Back in 2003, I wrote a post about designing the blank slate. BTW: The web-based application mentioned in the post was the original version of Basecamp which wasn’t released until 2004.

The blank slate is the initial state of an application right after someone signs up. It’s blank, there’s no data, no photos, no content at all. A bad blank slate is like someone opening the door and just staring at you uncomfortably. A great blank slate is like someone opening the door, smiling, and warmly welcoming you inside.

Designing the blank slates for the all new Basecamp

We’ve been obsessed with the blank slate since the first version of Basecamp back in 2004. So when we designed the all new Basecamp (the 2012 version), we wanted to make sure we paid close attention to the blank slates.

We captured all the work that went into the blank slate designs in a Basecamp project called “Blank Slates”. We’ve made it entirely public so feel free to poke round. I’ll be highlighting some interesting parts below.

No projects, one project

Here we discuss what the projects list should look like when there are no projects. We referenced the rough sketch concept we liked from Sortfolio (then called Haystack). And here’s a related discussion about what the page should look like when you have a single project, no more, no less.

Fine art

Here’s a discussion we had about a “painterly-style” brush stroke on the blank slates. We saw the blank slate as an opportunity to “smile” at our customers with friendly colors and comfortable shapes. A brushstroke felt good, but we wanted to try on a few different styles.

A blank project

We struggled with how a blank project should look. In fact, we didn’t come up with the final design you see today until a few weeks before launch. But, here’s a particularly meaty discussion that shows a bunch of early design concepts.

No to-dos

What should it look like if someone doesn’t have any to-dos? Here, Scott and I discuss a few ideas and designs.

Designs galore

Want to see every design, iteration, and concept we discussed? They’re all on one page in the all new Basecamp.

Relive the entire project, one day at a time

One of the great new features of the all new Basecamp is the ability to page through an entire project one day at a time. This is especially useful if you’re out of the office, out sick, or otherwise too occupied to pay close attention to a project every day. Just sign in to Basecamp, click the Catch Up link, and page through the days you missed.

More public projects soon

We hope you’re enjoying these Backstage looks at how we used Basecamp to build Basecamp. We’ll try to post one a week for as many weeks as we have projects to share.