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ConceptShare seamlessly pooling graphic ideas

By NICK STEWART A Greater Sudbury-based company is developing a program that will enable people to seamlessly and efficiently pool their graphical ideas online.


A Greater Sudbury-based company is developing a program that will enable people to seamlessly and efficiently pool their graphical ideas online.

“What we’re trying to do is manage the process of how a designer gets the project from concept to reality,” says Bernie Aho, product manager and co-founder, ConceptShare Inc.

“What typically happens now is that people will print off a copy of their work and send or email it to management or the client who will slap on their own red marks and comments and send the copy back.  So you might end up with five different copies covered in red, or if you’re involved in a team, you’ll have a lot more than just five, not to mention that it takes up a great deal of time.”

The program — also called ConceptShare — revolves around being able to upload visual projects, such as ad layouts, product designs and concept sketches, to a specially designed online workspace where people can comment on it.  While this space can be made public for feedback from the general web community, it can also be used privately, allowing the person in charge of the workspace to add specific individuals to view and comment upon the project.

Given the program’s versatility, Scott Brooks says it has a number of potential uses among a variety of work environments.

“This has potential for architects, software designers, interior design, fashion designers, the publishing industry, marketing, and so on,” says Brooks, co-founder. 

“We’re thinking globally with this.”

The company’s approach to bringing this vision into reality involves a simple series of tools , which are primarily focused on allowing people to comment on the project, rather than directly manipulate its features.  These include the power to zoom, scale and draw general shapes such as lines and squares, as well as a modified “pencil” tool which allows for more precise, individual indication.  A basic text tool allows someone to automatically attach written comments to their illustrated suggestions.

Along with a workspace-specific instant messenger and delayed chat tool, these tools allow users to indicate if something within the project needs to be moved, to have its color changed, or whatever they deem to be an appropriate or necessary alteration.

Aho says the general simplicity was key to the program’s overall design, and represents an attempt to appeal to technological novices and experts alike.

“We actually cut a lot of features out to make it more accessible,” he says.  “The user can be just about anyone from nearly any industry, and it could be someone who’s tech-savvy, or it might be a 50-year-old executive. So we wanted to make it very intuitive.”

Users need not worry about clogging up the project with endless amounts of comments, arrows, and other suggestions.

“People can easily see the progression of individual opinions without having enormous clutter,” says Brooks.

According to Brooks, one of the product’s great strengths lies in that it is not platform-dependent, nor does it require a full program to be downloaded.  Instead, the system is run through an existing web-based programming language called Flash, which has a heavy widespread use and requires a small installation on one’s system. In fact, the program’s web-based nature allows for new users to be added to a project simply by inputting their email into an appropriate box.  Once the user has received and approved the request, they will be able to enter and leave comments on the private project.