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There are some common tasks in almost every graphic designer's workflow that are made immensely easy by the Internet, but are often clumsy to handle through traditional channels like E-Mail.

Therefore, my question is: Does anybody know good web applications that serve the graphic designer's workflow? Installable or hosted doesn't matter, it would be interesting to know about both worlds.

Workflow management:

  • Sending sketches to clients without clogging inboxes and sending dozens of cc's
  • Gathering and documenting the client's feedback to the sketches

Asset management:

  • Archiving and labeling finished work
  • Archiving and labeling common design elements
  • Archiving and labeling third-party work used (Stock images, fonts) and their license agreements
  • Optionally: Making all this stuff available to the client through a secure login

I have, for example, used WordPress blogs to interact with clients in the past - every sketch being a blog post, and clients giving their feedback in comments. That is a fairly limited method, though - it would be nice to learn about more specialized products.

What are some good products that provide a solution for all or part of these tasks?

I know there are full-blown agency solutions for every imaginable budget, but I'm more interested in the lower price range and Open Source solutions.

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Asking this out of personal interest, and to determine whether this kind of question belongs here. –  Pekka 웃 Jan 12 '11 at 14:45
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For me it is relevant topic. –  Littlemad Jan 12 '11 at 16:03
    
@Littlemad Agreed. –  JFW Jan 15 '11 at 13:09
    
Ever tried a SVN or CVS repository? –  zzzzBov Jan 17 '11 at 19:59
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@Pekka you can make SVN repositories publicly visible, which would allow your clients to see your current version of work, and give you versioning. There's a reason this is just a comment and not an answer though. –  zzzzBov Jan 17 '11 at 20:27
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5 Answers

For managing digital assets (I haven't tried it out for client workflow yet, although that is theoretically also possible), I finally discovered the perfect solution (for my needs).

ResourceSpace is a PHP-based Open-Source application originally developed for Oxfam, who manage 60,000 images with it.

It's browser-based, multi-user capable, can create thumbnails from dozens of formats (due to ImageMagick), can extract EXIF data, can index office documents, and has an interface that feels like those from the big names in stock photography.

It's the first free document management system I have seen that is really fun to use. I have installed two instances of it for clients, and am very happy with it!

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Adobe CS Live services

Collaboration and communication is available via Adobe CS Live online services that helps you communicate with everyone involved in a project. From reviews to finished content. And it's integrated into Adobe's line of professional design products.

Excerpt:

More time for design and creativity
Fewer meetings, less email, and less searching mean more time to focus on what you do best. Deliver exceptional work on time and on budget.

Works with your workflow
From project concept to delivery, CS Live connects you with people, content, and data when and how you need to, helping keep your projects in motion.

Better ways to collaborate
CS Live enables you to work more effectively with colleagues and clients, whether they're in the next cube or 3,000 miles away, so everyone feels in the loop and in control.

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For lightweight usage, I love Dropbox.

I can create a folder for a particular project, and then share just that one folder with those who need to get into it. They can't see folders I haven't given them access to.

Dropbox syncs in the background, so I know they'll always have the very latest. I have my Mac set up to notify me if anything in the folder changes, so I'm alerted if/when they change something.

It also does a small amount of lightweight version control, which can come in handy.

Price: $0, which gets you a fairly reasonable amount of space. You can pay more if you need more, but I never have.

If you don't have a Dropbox account, you should.
And I guess that means I should include the obligatory kickback link. No obligation, of course. But you will love it.

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+1 for Dropbox, no more attachments via email –  Jin Jan 17 '11 at 21:46
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BaseCamp http://www.basecamphq.com is a must see for you, you can use 37Signals all tools for your needs, they are a digital agency that created Basecamp for their own needs, it can cover most areas of your stuff. But they are not renovating it as fast as market goes i think.. so there is competition..

Lately ApolloHQ is a great workflow application with awesome visuals and ease of use.. and its free for now.. They are still in beta and you can get a test account to check if it meets your needs. http://www.apollohq.com/

Both let you give access to clients.

From what i read from you and as i am using both tools, i can say you can cover all your needs if you get used to one of these tools.

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+1 to promote apollo –  Shikiryu Jan 15 '11 at 11:27
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I never used anything to handle "Workflow management" that a good webemail could solve (like gmail, where I can add labels, or using google docs to store info or docs). I feel that if a client is not able to answer to an email, a call as reminder fix the problem.

I hear that some people prefer Basecamp, but I do not have any direct experience, and I think that if they didn't answer an email, I do not think that they will spend more time to log in a system that they do not know as Basecamp.

Archiving and labelling finished work: I just have a project folder with all the work in it. I tend to organise by 2 standards: date of work (for backup purpose) and version (to create alternatives).

About the rest, what I do is more an organization of links, resources and graphics that one day I could find useful for myself for some projects, more than for the clients to hand over.

For example, I use Flickr pro to upload all the graphic images, inspirational or any other thing related to good design idea, to have a visual dictionary of interesting visual solutions that I usually view at the start of any project. A group of web related topics of links in Delicious that when I need I recall by a simple tag search Or a really strict collection of good fonts that I simply keep on my pc or store on zipped and with psw on google doc (so I can access it from everywhere). Another things that I do, I collect good blog reading on my Google Reader page, so I can even have access to information of good designers with the power of a simple search.

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Interesting, and good point about using Flickr this way. I dislike E-Mail because it makes it hard to walk through revisions and store feedback in a central place - something that can become chaotic if more than two people are involved. Still, fair points –  Pekka 웃 Jan 12 '11 at 16:12
    
I make a lot of print sreenshots and save as images. I think that it is important to have a library of things. I do it even with code effects. About the E-mail, yes I can see that sometimes if you have a lot of people it start to be a long amount of forwards and replies, but in that case you want a live chat(I was one of the few guys really into Google Wave), or talking/video communication like Skype. For me it is easier to check on your mobile, than have a third party web content management that you cannot access when you walking around town (I use my iphone touch, and free wifi in bars). –  Littlemad Jan 12 '11 at 16:21
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