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Regardless of one’s design or engineering background, one of the first steps in any design process is to seek some compelling reference images to help guide the direction of the design. Even concept and fantasy artists – those who create characters, vehicles and worlds that don’t exist – consistently come back to photographs of real world elements for inspiration.

Ultimately, because it’s not always easy to just simply imagine consistent shapes, patterns and forms, mood boards and visual mind maps are a near-essential tool in the toolbox of many a designer or engineer in the early concept stage.

While some designers have no problem filling up a dedicated project folder with images dragged and dropped from various blogs, image searches and perhaps pictures from their own personal photo library, a bevy of apps and platforms have made strides towards making this experience more user friendly and easier to keep track of – however a new release by the name of Thoughtflow looks like it might just be the one that understands the needs of its users the most.

The $7.99 iPad app – which developer Brief Private Limited describes as a “creative brainstorming tool designed to power more breakthroughs” – was created to help designers, artists, photographers, engineers, graphic designers and any other creative get their ideas moving before they even know what they’re looking for.

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While existing photo inspiration sites – Pinterest and Tumblr come to mind = are great for archiving images, Thoughtflow‘s clever UI is designed to allow creatives to not only archive images but also make connections between different images, themes, narratives and flows. Among other features, users can start with an image or a word and be presented with a variety of themes based on the intended direction included colors, emotions and politics, among others. The dark background elements of the UI don’t hurt the experience, either.

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Of course, one could imagine that the constant back-and-forth between a browser and a photo app could become headache-inducing after a number of minutes, however the developers answered this by integrating a web browser directly into the app … meaning that the entire experience resides within a single app without the need for multi-tasking multiple apps.

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While everybody has their own way of working, it’s hard to deny that switching up existing workflows is a great exercise for stretching that brain muscle – and Thoughtflow just might be one of the best tools in recent memory for doing that. You can download Thoughtflow over at iTunes.

Author

Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.