It seems only natural that an app that set out to revolutionize how architects and designers do much of their best thinking—with pen, paper, and time—would continue to reinvent itself as well. This weekend, the New York–based design team Morpholio launched Trace 2.0 (free, iTunes), a little more than a year after its original release in September 2012.

Back then, co-creators Mark Collins, Toru Hasegawa, Anna Kenoff, and Jeffrey Kenoff, AIA, were intent on distinguishing the iPad app from other drawing apps, such as Paper or Autodesk Sketchbook. Rather, they emphasized Trace’s use for purely idea iteration—the process of conceptualizing a design rather than the actual conceptual design. Even the color palette for use in sketching on the virtual trace paper was limited to black and red, and the number of layers of virtual sheets in the virtual stack of trace was restricted to encourage users to distill their thoughts.

Like an architect who has dutifully met their client’s program requirements before gaining the insight to then tweak them, the Morpholio team, having drawn its line in the sand with the first version, is now comfortable enough to loosen the reins. Trace 2.0 thus includes three significant features that blur the lines between thinking, sketching, illustration, and post-production.

A Pop of Color


The first and instantly visible feature is the addition of color in Trace 2.0. Working with designers in different industries, including Glenn Cummings, a partner at New York-based graphic design studio MTWTF, Morpholio compiled 17 color palettes, each with 27 colors, 18 of which are specific to the respective industry. For example, the architecture palette includes hues for grass, water, trees, graphite, shadow, and interior lights. The diagram palette includes complementary primary colors for site analyses and massing diagrams. These palettes were first introduced when Trace became one of the embedded tools in second release of Morpholio’s namesake app. Purchasing a palette will set users back $0.99, but they can access the colors across any of Morpholio’s other apps.

Add a Filter

In a manner reminiscent of Adobe Photoshop actions and Instagram filters, Trace 2.0 offers 12 filters to stylize a sketch or a photograph, which can serve as the tracing provenance. These filters—which include ink, marker, poche, and graphite—allow users to change the medium of their sketch within the drawing process but remain focused on the thought and idea, app co-creator Anna Kenoff said in a press release. In the same release, co-creator Mark Collins said, “The filters fuse drawing and technology in a way that seeks a bit of serendipity, enhanced beauty, and even whimsy in the creative process.” The filters are currently free with the app.

Layer It On

Sometimes ideas don’t become great until they’re measured against 23 subsequently terrible ideas. But no worries: Trace 2.0 users can now flip back and forth through all layers in the history of the sketch, and add, edit, or delete information as needed. “The first word we thought of with Trace 2.0 was ‘workflow,’” co-creator Toru Hasegawa said in the press release. The app update lets users “dive back into your drawing’s history for rediscovery.”

Other updates in the Trace 2.0 include the ability to share ideas through email and social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter. For users with accounts in Morpholio, the team’s online portfolio and collaboration app, sketches in Trace will still sync automatically to their portfolio. Finally, to give users a virtual magnifying glass and a fine-tip pen along with their roll of trace, Trace 2.0 lets users zoom into a sketch to add detail.

Trace 2.0 Launch from The Morpholio Project on Vimeo.

Animated GIFs courtesy Morpholio.