Visualize Your Designs on Real Surfaces in Real-Time Using New Illustrator Plugin by Apple Veteran

screenshot of creating buttons using context illustrator plugin

screenshot of creating buttons using context illustrator plugin

Creating believable prototypes of graphic designs in their real world context can be one of the most time consuming parts of the design process. To simplify this process and help give designers a more accurate feel for how their work would look on real surfaces, Apple design veteran Joshua Distler has created Context, a Mac app that allows designers to preview their work on real surfaces in real-time, without leaving Illustrator.

The goal behind Context is to give designers access to fast prototypes while they are still in the planning stages. Distler told Wired:

The idea is that designers can figure out what works and what doesn’t while they’re brainstorming. The idea that ‘process makes perfect’ is really just about testing a lot of ideas quickly and throwing out the ones that don’t ‘have legs.’ Context is about making that prototyping process as fluid and fast as possible.”


How Context Works

screenshot of using context to design a glass bottle

Context allows you to view your designs as prototypes on real objects rather than just flat graphics that exist on your computer. To do this, Context floats a Live View window of your design prototype over the Illustrator artboard so you can view your design and its application side by side. When you make changes to your design, just click Apply Artwork to view how your prototype has changed in the real world. What’s more, Context lets you easily view what your prototype would look like in reality using different printing effects, angles, sizes and more.

screenshot of the Livesurface Store for context usersTo apply designs to real world objects, Context users take advantage of the LiveSurface store, also created by Distler, a library of over 350 Photoshop image templates of items like billboards, boxes, stationery and vehicles. To help designers better understand how their prototypes will look come print time, Context is also equipped with a variety of photorealistic Live Inks designers can add to their Illustrator Swatches panel. Settings like lighting, reflections, emboss depth, transparency and more can be fine-tuned by clicking Adjust.

Here are examples of real world prototypes created using Context:

book surface preview using context illustrator plugin

billboard surface preview using context illustrator plugin


Simplifying the Design Process

Context makes it easier for designers to not only visualize their prototypes while working and to collaborate with team members but also to help their clients understand design ideas before physical prototypes are made. Designers will no longer need to waste time creating elaborate examples of real prototypes of their work before designs are finalized, making the design process more fluid.

To use Context, try the app for free for a month and receive access to low-res files in the Surface Store. If you like the app, you can subscribe for $9 a month or $89 yearly. All subscriptions come with unlimited access to templates in the Surface Store. Context also offers discounted studio group plans. Visit Context’s website for more information.

To see Context in action, view the demo video below:

Do you use Context or any other app for prototyping your designs?

via PSFK

Lauren Mobertz

By Lauren Mobertz

Lauren is the former managing editor for DashBurst. One part geek, one part urban nomad, she is constantly scouting for the latest tech and world news. In the evenings you'll find Lauren running in strange places or attempting to dance salsa.