The amazing, community-powered icon resource team at The Noun Project has released a new piece of software aimed at helping designers organize their visual assets. It’s called Lingo and it makes the case that traditional file- and folder-based hierarchy is a disservice to image assets. Indeed, the marketing draws a line in the sand with its tagline:
Files hide in folders. Visuals live in Lingo.
Designers can drag and drop their assets into Lingo’s thumbnail browser interface; the assets are synced to Lingo’s own cloud service and are then accessible across computers.
That Lingo is both expressly made for designers and smartly crafted are big wins, but it’s still only a first step towards making visual asset management easier. It’s more modern and more thoughtful, but still not all that dissimilar from the various other image asset management solutions that have been with us since computers and visual artists first started hanging out together. My main complaint is that Lingo still requires rich keywords for icons to be readable in its search mechanism. You can search for “pencil,” for instance, and get any asset that’s been tagged with that keyword, but you can’t find an image that happens to have a pencil in the background. Neither can you search for black and white assets, or vector assets, unless someone has tagged them accordingly.
This is a bit of an unfair line of criticism because Lingo is really a beautiful piece of work and sure to prove handy for lots of people. (Its ability to let you drag assets into popular design tools is particularly nice.) It’s more accurate to say that image management as a whole is still fairly primitive; the fact that we’re still relying on keywords to look for visual items and not on machine learning to do that job shows a huge gap between what’s possible in current technology and what has trickled down into the design tools space.