Putting my money-glasses on, I’ve been curious about how much anyone needs to pay for design tools that enable drawing, prototyping, and communicating. Because recently something’s been bothering me, that I couldn’t put my finger on …

When I first sketched things out (disclaimer: note that some of my costs are “guesstimates”) all the pricing numbers felt a bit random when I paged through my mind for tools I know about, and how much they cost to use for a solo user versus a team of folks.

Plan Sketch InVision Figma Framer Adobe CC Mural Marvel
Individual $99/yr $300/yr $144/yr $144/yr $636/yr $144/yr $144/yr
Team (for 10) $810/yr $4K/yr $5.4K/yr $9K/yr $10K/yr $1.4K/yr $3.6K/yr

Note that all of these software systems do different things, and a different range of things, and yes there are tons more tools out there. But my intent was not to be exhaustive. I had this strange feeling that I couldn’t see something all too clearly so this is a sketch. Just a back of the napkin calculation and nothing more.

So I was going to make some creative visualizations of this data, and then I just put my more pragmatic MBA hat to ask the question of the difference felt to an individual versus a team. If you’re a flying solo, you’re going to care about … price and value for your euro/yen/buck! When I was young, we only had Adobe stuff; but the new generation loves Sketch (so I’ve adapted — phew). I pay for it personally myself — just to get a sense of the value it produces, and it’s definitely worth it. I also own the Affinity products — which I absolutely love, and are the reason why I personally don’t buy the core Adobe products anymore.

Here’s the solo chart:

Plan Sketch Figma Framer Mural Marvel InVision Adobe CC
Solo $99/ yr $144/ yr $144/ yr $144/ yr $144/ yr $300/ yr $636/ yr

Yes, yes, yes. I know. If you have Adobe CC you have a veritable aircraft carrier of tools available to you. But even if you pare it down to just PS/AI it’s roughly half the cost, and still three times as much as Sketch (and you can just add on a inexpensive app to do the pixel stuff just as good as PS for less than $50/yr).

It gets especially interesting when you frame these systems in terms of paying for a team of folks, say 10-ish people, and you can see that the value per euro/yen/buck shifts.

Plan Sketch Mural Marvel InVision Figma Framer Adobe CC
Team (10) $810/yr $1.4K/yr $3.6K/yr $4K/yr $5.4K/yr $8.5K/yr $10K/yr

Given that Adobe XD (and it’s free) is such an awesome tool, it makes sense that anything that costs over $10K/yr is going to have a hard time competing anymore — so they will be driving the prices down for team plans whenever they want to. And although Mural doesn’t do a lot (so it shouldn’t really be in this chart), I know the Mural folks will be happy that I’m doing so (wink). I should also note that, as a founding fan of Basecamp, at $1.1K/yr for a team of any size Basecamp is probably the best software system out there for doing anything in the teaming arena. Basecamp’s pricing chart says it all.

Back to the design universe, we can note that Sketch has been evolving rapidly with cloud capabilities, so it’s not unimaginable for it to dramatically reduce its prices for teams. And with Sketch being sort of like the Minecraft equivalent (at least before it was acquired by Microsoft) as the product of a maverick software company that isn’t beholden to any shareholders, it’s certainly got more than a fighting chance to win the universe of design tools.

Conclusions

If you’re a solo designer, Sketch’s the way to go. If you’re a team of designers, it’s a toss up. Especially when you consider design tools can be expected to continue to evolve with Machine Intelligence popping up everywhere:

Image of a slide from the DIT Report

Let’s be careful to not forget that the impact of AI is going to be felt in design tools, soon.
—via the 2018 #DesignInTech Report

To learn more about AI in the 2018 #DesignInTech Report, visit https://designintech.report and ask my bot to take you directly to that page. It’s on the first display screen.

At Automattic Design we’re trying *everything* and we don’t have the right formula yet. And that’s what makes it exciting to be in the #DesignInTech space today. —JM


Discourse on Tools

Some healthy discourse on Twitter via the discussion threads here:

and these two posts from me:

Posted by John Maeda

I'm a learner. By training.