Bivouac: Bringing Identity to Simplicity

Edited: December 17th, 2013. Bivouac is no longer available, please visit basecamp.com/mobile to download a full-featured mobile app.

We’ve just released Bivouac, a small iOS tool we’ve been using internally for the past few months. It’s a simple todo browser and checker for your Basecamp account. It’s not a very complicated app, but we’ve found its count-on-one-hand feature set makes it ideal keeping up to date with our task lists with ease. You can find out more about it at our dedicated mini site or download it for free on the App Store.

Bivouac’s design was always meant to be as clean as possible, consisting of a very simple gesture system and two logical methods of displaying your to-dos. The app’s visual design mirrors this approach as much as possible, favouring simplicity over skeuomorphism or visual over-design. But as we developed the app and started to test it on a daily basis, we realised that the stark minimalistic nature of the product had a certain unfinished or empty feel to it. We found that although it was useful, the experience was mundane. We realised that  we needed to give it personality, something to differentiate it from other productivity apps.

The first obvious choice was photography, and we found that despite an immense catalogue of stock available, we were making compromises in the app’s branding and interface by introducing photos. So we turned to illustration.

We prototyped a few characters, all based around Basecamp’s and Bivouac’s identities and metaphors and in the end, we settled on an anthropomorphised mountain goat. Invoking qualities of simplicity, stability and calm, the Bivouac goat’s personality is a rather transparent communique of the goals of the app. We used a Disney-inspired vector illustration style to create shapes that would be immediately recognisable at small sizes (like in an app icon).

Bivouac’s goat ended up serving two purposes within the app. He illustrated the app’s introduction and was used to delight users, cropping up occasionally within the app. As a result, Bivouac stands out in the app store against other Basecamp apps, whilst still maintaining a close connection to the aesthetic of the service it relies on.

We’ve worked on a number of mobile projects now at Floate and we’re using what we’ve learned from each to scope out ideas that could make Bivouac even more useful. But in the meantime, Bivouac is available now on the App Store. And it’s free.

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