Survey: most designers still brainstorm on paper

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Any wonder? Paper is instant-on, no batteries, high resolution, no need to save, simple user interface without kludges to fight, few distractions (ever spent more time choosing a font than writing a document?), affordable, replaceable (you can have several over your workspaces), and foldable (try to put a 12-inch tablet to your shirt pocket without it feeling like a ballistic plate insert, I challenge you).

And there is the ultimate cross-compatibility between any kind of paper and any kind of writing device.

And with combination of a scanner or even a cellphone camera it has decent document sharing abilities.


Here is why I still use a sketch pad for beginning anything…

I can iterate much faster and more effectively with a pad and pen/pencil. In the same time it would take me to “draw” 1 design out in Illustrator or Photoshop, I can sketch 10-12 design variations and choose a particular concept or theme to focus on during the digital phase. I can then go back and iterate other work from those scrapped designs by just flipping back through my sketch pads.

Call me old fashioned…to me a tablet is good for gaming and instant connection for research or communication. It would not be a design tool.


Texture and friction are what I miss when I draw on a wacom table or screen. Screen in particular. I doodle on my Note 2 on the train, and love it, experimenting with color and layers is liberating, but you just can’t make an expressive line in the same way, or change pressure to play with the friction at different speeds the way you can on paper with a medium that leaves behind bits of itself on the paper. Building up lines doesn’t feel the same either. I always start on paper, scan and touch-up on a machine, and play with coloring. Unless you have a studio space and dedicated time, paint can be too much of a hassle for most experimentation. The iPad would be a strange choice for serious design an illustration, as it suffers from lack of a decent tactile keyboard for hotkey combinations, tool switching, etc…


Of course, this may be due in part to the fact that there aren’t yet great tools for brainstorming on the computer. It wouldn’t surprise me if things like this converted some people from brainstorming on paper to brainstorming on their tablet

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Not news: despite 35 years of computer evolution, we still don’t have a good replacement for handwriting on paper. Even the designers on Johny Ive’s team at Apple do their work on paper sketchpads. Given the many benefits of digital over analog, this is a pity.

Maybe news: Apple has designed a tablet and digital pencil combination that claims to eliminate some of the problems that have plagued digital handwriting/drawing solutions for years. Which means, once it goes on sale, there will be a lot of artists, designers, and engineers who are going to give it a close hard look to see if it suits them and their creative requirements.


Kind of obvious to anyone who does this stuff, as every comment above this one (and most below, I’d bet) will readily demonstrate.

The tone of the article seems to suggest the new, pencillier iPad will fail because people don’t use iPads for pencilly applications. This is kind of backwards, no?

People didn’t use iPads for pencilly applications because it wasn’t very good for these. Which is the whole reason for the creation of the new, pencillier iPad.

Ask again in a couple of years.


Would have to offer a hell of additional functionality to beat the pencil-paper combo performance/price ratio.

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It won’t. What I mean is that “historically, no one uses X for Y” is a crap predictor for the success or failure of a new X made specifically to be better at Y than before.

It’s like saying “sorry IBM, no one uses computers for personal stuff” in 1981. Duh.

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I think there’s also a legacy bias in the “data” here. Consider:
Designers that “grew up” as designers using paper and pencil will, as a matter comfort, continue to use the tools that they are most comfortable with. No surprise there.
But what of the newest generation of designers- those that have grown up with iPads and tablets and digital everything as their comfortable tools? Will they also default to paper and pencil? It seems less likely.
These shifts take time, of course, but Apple has always been about playing the long game…


Same for me for analytic planning and coding. I have stacks of chock-full moleskines. From sublime cognitive artworks to insane scribblings of a madman, often on the same page. Pencil and paper are indispensable mockup tools.


I’m more interested in potentially using a tablet device for the “finished digital illustration” stage than the initial sketches. It could still be a useful artist tool, but more of a “paint and canvas” replacement than a “pen and paper” replacement.


Yes. Think about all the 3D scanners you can attach to iPads now. With a deft stylus, you could do a complete digital mockup for a client on the spot. …Presupposing that working with a stylus is faster than fingers alone.

As noted, what have been the choices? That said, I’m intrigued by such tools as “Mischief” used on the Surface Pro 3. Runs great, fast, interactive, makes good use of the pen/pencil/stylus (call it what you will). Serves great for me as an electrical engineer designing advanced aerospace systems - and for doodling around with drawings for fun.More new tools for the toolbox? Sounds like a win to me!

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Scrolling thru the feed, at first glance, I thought I’d rewound all the way to the smart phone Cory sat on.

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Paper survives being sat on with ease. It’s surprisingly robust.

Paper survives unscathed even having a glass of tea spilled over it by a cat. After drying it looked a bit aged, but the notes and the rest of the functionality were intact.

You can also drop it from arbitrary distance and even step on it and it will still work afterwards.

Amazing tech, I’d say!


I do not think that word means what you think it means.

But yeah, your broader point is correct: paper is durable. But none of those things are really why we use paper. We use it because it’s handy, ubiquitous, has a changeable surface that doesn’t cost much and like the tooth. (And maybe we grew up with it, too. That does help it’s adoption rate.)

It doesn’t appear to me that iPad Pro is looking to change that. Maybe it will, but I think it will serve a different role than “paper.” And from what I can tell, the demo video more resembles finished work than sketch work.

And this, frankly, is closer to what I want out of a tablet: not a smaller tablet (which I really have no use for), but a bigger one better suited to the creation/display of art—and my work—than the current size, which always seemed pretty small.

Is it less portable than paper? Sure, but so’s a laptop. So’s a desktop.

And if the Pencil has the requisite pressure sensitivity (or at least something I can get used to), that’s worth the price of admission alone. I’ve been trying to use some of the painting apps iOS has for a while now, but finger painting never appealed to me, and the styli available just can’t cut the mustard. (Maybe I could have gotten a Surface, but I’ll be honest: Microsoft represents something too costly to be something I ever use my money for.)

Maybe some designers will still find it useful from an iterative standpoint, but that’s not how I see myself using it.

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In this case “virtually undamaged and retaining all functionality without any data loss”. (Water-insoluble ink was used. A ballpoint pen.) Granted, there was some minor wrinkling, discoloration and surface roughening, but for the purpose of the device these do not count as damage. If it’d be a pencil art or something where these details count, it would count though.

Except the changeable surface (I forgot about the erasers) it’s what I said a bit earlier. Including being always-on and not needing batteries.

The mentioned 3d scanning is what paper cannot do. That’s the added value I also mentioned earlier. (The various editing and finishing features also count.)

I for one am looking forward to VR tools with at least rudimentary haptic feedback.

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