Open Source Sketch

over 5 years ago from , Product Designer

What if Sketch stopped charging and went open source? Could a business possibly be built around services? Paid plans for Sketch cloud? Premium services for plugin developers? They already provide an open source file format. Sketch could swallow a lot more market share and essentially become the defacto design tool for everyone. Similar to what WordPress is to the CMS market.

This idea isn't meant to convey that Sketch is struggling. There is no incentive for the company to do this today. But in the near future it become harder to compete in a really crowded landscape. Seems like this path could position Sketch really well for the future that is to come.


  • Andrew C, over 5 years ago

    The clean and simple and straightforward business model of Sketch is a positive piece of its overall experience.

    Sketch releases useful features quickly and with relatively high polish for Mac. It's a simple strategy that hits about 80%+ of what me and my team need to get done day-to-day. Its simple, straightforward business model signals to me the company is simple and straightforward.

    And at $99 a year is super cheap already. I would gladly pay 150 at this point.

    Adobe does this, btw. It's one of the reasons people perceive them as annoying even though their software engineering can be pretty groundbreaking at times.

    12 points
  • Travis Arnold, over 5 years ago

    Framer does something like this. I believe you have to pay to use any of their design tools though, maybe they will open source that as well one day.

    6 points
  • Alex Bystrov, over 5 years ago

    Think about it this way: Sketch, Figma, Framer and InVision right now are spending most of their time developing exact same features, while they could innovate 4 times faster instead. I mean seriously, Figma have made relatively great leap with their components comparing to Sketch, but still it's miles away from a solution we all need now.

    Seriously, it's been years now since Material design language was introduced and we still don't have an ability to reproduce it in any of the available design tools. A humble input field is impossible to implement in a single component with no specification. It consists of multiple states x different content structure x counters etc. We still end up with a mess of components which are slow both to design and use. There are development standards in place, but there are no clear design standards. Everything takes 10 times more resources to make then it really should.

    Meanwhile we have 4-5 brilliant teams working on their design tools and goddamnit they all make same features over and over again. There should be a way to join forces and be able to make money at the same time. It's not a zero-sum game anymore. The growth of the whole market is more effective then fighting with each other on a tiny field even from a business perspective.

    The future of product development is not exactly open-source though. But pretty close. The future of development anything lies in a new way of licensing intellectual property. So the best way to get new design tools is finding a way for developers to merge products without loosing money or pissing off the investors. The only alternative I guess is a new player, who will figure out the way to go almost open-source and leaving them eventually all in the dust.

    How can such license work? It starts with a set of primitive principles:

    0) Anyone has access to the codebase and can play with it 1) Every git commit has it's cost when proposed to master owner 2) Every product or sub-product inherits a license and becomes cheaper for everyone (including those who already payed, via partial returns) if number of users grows 3) Every usage of the product triggers the process of distributing the reward between all the authors proportionally to their contribution. 4) Capital is stored in decentralised way

    4 points
  • Pol KuijkenPol Kuijken, over 5 years ago

    Not open source, but I like Figma's business model. Completely free for individual designers, only paid for teams. I think it's a good strategy to become the default tool, similar to what happened with Photoshop in the early days (not free, but super easy to crack) and 3DS MAX in the 3D Industry (free for students).

    4 points
  • Norm Sheeran, over 5 years ago

    IMO, I can’t see it having a positive effect. I mean it’s not like GIMP is taking a vast market share away from Photoshop.

    And I don’t think comparing it to WP is a correct comparison.

    I personally prefer to buy in, I feel the app is then more sustainable, you get better support and it’s not as easy for the developers to just walk away from it.

    Just my opinion, but I don’t feel Sketch needs to be any bigger or beat all of it’s competitors. It’s never going to be the ultimate app, no app is. The talented guys and girls making Sketch just need to keep listening to their users, working hard and aiming to make a design product they love and are proud of. Being the biggest or most popular is just BS that eventually backfires on a company.

    1 point
  • barry saundersbarry saunders, over 5 years ago

    There are already open source vector editors, like Inkscape, as well as image editors like Gimp. Going open source doesn't guarantee market share.

    0 points
    • , over 5 years ago

      Fair point. Though I would argue that user experience and/or feature set to some of those editors have constrained their adoption.

      0 points
      • barry saundersbarry saunders, over 5 years ago

        For sure. My suspicion is that you need a strong product team with a clear vision to create a strong feature set, and it's pretty hard to do that with open source software.

        (it's also difficult compared to open-source software utilities for engineers because they're software engineers already! Not so many designers are software engineers)

        0 points
  • John PJohn P, over 5 years ago

    Very unlikely for Sketch, perhaps there is some possibility for Figma though seen as the hurdles and work to keep a local copy up and running would be way more tedious than just paying.

    0 points
  • Jack Sampson, over 5 years ago

    In my opinion, there are few avenues that a tool like Sketch could take to monetize outside of charging for the actual product. Most companies that have latched on to open source projects are doing paid support or hosting, both of which doesn't apply to Sketch.

    0 points
  • Tanel STanel S, over 5 years ago

    I remember I did read somewhere that Invision Studio will be free.

    If Studio is stable and usable product + supports .sketch files then maybe people prefer free over paid. However I think the pricing is affordable now to everyone and even for those who start + as far as I understand if you pay you get updates if you don't pay your latest version still works.

    0 points
    • Dean HaydenDean Hayden, over 5 years ago

      I guess Studio will be bundled with any paid plans. If there’s an extra charge, and you need more than three prototypes, then it will be getting close to Adobe cc pricing.

      Be interesting to see if Studio is as valuable without the tight InVision integration.

      0 points
  • Luis La TorreLuis La Torre, over 5 years ago

    Wordpress is a non-profit organization. A CMS can be used by anyone that can write, so that makes the "impact reach" a bit bigger. A vector tool takes time to learn, so the pool of people that will be willing to do that will be smaller, so the "impact reach" is smaller. I think in order for this to work, you would need to convince developers and designers of a product like Sketch, that making a designer tool available for free is so essential for societies to prosper. I think the motivation of a lot of open source projects is that reach they can have. This is only a theory and my opinion. Curious what others have to say on this.

    0 points
    • , over 5 years ago

      I think in order for this to work, you would need to convince developers and designers of a product like Sketch, that making a designer tool available for free is so essential for societies to prosper

      This makes me think of a post Scott Belsky (Adobe) just wrote on Medium

      0 points