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ScrnShots: Tools for Inspiration

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Designer's inspirational noticeboardAs a former designer who still dabbles in the odd piece of commercial or hobbyist work, I’m sometimes stuck at the inception of a project, trying to discover the initial creative sparks that ignite a design, for those fragments of inspiration that set out the path from a blank Photoshop document to a living design.

Nine years ago as an interactive designer in a multimedia agency, designers would post various items we liked -magazine clippings, flyers, business cards, websites – onto a physical noticeboard that we could glance up at for inspiration. Over time, this grew organically into a wonderful design resource for the studio.

These days, my equivalent is a folder on my MacBook desktop called ‘Design Bin’ – I screenshot or scan a design I think might be inspirational in future and dump it in my design bin. However simple, this resource is growing in volume but diminishing in context – and in a connected era – is strangely unsociable.

Enter Scrnshots, a web-based service that lets designers share their inspirations by posting screenshots of interesting designs to a Flickr-esque web site.

Scrnshots - User interface

There’s nothing here that cannot be accomplished by use and adaptation of photo and image sharing services like Flickr. But the emphasis on graphic designers and the materials that inspire them ensure a focus that could become otherwise diffused in a broader-based service. For web workers, the ability to be inspired by the inspirations of others is a powerful feature.

Scrnshots is the first production of Vancouver’s Orange Peel Media. Last Saturday, after playing about with the service for a few hours, I got the chance to pose some questions to cofounders Greg Bell and Derek Kehler…

Do you see services like Flickr missing a huge niche? Can you sneak under the radar and take users/usage from such apps by producing interesting verticals.

Yes. We do see services like Flickr missing a huge niche, but it’s not their fault. It’s not what they set out to accomplish. Derek and I are both avid Flickr users and love it for sharing our photos, but, we don’t want to share our screenshots with our friends and family (our Flickr contacts). They just get annoyed with us. They’re interested in seeing photos of our dogs, not screenshots of the greatest form designs we ever saw.

On the other hand, we all have huge collections of screenshots that are collecting dust on our harddrives and could be a great source of inspiration and conversation for the web community. That’s why we built Scrnshots. It’s a personal itch that we wanted to scratch.

Current design galleries are very one way. There is a group of people who get to decide what screenshots are added to them and then users are not even given tools to discuss the work. We wanted to change the game completely and give everyone the ability to create their own design gallery and share it with the world. We’ve found it extremely refreshing to subscribe to our friends’ RSS feeds on ScrnShots and see what they are posting on a regular basis. It makes for a type of conversation that wasn’t necessarily possible before.

Other than designers, can you see other communities that might find the service useful?

The primary target audience for ScrnShots is the web design community. We do however recognize that the tools we’re building have value to other communities such as blogger, gamers, etc. Really, the community is being built to allow for easy posting and discussion of screenshots. We aren’t too concerned whether they are designers or not.

We don’t claim to have all the answers for where ScrnShots is heading, rather we want to get it out into the public, start building a community and then see where it takes us.

The desktop app looks useful – will you have the capability to grab entire pages in a browser – a la Paparazzi?

Thanks! We’ve been using the app internally for a while and it makes the service so much easier/better to interact with. It becomes second nature to add screenshots to your account. At launch, the app won’t support taking full page screenshots like in Paparazzi. But, we are releasing at the same time a public API which we hope to see some simple tools built for that we just don’t have time to do. Also, we are working on getting a Firefox plugin made which would be able to take full page grabs.

Is the tech scene in Vancouver favorable to entrepreneurs and startups?

The Vancouver tech scene is “growing.” There are quite a few new opportunities that have emerged within the last few months: Bootup Labs and Launch Party being the two that we have been in contact with.

I know for a fact that there are lots of new startups arising from the Vancouver area, however, I’m not too sure whether they’ve had a lot of help getting there. I think the entrepreneurial way of doing things is to just work as hard as you can by yourself; if someone helps out along the way, that’s just a bonus.

Are you thinking about import tools – like grab all my images tagged ‘screenshot’ from Flickr?

This is the reason we’re releasing the public API. We see so many other services on the web that ScrnShots could integrate with as well as all the different desktop screen-capture applications. While we don’t have a formal plan to build the Flickr importer yet, it really would not be that much work once our API is finished.

Can you see some deeper integration with design tools like Photoshop, maybe creating mood boards or an ‘inspire me’ tool?

We are definitely working towards getting deeper integration into the Designer’s workflow. Design shops have expressed interest in creating private areas for their teams to brainstorm and share screenshots with clients to replace traditional mood-boarding techniques. We’ve used ScrnShots to do this and found that is was extremely successful. We are releasing PRO (paid) accounts on June 6 which will include the ability to create private screenshots as well as private groups. So, a design studio could create a private group for a project, then collect screenshots of all the client’s competitors as well as design inspiration for the project. Currently, there are very few tools that let studios do this in a useful way.

Currently invitation-only, Scrnshots launches to the general public today.

6 Responses to “ScrnShots: Tools for Inspiration”

  1. Thanks for this post and to the people at ScrnShots!

    I like the ability to comment on why you’re adding a shot. This should replace the “Inspire Me” favorites group in my browser which has gotten so huge that I don’t even bother looking at it anymore.