Play raises $9.1M to build the first native iOS design tool.

Create with Play
6 min readNov 1, 2021

Design, prototype, and collaborate directly from your phone.

Design tools haven’t been created with mobile in mind.

Our mobile devices are the central way we consume content and connect to the world around us. Yet, we still design mobile products solely on our desktops using tools rooted in traditional graphic design processes. These multi-purpose design tools are used to design everything from websites to presentations, from posters to mobile products.

To design mobile products, teams oftentimes use two different tools alongside a mirror app — syncing it with the file that’s been created on desktop to view designs on the mobile device they’re designing for. When you want to make changes to your designs, you need to go back to the desktop tool, make those edits…re-sync…check your work…and the cycle repeats.

Because of this, we spend very little time actually holding our phones and interacting with the products we’re creating. We’re only using the phone as a validating medium, not a place to create and iterate.

This is why we created Play, the first native iOS design tool purpose built for creating mobile products. It lets you design, prototype, and collaborate directly from your phone — giving you the ability to experience your design as you create it, while taking full advantage of native iOS features to bring your product to life. By providing you with a direct connection to the medium you’re designing for, Play opens up a whole new world of opportunity to better realize your product vision.

While prototyping tools can help simulate more complex parts of a mobile product, such as transitions between pages, animations, or gesture based interactions; an accurate judgment often has to wait until the application or feature has actually been developed. Not to mention that a mobile design as seen on a desktop monitor looks different on a mobile device — from how colors and fonts render to how the designs will scale to different device sizes or what they look like with different accessibility modes turned on.

Traditional design tools can’t support native features — calendars, date pickers, input text fields, the camera, live maps, haptics, modals — so designers spend countless hours creating simulations and hacks to put these features into their product designs. With Play, we give designers the ability to plug right into all of the native features Apple creates.

“It’s really smart and it’s really performant. I’ve been really impressed with how well done it is…it’s genius man!
— Marshall Bock, Design Systems Lead @ Youtube and Co-host @ Design Details

How does Play improve the product design process?

1. Experience your design on your phone as you create it.

With Play, there’s no more context switching to simulate the mobile experience with proxies or mirror apps. Play provides a direct connection to the medium you’re designing for — the phone. Designs are responsive and WYSIWYG by default, so you can stop worrying about device sizes, color, and font rendering too.

2. Take full advantage of native iOS features.

Play gives you access to powerful, native iOS features — live maps, pickers, modals, input text, the camera and more — that simply aren’t possible in other tools. You can now play in the sandbox that Apple created to bring your product to life.

Less hacks and workarounds mean more time spent solving product problems.

3. Sophisticated interactions are made easy.

From micro-interactions to more complex gestures like panning, dragging, and advanced scroll triggers, Play lets you approach the visual and interactive paradigms of design simultaneously. With Play there is nothing to simulate — your designs are rendered with the same technology as a finished native iOS app, so what you create will feel and function exactly how a real product will behave.

Play offers the most sophisticated yet accessible platform for creating interactions in your designs—taking full advantage of native iOS gestures.

4. Go from idea to working product in minutes.

With Play, you can design, iterate and experiment — fast. Design from scratch, import from Figma, or use the Play Library and Page Layouts to get your project started quickly. However you get started, Play gives you the ability to get something “in your hands” quickly so you can experiment and iterate on your initial concepts.

5. Import your Figma styles, components and pages into Play.

Have your existing design system in Figma? No problem! Easily import your Figma components, styles and full pages directly into Play where you can continue editing and add interactions — directly on your device.

When you import your designs from Figma, Play maintains the integrity of the properties you set up in Figma, including Auto Layout.

6. Share and collaborate seamlessly.

Play makes it seamless for other parts of your organization to experience and contribute to the product design process. Invite team members to collaborate, share your component libraries across teams, and easily share your work with users who can experience it directly on their device.

We’ve raised $9.1M to help further realize our vision

Today we are proud to announce that we’ve raised $9.1M led by First Round Capital along with our other investors including Oceans Ventures.

This funding will enable us to continue realizing the full vision we have for Play.

We are also excited to announce that Play is now in the App Store!

Anyone can now install Play and view any projects shared with them. For full editor access, you can an invite from an existing user or register for the waitlist through the App. We have over 25,000 people who have registered for full access and we are releasing more keys every week.

In our latest release, we added support for teams so you can set permissions and collaborate with teammates. Next will be support for real-time multiplayer.

We’re also excited to be releasing Play for iPad in the coming months!

We want to extend a huge thank you to all of our Beta users. We love seeing designers from companies like Airbnb, Spotify, Microsoft, Spline, Hulu, Shopify (and more!) as well as designers and engineers from earlier stage startups all using Play.

“Play is a masterpiece of design and engineering. I use Play as a meditation tool that frees up my mind to validate ideas while chilling on the couch. What excites me the most is that it’s the closest thing to SwiftUI to build something that feels native with just your thumbs and gestures.”

— Nicola Felaco, Associate Principal, Design @ Spotify

Without the support and feedback from our users, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Thank you to our investors for believing in our ambitious vision and to all our teammates who have been working tirelessly these past two years to bring Play to life.

You can download Play from the App Store where you can view projects and register for full editor access.

We’re also growing our team and are looking for engineers! Check out our open roles.

For updates on the product, be sure to follow us on Twitter, read our articles on Medium and check out our website.

— The Play Team



Create with Play

The first native iOS design tool built for creating mobile products.