Jun 11, 2009

Pictaculous – color palettes via email

Introducing Pictaculous, our latest experiment from the MailChimp Lab.

Snap a picture of something colorful:


Email it to colors [at] mailchimp.com, and then wait for a reply:


We’ll email you the hex colors, suggested color themes from Kuler and COLOURlovers, and we’ll attach an Adobe color palette file.

If you’re curious, here’s the backstory…

I saw a really cool billboard the other day, and snapped a picture of it on my iPhone:


Is that She Hulk? I dunno.

But I liked the colors, and I wanted to save it for future inspiration. Then I thought, "it’d be cool if I could send this picture to MailChimp, and the monkey could tell me the hex-values for all the colors in the pic." I mentioned it to Chad, our lead engineer, and he worked with Aarron (UX Lead) and James (Web Designer) to build Pictaculous.

What I love about it most is how we’re using what we learned from this previous experiment with Mechanical Turk, and this experiment with the Automagic Email Designer. I also love the fact that we were showing it to Josh, our video dude, and before we finished our little demo, he said, "Oh yeah and it sends you some kind of Adobe color palette as an attachment?" Chad just looked at him and said, "Good idea. I can do that." See, I was once a lowly Industrial Design intern at a major appliance company, and one day their "skunkworks" engineers stopped by the design studio and showed us some prototypes. Being an extremely stupid kid who didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut, I spoke out of turn and guessed out loud what that gizmo did. I was totally wrong. Not just wrong, but bass-ackwards. The other designers looked at me like my stupidity was contagious or something, but the engineers just looked at each other, and said, "that’s not a bad idea, let’s go try that!" and literally ran out of the room. I thought to myself, "I need to switch departments."

They never did like my idea of an always-on, melted Velveeta cheese dispenser for their refrigerators though.


There are many tools out there that will analyze the colors of an uploaded picture, but the beautiful thing about Pictaculous is you can snap pictures from your mobile device, then get your results within minutes. All while you’re on the go. Think about it. When are you always inspired? When you’re out hiking, shopping, at the bookstore, on vacation, etc.

Finally, it’s slightly buggy. That’s why it’s a Labs experiment. We’re experimenting with technology that we’d never trust inside the MailChimp application (yet), like Flash-based file uploaders and such. So we know there are Linux and IE issues here and there. But for the most part, people have been sending us great feedback.

Try Pictaculous!