I have new favorite tools in my UI design toolbox:
- A roll of sturdy construction paper, about 1 meter wide.
- A 110 cm length of wastewater pipe with one end tightly capped, plus a removable cap for the other end.
What do these have to do with design?
One of my current projects requires frequent traveling between several locations (design studio; client’s office, where we have our weekly meetings; other premises, to meet users and stakeholders).
When I go, I need to have the designs with me. And they are on paper.
Enter the roll
Inspired by a great article on sketchboards, I’ve started using roll paper to transport the designs.
What makes roll paper so great for UI design?
When you work on paper, you need a lot of space. A flipchart is not big enough. You want to have everything visible at the same time. That gives you overview, and overview is priceless. It focuses discussion. It gives perspective. And you can always take a step closer and look at the details as needed.
This is one of the advantages of paper. Sure, someday we’ll probably have 100” high-density displays in every office. In the meantime, paper is often the way to go when overview is important.
You could, of course, hang your designs directly to any wall or whiteboard. That has two problems:
- When you need to move them (which you will, sooner or later), it’s a hassle to handle individual papers. Hence the roll paper.
- You’ll likely have post-it notes on and around your designs. And post-it notes tend to fall off if you stick them directly onto a wall or whiteboard. Next morning, you’ll be looking at the “autumn leaves” on the floor. Stick a post-it note onto paper, though, and it hangs on tight – for years if need be.
With the roll, relocating to a new place becomes relatively painless. Roll it up and you’re off. Just don’t forget to pack some tape for hanging it on the wall (masking tape is good).
Of course, the content isn’t limited to UI designs. Roll paper is great for everything that needs a lot of space. For example, if you use kanban, put it on a roll and easily transport the status of your project – another useful overview.
One thing can still ruin your day though: rain. So the next step is weatherproofing.
How to make a weatherproof case for transporting your designs
I copied a trick Optimist sailors use for transporting the sail of their small boat. A wastewater pipe is just the right size, watertight, relatively light, and virtually indestructible. (Thanks to Juha for the tip!)
To make the container:
- Go to a hardware store and buy a length of pipe, two caps (one for each end) and a straight junction piece so that you can cap both ends (normally the pipe tapers at one end – you need the junction piece to be able to attach a cap to that end).
- Attach the straight junction piece to the narrow end of the pipe. Now both ends are “cappable”.
- Jam the cap in tight at the end with the junction piece. This is the bottom of the container.
- Drill a tiny hole into the other cap. This is the removable lid. The hole lets air escape when closing the lid: without it, air pressure would pop the lid back out.
- When you close the lid, don’t push it in too far or you’ll have a hard time opening it again.
That’s it. You now have the ultimate container for your roll of designs.
And believe me, showing up with a bazooka sure gets everyone’s attention.