Category Archives: Design

New project Views have arrived in Asana

Stephanie Hornung and Phips Peter

Today, we are changing the way completed tasks work and adding more project Views to Asana, as we mentioned in December. Completed tasks contain conversations, attachments, and notes that are essential to your team’s work and communication. Seeing completed tasks in-line with your upcoming work is often helpful, but sometimes you just want to see what’s left to do. Our new View options make it easy to see the tasks you want to see, when you want to see them.

Previously, completed tasks piled up at the top of your My Tasks list and Projects, completed tasks did not remain in Sections, and sorting across active, completed, and archived tasks was difficult. Now, you can customize your Views and organize your tasks (even if they have been completed) in more ways. For additional details on what’s changed and how this may affect your workflow, read our previous blog post.

Completed tasks main

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My experience as a Designer-in-Residence at Asana

Tyson Kallberg

Over the past year, we’ve partnered with the Designer Fund for Bridge, a program that connects experienced designers with top startups in San Francisco. For the most recent Bridge session, Asana welcomed Tyson Kallberg to our team as our second Designer-In-Residence.   

It was a crisp August night on a turf field in the Bayshore, and I’d just skinned my knee trying to keep a ball inbounds. I landed in San Francisco a few hours before and found myself playing offense on the Asana soccer team the night before my full day of on-site interviews at the office.

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The new collapsable left pane: Happier laptop users and a streamlined experience

Andrew Watterson and Alex Davies

Over the last few weeks, we’ve rolled out a new design for the left pane that makes always having just the right data on screen much more seamless. People using smaller screens can now focus and navigate much more easily, and now everyone has more ability to collapse the parts of the Asana interface they don’t need.
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Developing our design principles

Stephanie Hornung

A few years ago, we began creating Asana with the goal of improving the way teams work together, but exactly how this would manifest in the product design was unclear. This is how it should be — starting out and building a new product means a lot of iteration, trying new ideas, and moving quickly.

Why Now?
Since our product has grown in functionality and our vision has matured, we now feel it is appropriate to be more intentional in our design decisions. When you move fast and don’t consider every step, it can be easy to lose sight of your larger vision. And, as a company focused on teamwork and efficiency, it’s probably no surprise that we want to be as productive as possible in our design decisions. So, it’s now the right time for us to develop and implement a set of design principles.

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Our new blog design

Jim Renaud

As you might have noticed, earlier this month we launched a new blog design. This is something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Our blog is where we most directly express our personalities and values, so we wanted its design to be something we get excited about. Our other goals for the redesign were to make the blog more flexible, more readable, and better for commenting.

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The task pane, redesigned

Greg Slovacek, Rachel Miller, Cliff Chang, and Jennifer Nan

Asana’s task pane is where you go to manage the details of your tasks, and it is where most of the action in Asana happens. Today, we are happy to announce that we’ve given the task pane’s design a major upgrade.

The new design makes the task pane simpler, more elegant, and more delightful to use, without adding or removing any features. We’ll be rolling out the new design slowly, so you will see it in your Asana account sometime over the next few weeks.

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We are a product-led company

Andrew Watterson

I learned early in my career that on a healthy startup team, everyone needs to pull for all the many elements that make a company successful. Sort of.

On a small team, everyone works with everyone else: you have to care about and be able to communicate with every part of the business. So everyone: PMs, engineers, designers, the sales team, and marketing folks have to care about everything: shipping the product, maintainable code, a great user experience, and honing the business model. But each role has the one thing they’re more responsible for than anything else, so when push comes to shove, what are they quickest to compromise on? Sales people often care about a great user experience until it gets in the way of making deals quickly, and designers are sympathetic to the engineers’ architectural concerns until it threatens to delay their pet interaction.

How this plays out on a macro level across the organization can be a result of who’s in charge, or it can be a conscious decision about what the organization should value, appealing to the part of every startupper that values each of these things.

This leads to five different types of companies:

The Engineering-led Company
Above all, engineering might (even above a coherent product strategy.)
In this type, engineers are given free reign to work on whatever is fun for them, both because great code is ultimately what the company wants to produce, and because that kind of culture attracts other great engineers. Early Google was most famously this type of company: although they made a number of compelling products, many were engineered without central oversight, making it difficult to do things like standardize a design, integrate different products with each other, or roll out global features like multiple sign-on.

The Design-led Company
Great ideas know no constraints.
These teams value great design brainstorms over shipped, maintainable code. You most often see this type of thinking at design agencies: they have to prove their value to the companies that hire them by presenting radical, completely new ideas. They pursue questions like “what product would be most compelling?” blind to whether the necessary engineering cost and timeline would be as compelling.

The Ideology-led Company
Live free, or don’t ship.
This is the type of organization that characterizes the Free Software Movement. Companies like The Mozilla Foundation make product decisions based not on what is most pragmatic for their users, but rather what fits their immutable values. Firefox still doesn’t support playing the most popular format of web video (H.264) because of a philosophical aversion to the licensing conditions of that format.

The Sales-led Company
The customer is always right.
Strong sales are important to any business, but this type of company skews their product and strategy decisions based on feedback from their sales team. The sales team primarily communicates with executive customers making purchasing decisions rather than daily users of the product. Salesforce is this type of company – they have well-selling products with feature sets and complexity (in the name of customizability) that appeal to those making buying decisions, but not the ultimate users.

The Product-led Company
Balance in all things.
I started this post talking about this type of company: where the rubric for decisions is based on people in every role stepping back and understanding how to best make a product that makes their users happy and productive, generates revenue, and ships.

Where does Asana land?

At Asana, we seek to balance our roles to create a superlative product for our friends, collaborators, and the world. It’s not that we don’t value fun engineering problems – our Luna framework performs tremendous feats behind the scenes to make development of user-facing features both faster and more consistently polished.

It’s not that we don’t value our business, but investing in a large sales team is only a Plan B for us. We believe that a great product aided by just the right amount of compelling marketing and sales touch can gain the financial momentum we need to keep growing.

It’s not that we don’t value our values – we go out of our way to articulate these on our jobs page, our blog, and on Quora. Our first principle, however, is pragmatism – the understanding that we must be sure to reflect on how well our most cherished processes have stood up to time: do they still support our goal of growing a superlative product that makes our customers more productive?

And it’s certainly not that we don’t value great design ideas – we’ve been devoting more resources than ever to growing our design team and thinking critically about our major design directives: Are we the command center for your work life? Are we accessible to those without a Master’s degree in task management? Do we reflect the humanity of your teammates as well as a tech product should?

We write code, design new UIs, grow our business, and hold to our principles for the purpose of enabling people to do great things. And that doesn’t happen without shipping. You won’t find our engineering team going off in a thousand different directions, our design team digging its heels in for something beautiful but infeasible, or our business team telling us to rewrite the entire product to make a mid-sized deal happen. Each of us does different work here at Asana, but no matter the role it’s in service of shipping a great product.

DesignerFund Bridge: Be a Designer-in-Residence at Asana

Andrew Watterson

We’re thrilled to announce that we’re participating in DesignerFund Bridge, a program that offers a three-month design residency to people outside the startup world. We’re joining a number of other design-savvy startups in this venture: AirBnb, Dropbox, Stripe, Path, and Pinterest (many of which use Asana).

As part of this program, we’ll be hiring an experienced designer this Spring to lend us fresh eyes and outside perspective. In exchange, we’ll offer a true look at the joy of designing – and shipping – experiences that have a deep positive impact on those who use them.

Asana is in a very solid place – the number of teams that use us is always growing and we have a large number of passionate users, but there are an endless number of things we’d be excited to pick up and work on next:

  • Can we bring you a whole new way of looking at tasks, that’s simultaneously more powerful and more approachable?
  • Now that we’ve got a great iPhone app and will be on Android soon, what’s next for mobile?
  • Your email inbox and calendar have a lot of useful information about things you have to do that may not be in Asana yet – can we leverage them somehow?

We’re full of ideas, and the thing that allows us to get the fruit of these ideas to you is to hire engineers fast and hire designers almost as fast.

Along with DesignerFund, we’ll take good care of our Designer-in-Residence. It’s a paid position, we offer relocation benefits, and you’ll be able to take advantage of the great programming that DesignerFund has set up. DesignerFund Bridge is accepting applications through March 10, after which we’ll begin an interview process with selected candidates.

You can apply on the DesignerFund Bridge site.

You might also check out co-founder Justin’s post on what it’s like to work with at Asana on the problem we’re trying to solve: Come Design the Future of Work.

Let’s talk about fonts (video)

Andrew Watterson

One of Asana’s traditions is the Learning Lunch, where members of their team share their personal expertise with each other in a casual setting. We move fast at Asana, so I appreciated being able to take the time to put together a little talk on typography in between design projects.

Typography is the study of the way typefaces (or fonts) are designed. Pretty much all the text you see in the outside world has been consciously put together to communicate some concept or another: everything from the labels on the food in your fridge to the major advertising campaigns you see during the Super Bowl.

The fonts we use today have their roots in the earliest forms of writing: handwriting (which developed into calligraphy) and carving on stone walls and tablets. These beginnings have spawned a dizzying array of typeface choices, and the choice you make can have dramatic effects on how your writing is perceived: Do you use a showy font that will instill emotion – the way brands choose fonts in their logos? Or do you use a beautifully simple font that will keep the focus on your message – the way newspapers use the same font regardless of tone?

Share this video with anyone who would be interested in the personalities of different typefaces, and how to use them in compelling, readable text.

If you liked this video, I’ve also spoken about our design process at Asana