges referred to as out how the app expanded its accessibility help by including options like movement filtering and colour description notifications — all atop Procreate’s current help for choices like VoiceOver, Dynamic Kind, and AssistiveTouch. Such additions are a part of the pure evolution of an app that’s properly into its second decade, however in addition they communicate to the app’s tenet: Artwork is for everybody.
“It’s not only a poster on a wall,” says Procreate CEO and co-founder James Cuda from Hobart, Tasmania, the place the app’s 60-member crew is predicated. “It’s a human situation to wish to create. We’re attempting to amplify that. And because the app grows, we would like individuals to develop with it.”
Accessibility has been a Procreate precedence because the app’s launch again in March 2011. “We’ve at all times tried to maintain the barrier to entry low and have a pleasant first expertise,” says d’Este. “You possibly can leap in and begin drawing and it would not really feel in any respect intimidating.”
The app can be localized in 16 languages, although it refrains from utilizing phrases as labels wherever attainable in order that it may well stay straightforward to make use of in non-localized areas. “Iconography is a common language,” says Cuda.
‘It should have been so easy!’
So as to add the movement filtering and colour description notification options, Cuda, d’Este, and the Procreate crew caught with an intricate and well-honed design technique that’s served them for years: Do it and discover out what occurs. “We’re kind of extra like musicians than designers,” says Cuda. “We go right into a room, huddle round, and hammer issues out.”
That strategy has served Cuda his entire life. “I’ve at all times been a hacker,” he laughs. “I like to simply get in there, roll my sleeves up, and have a little bit of a large number.” For essentially the most half, meaning no wireframes, no sketches, and never a whole lot of overthinking.
“I did extra mind-mapping again within the early days,” he says, “however personally I acquired muddled in that course of as a result of it’s such an summary means of issues. The client doesn’t see a wireframe; they see a product, and it’s rather more significant after they can work together with that product. I simply at all times discovered it simpler to create pixel-perfect mockups — and Claire is nice at hacking out fast examples of expertise flows.”
For instance, Cuda shares the story of Fast Form, a Procreate function that helps individuals draw good circles and different shapes. For fairly some time, prospects had been asking for analog instruments — guidelines, protractors, and the like — however the Procreate crew resisted the addition of buttons and menus. “We thought, ‘Nicely, individuals don’t actually need extra equipment, they’re simply attempting to attract a circle.’ So we devised a gesture. If you draw your circle or form, you simply maintain it and the app figures out what you’re attempting to attract.”
It was a chic repair that match proper into the app’s current interface — no additional buttons or menu dives required. “That was a type of actually good breakthroughs,” Cuda shares. “It’s very intuitive, however it’s not typical.”
We at all times wish to add extra performance, however we do not need the app to turn into overburdened.
Even with their barely unorthodox strategy to brainstorming and creation, Procreate’s UI and options nonetheless undergo lots of of iterations — Fast Form took practically three years to ship contained in the app. “Making one thing easy is de facto complicated,” says Cuda. “The fantastic thing about the product is its accessibility.”
The problem is to keep up that accessibility whereas rising with the occasions. “We at all times wish to add extra performance, however we do not need the app to turn into overburdened,” says d’Este. “The problem is at all times: How will we maintain that simplicity and people low boundaries — however nonetheless give everybody the facility they should remedy the issues they’ve?”
The thought for movement filtering — an expanded model of the app’s Stabilization function and one of many options that propelled the app to its ADA win — adopted all these paths, and some extra. “If the client is experiencing any sort of shakes or tremors as they’re creating, we filter these out so the client creates a superbly good line, similar to they meant,” says Cuda. “It seems like magic.”
However it didn’t completely begin that means. The crew first started exploring the concept by way of the app’s current Streamline function, which designers and calligraphers use to create stunning, curved strokes. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we begin there? Why don’t we flip up all of the dials and see if it really works for individuals who have any sort of tremors or movement points?” says Cuda.
There was only one downside: It didn’t work very properly. “We needed to scrap what we did and return to the drafting board.”
The profitable idea got here from Lloyd Bottomley, the app’s first engineer and at present the corporate’s chief analysis officer. “He mentioned, ‘What if we use one thing like audio sign processing? That basically modulates the peaks and troughs of audio. Can we use that otherwise to clean out the strokes?’”
Bottomley labored for weeks, possibly months. “It was a protracted course of!” laughs Cuda. “However once I noticed the demo truly working, I keep in mind grabbing a Pencil and seeing if I may disrupt it,” says Cuda. He couldn’t.
The inspiration was there, and the crew acquired collectively to begin riffing on it. “We have been all drawing with him, so we have been in a position so as to add feedback like, ‘OK, so at this explicit strain degree, may we clean it out to this diploma?’ and such. It sounds so ephemeral. However it was a very beautiful sort of forwards and backwards that acquired us there.”
It’s additionally one thing that can be utilized by anybody. “It began out attempting to assist a sure demographic,” says Cuda, “however it’s nice for everybody. I turned it on for nearly every part I did.”
In the long run, the function not solely represented a cool technological achievement but in addition tied basically into the app’s mission. “After we discuss ‘Artwork is for everybody,’ we expect: Nicely, does this attraction to everybody? Does it work for everyone?” says Cuda. “I believe lots of people suppose design is the wallpaper that you simply put up when you construct one thing, or perhaps a blanket time period for making something visible. However it’s actually about fixing issues. It’s about interfacing with machines in a really human means.”
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Behind the Design is a weekly sequence that explores design practices and philosophies from every of the 12 winners of the 2022 Apple Design Awards. In every story, we go behind the screens with the builders and designers of those award-winning apps and video games to find how they introduced their exceptional creations to life.