A student of mine recently approached me with some questions about using an iPad in my creative practice. This article reflects the responses presented to her. It is important to understand that even though I am talking about a specific product, an Apple iPad, I believe that my answers would be similar about any tablet-like device that shares a similar form-factor and functionality.
How the iPad has improved my production environment
So, how has the iPad changed my working environment? For me personally, the impact has been tremendous on several fronts.
Peace of mind
While the ipad is an expensive piece of hardware, it is a fraction of the cost of a laptop and my stress level of loss / theft is greatly reduced. Data loss is not a concern as the very nature of the iPad is based on syncing. I am ensured of never losing anything as there are always copies of data at home base.
The device has completely replaced my need to carry a laptop with me at all times. This is huge. Whether showing live sites or static mockups, the iPad works well for client pitches. It plays well as a one on one intimate presentation or connects to projectors for a group. Love this.
This is a big one. I am a note taker. In meetings, traditionally, I jotted down scratch notes and then transcribed them when I returned to my office. Now this all happens direct. Notes, and URLs are saved directly, electronically, without the need for transcribing. It has halved the time in which I spent writing and trying to translate my own notes. Also these notes are available on all my devices instantly. Meaning anywhere I have internet I have my notes without the need to sync, transfer, or remembering to copy over by USB stick.
I often use my iPad as a test device to check out page and mockup design. Something about the small screen and the ability to leave the office environment provides me with a way to objectively look at creative in a different window. It is also a great way to get fast feedback from another team member or client with the hassle of printing or directing individuals to an online space. It’s stress free to just hand someone a screen and say, ‘look at this’, than the tedious, ‘OK, open your browser, go to XYZ.com/mockup0983/~34.php’. I am a lover of collaboration and this device is made for it.
How the iPad has improved my production environment
I think I’ve covered the positives but here are some negatives.
While the device does content collection, delivery, display and presentation perfectly, it fails miserably on content editing. I have apps that do allow minor edits to blogs, or a quick edit to a photo. But I have yet to find a way, beyond note taking to add my ipad to the production work flow.
This past year 4 iPads were purchased for my office, with the intention that they would be floated out for note taking, and client presentations. What has happened was a surprise to me. No one uses them. They sit collecting dust on their docks. There are only three people who use iPads daily in their workflows in the office, and I know why. Ownership. No one else owns an iPad. There is a direct correlation between use and ownership. I am unsure if the issue is the fear of breaking the device or the lack of adoption of new work flows. Either way the iPads are not being used.
The future of the iPad and it’s role in creative working environments
I think the future is pretty bright. With each iOS update there seems to be a move in the right direction. Copy and paste, gesture control, increase format support, iMessage, vastly improved calendar and mail apps. These all make the iPad a more effective stand-alone device. For me, as long as they work toward making it easier to edit content than just display it, that the device will have a future.
The market is so new no one truly knows the limits of what this new device will offer. There are hundreds of tablets being added everyday without an understanding of the user base. Right now manufacturers simply know they have to get a tablet of their own in the marketplace but are not sure why.
Save a tree
The dream of a paperless office is a nice one and a promise made as far back of when the Macintosh was invented. The tablet form factor is the first device that has a chance of making a dent towards a paperless environment.
Wants and needs
Specifically in creative terms there are two improvements in the technology I would adopt immediately.
Bigger is better. Right now the ipad is 9.7 inches or close to that. I want a bigger device. The public, mostly consumer, is talking about smaller devices, 7 inches. A halfway point between the iPad and the iPhone/iTouch. This is useless to me. I want more screen, I use my device on a surface most of the time, so carrying is not an issue. A larger device would improve my user experience overall.
Somehow I want my iPad to double as a drawing tablet. I’ve purchased a few stylus and have not yet found it to be a sensitive enough screen to get a result I want. A larger screen would improve this. Apparently the third iPad will have a retina resolution screen that could improve the drawing experience..