Even if you haven’t heard of the Artefact, you’ve seen their work. A hired gun for design by companies like Google, Apple, Samsung, and Amazon, their influence crops up in everything from Xboxes to HTC’s smartphones. (They’ve also created intriguing design concepts that we’ve seen here and here and here.)
Now the company is going through a bit of a transition, from pure consulting work to creating products of its own. Artefact’s first commercialized venture is called 10,000ft. It’s billed as a “web-based collaborative management tool.” In plain speak, it’s a simple way to manage members of a team across projects, while taking into account budgets and man hours.
Interestingly enough, 10,000ft started as Artefact’s own project management tool, developed in-house for in-house work. Artefact then shared it with peers at Astro, Minimal, and General Assembly, refining the product with the feedback. Now, 10,000ft can be licensed for any company to use, starting at $50/month. And from our early peek at the software, it could be well worth the price.
Unlike similar products from 37signals, the first thing you’ll notice is that 10,000ft is quite nice looking. Every button is presented with the polish and care of a honed consumer product, rather than the undertones of engineer-driven design behind a lot of enterprise products. The interface leans heavily on iconography, from the avatars for each team member–a motif strongly reminiscent of Facebook and LinkedIn–to realtime status updates–a band-aid will identify someone who’s sick, while a road will mark someone as traveling. And scheduling anyone to do anything is as simple as dragging and dropping assignments.
But where the product shines is as a budgeting tool, constantly accounting the man hours on a project, giving instantaneous projections as to whether or not a project is within its financial bounds. You can literally add one person to a project for one day and, right away, see how that affects the bottom line. I imagine for any firm juggling a few big projects with a lot of talent, 10,000ft offers a powerful way to keep expenditures trim.
At the same time, 10,000ft is so preoccupied with the business umbrella–budgets and labor pool–that it’s not quite the corporate omnitool we see in something like Basecamp (which is more a generalized crutch for ideating, communications, and task management–features just as useful for kings as they are peons). Could I really use 10,000ft as part of my daily workflow here at Co.Design? I doubt it. But my boss or my boss’s boss? They probably could.