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iPad: Illustrators & Designers

Whether you’re an Apple user or not, it’s been pretty tough to avoid hearing about the iPad. The question here at Go Media Zine: what does it mean for illustrators and designers? It may be limited as far as content creation, but it also may hold huge potential for a new wave of users who want kick-ass visual content — and that means more opportunities for visual artists.

Of course none of us mere mortals have one of these devices in-hand, so much of what I am about to discuss is pure speculation. However as an iPhone owner I think there are some things easily extracted from using that touch device.

Death of the Desktop?

I don’t see the iPad being a replacement for your main computer, at least not for the present. While some may see the iPad as nothing more than an oversized iPod, I see it more as a casual internet-browsing appliance.

I see it more for those who lightly browse the internet as opposed to those who create professional content. It’s for people who really don’t need a full computer, but still want to be on the internet.

The lack of any professional-level creative software for the iPhone and iPod Touch is a good indication that most creative types will not be using this to work digitally, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility that with the larger screen size we might see a new breed of apps developed for iPad. Still, the size in general is going to limit your workspace and I doubt it will be much more than a companion tool — if even that.

Digital Sketchbook

There are a few solid sketching apps available already, including Sketchbook Mobile, Layers, and Brushes — all of which support multiple brushes, layers and some even export as a .psd file. Pair any one of these up with a Pogo Stylus, and now you have a digital sketchpad.

This is something I can see myself using, and I am sure we’ll see each of these apps introduce new iPad-specific features once the gadget is shipping. And I’m sure we’ll see some new apps coming in to compete.

Adobe seems to have kept their offerings to the basic Mobile app, which primarily offers basic photography tweaks. No word yet as to whether Adobe has anything planned for iPad.

The sketchpad aspect is compelling, but serious creators will need a much more powerful device. And I don’t think Apple had any intentions of replacing your desktop computer for illustration, design or web development.


Speaking of Adobe, one of the sticking points for some on both the iPhone and now the iPad is the lack of support for the Flash plugin for the web browser. For all you web designers & developers out there, if the iPad becomes a success it may sway the decision to use Flash or to at least offer an alternative depending on the users browser setup. I suppose it all depends on your audience.

There has been a recent push by some pretty major players to use HTML5 and H264 video, which delivers pretty much the same streaming video as Flash enables, but without a proprietary plugin. If you’re using Google Chrome, Apple Safari or another web browser that supports HTML5, you can opt-in to the HTML5 beta over at YouTube. I’ve done so and the experience has been excellent.

Of course this doesn’t account for the more interactive elements of other Flash creations such as mini games, interactive websites and the like. In my opinion, all websites should offer alternatives to Flash content regardless of the iPhone or iPad. Better to be safe than sorry, you never know the technical level of people visiting your website.


One interesting aspect of the iPad is the introduction of iBooks, which are basically digital books you can read on the iPad similar to Amazon’s Kindle e-reader device. In this arena, I can see a potential boon for designers as that full-color screen is just aching for quality design. Think: magazines, comics and graphic novels, children’s books and the like. This is a device designed to simplify things for the casual user, and these people are your potential customers.

I think there is a lot of potential here for digital content that almost demands a high-quality experience. And I can’t imagine how beneficial this will be for illustrators, creators of comic books and graphic novels. Sure, there will be print customers, but now you have an opportunity to reach a whole new group of new fans.

Sound Off

In general, I think the iPad is more of and end-user device, and while it may not affect how we create content, it may indeed affect what we create content for. There may be untold millions of people who don’t have a laptop or a computer, but would jump at the chance to have an iPad to do the basics. These people are a whole new slew of customers who will want well-designed, graphical content outside of just webpages.

So we want to hear from you: what are your thoughts on the iPad for your creative workflow? Know of any good apps that might transfer well to the iPad? What are your thoughts on the lack of Flash support?

About the Author, George Coghill

George Coghill isa freelance humorous illustrator/cartoonist specializing in mascot cartoon character design & cartoon logos. His cartooning & illustration work can be seen at and at his cartooning and illustration blog. Be sure to follow me on Twitter here!
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We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • Andy Marshall

    I had thought if there was some way of running decent digital sketching / art software on there with some kinda stylus, I would be hooked.

    As it is, its just not set up for any major productivity tasks and so has little use to webdesign / web development / illustration professionals.

    That said, good little post – all stuff to consider as a webdesigner.

  • Pato

    I think we are going to re-think web as it is.
    I imaging my client's web sites as a app to be downloaded and customized the way they want and giving to te users the contet they realy like.
    As everything Mac does iPad is going to be a revolution!!!

  • Damisio John

    I miss the tutorials…..

  • Mike Shoaf

    I think the comments about the iPad becoming a new way to consume content are spot-on. It's obvious that it's not something for CREATING content (save maybe a tweet or a brief blog entry).

    It's still a long way off, but the day that the children's book industry and the comic industry start to feel the tides shifting away from print will come much sooner with the iPad's introduction (along with the inevitable “competition”).


    One thing I've been thinking is the way my wife and kids use the internet. The iPad is actually more appropriate for them than a “regular” computer. Everything they need is right there (with the exception of some flash-based games my son occasionally plays). And some things might actually be more fluid! So I firmly believe there is (or will be) a market for this thing, and by extension, stuff to be seen on it.

    I don't think it could be a replacement for a computer, as it looks like the iPad really still needs a real computer to act as a “mother ship” to get the best experience out of the device. But I can see having a “family computer” acting almost like a server while the household uses the iPads.

  • Wes DeKoninck

    I agree with some of the others that it will definitely NOT replace our home computers but it does have a place and will be a good device for those who travel a lot and anyone that can find a use for a Netbook. With the Netbook craze sweeping through the country, many people realized that we don't need to have most of the hardware and software that come on the Netbook's large laptop counterparts.

    Having said that, the iPad will fit nicely into this niche, and I can see it having uses for many different people.

    Thanks for the conversation starter…it will be interesting to see what all is developed for the iPad and how we can find ways to use it.

    PS. I think you miss-spoke in the “Death of the Desktop” section: “While some may see the iPad as nothing more than an oversized iPad, <- should be iPod

  • George Coghill

    Tutorials are coming back, hold tight!

  • George Coghill

    See the “digital sketchpad” section above. I think it may indeed have some use as you mentioned.

  • George Coghill

    I like the “mothership” analogy, I see it the same way.

  • George Coghill

    Thanks for the heads up on the typo, fixed!

    I'm really curious to see how both iPad software devs will fill in the gaps for us creators, and also curious to see what opportunities open up as options for creators to create for.

    I think the iBooks aspect might have the most impact on the design & illustration crowd out there.

  • Simon H.

    When the iPad was presented, that's exactly how I saw it: a digital sketchpad and mobile portfolio. So I think it should be worth it.

  • Poonit Patel

    Hi George
    Till date we use computer as a device to solve our 'whole' purpose but i think in future there will be no 'computer' term required to talk. Handhold devices which solve our specific purpose will be the favorit things and so integration of utilities in one or requirement oriented device will be 'in-thing' sure.
    Thanks for sharing your article here.

  • noelwiggins

    INdeed, I thought when the buzz about the “itablet” that my life was going to change, the idea of having a mac version of a tablet PC, kept me up at night waiting in anticipation, but boy was this a disappointment, one of the biggest things I was hoping to do with this was to create custom illustrations in illustrator with a pressure sensitive brush tool similar to how the wacom tablet does. All in a mac laptop. I mean seriously that is going to be an awesome day when that comes.

    But instead we have a large iphone that you can't make calls with…

    Well at least I can get some sleep…

    Thanks and Regards

    Noel for
    a graphic design studio

  • Matthew Johnson

    Great post, really gets the gears going in the 'ol head box.

  • Octavio Fatbone

    Hey ! first sorry if my english is bad :S
    well…i dont chance my wacom intous 4 ….for a ipad.if i want to use as tablet……..i think the ipad is just for social networking and not for my job…….small HD, small screen, i dont know maybe just for fun ….but …is unnecessary accessory in this time and im a mac lover :D ……..but if u want the most ultimate think and u liket it that…well…..u can buy it ………..and if i had the money well i´ll save more and buy cintiq :D

    Take care :D greets from mexico city

  • Sanctum1972

    I think the iPad will be an interesting device to use for illustrators/designers in the market as a portable portfolio. I saw this coming a hundred miles away for its beneficial use because I use the iPod Touch for this reason without lugging an entire book to showcase my book on the spot. Plus, the idea of using applications such as Autodesk Sketchbook Pro (mobile edition) would be scalable for such use but my only concern is the iPad's pressure sensitivity which I think is Apple's weakness on that department, in contrast to Wacom's superior reliability and accuracy in those issues. I still use the Wacom 9 x 12 Intuos to this day and have been content with it.

    Although, as time goes on, I believe the transition from print to digital ebooks would be an appealing industry for people like me if I wish to publish my works in book format. I'm quite sure it is'nt that difficult to take what we know on Quark or InDesign and convert those files to be used as interactive PDFs.

    Ultimately, a lightweight tablet for working 'on the go' outside the studio is ideal and then finished up back on the main desktop. I can see an extra use for the iPad's scoring application for my fencing tournaments in the future to keep track of the bouts.

    It should be very interesting and tablets will change the way we work as 'intermediary' devices.

  • Jeff Finley

    Great post George, yeah I can see a new medium to design FOR – it will certainly give us designers an opportunity for more projects and finding clients to develop stuff for the iPad. I like that idea.

  • Red Dawg

    Hmmm, it seems like another piece of hardware to lug around. I do agree it will give more designers a new medium to design for but I really don't see myself using one. I myself, like a couple of post above, thought the IPad was going to be a drawing tablet and I was excited. Oh, well.

  • Adam_Wagner

    “Mobile portfolio” That's a good angle.

  • George Coghill

    That's an interesting take on this. But I wonder how a specific-purpose device would address the needs of illustrators & designers?

    Seems too small of a niche (in the overall scheme of things) to expect a device just for us. But who knows?

  • George Coghill

    I was also a bit underwhelmed at first, but the more I think about it, the more I see it as a future-thinking device.

    I think many creative types had these expectations in their head about what they wanted to see and were disappointed when those features weren't announced.

    Apple rarely makes niche devices, so I wasn't expecting a device targeted to illustrators at all.

  • George Coghill

    Indeed this is an intermediary device. Not something to replace your main machine.

    iWork apps hint that Apple is positioning this as a light work tool, and the inclusion of the Brushes app developer demoing his app during the presentation means Apple does have artists in mind.

  • noelwiggins

    I agree that its a future linking device I hope they discovered some stuff in this project that will evolve to the type of computer I and so many other designers where hoping for…

  • George Coghill

    I don't think we can tell just what markets will open up for designers, illustrators and especially comic book creators with this device.

    I think there are going to be many new opportunities opening up.

  • George Coghill

    If you need a laptop, this device isn't for you — at least not as a replacement. It could possibly replace the laptop at times, but I think this is more targeted to those who consume content rather than those who create content.

    That said, the App Store allows for software devs to do things Apple doesn't, so we may see some content creation tools grow in features, or totally new apps come out to take advantage of the increased power and screen size.

    I wouldn't doubt many hardware accessories — as well as software — are in the “wait & see” stance. The iPhone saw a similar pattern, and it definitely clicked with customers.

  • Aaron Heinen

    If they are going to be stubborn and not offer flash support, I'm going to be stubborn and keep developing in flash because I guess the websites I create are not meant to be seen by “the average iPad user”.

  • Burleson

    I think that we need to look further down the road to see where the iPad will take us, and what it is truly offering. We have 3 Mac laptops in our home, 2 Power Macs, yet my wife, my oldest son (16) and myself use our iPhones 90% of the time to browse the web (yes we all three have iPhones). Intensive searches, etc we'll pull out the laptops but for the most part, we're on our iPhones.

    My 2 year old son can pick up any of our iPhones, unlock it, find his apps, and play, without our help. He plays math, reading, and puzzle games constantly. Through his use of the iPhone, I can clearly see the need and use of the iPad. Teaching, learning to read and write, puzzles and problem solving apps are just the tip of the iceberg.

    The iPad is an access point to “the net” and also a tool to be used for education, and down the road entertainment. My hobby is auto racing and I keep thinking of the capabilities the iPad will offer up for diagnostics, virtual gauges and of course music and navigation in my car.

    I think the iPad is a doorway into some wonderful possibilities.

  • john5cole

    I think that if the IPad becomes as widespread as it can be that it will make designers completely rethink the way they design for the web. If it becomes ubiquitous web/content designers will be forced to design specifically to its dimensions and limitations. Should be interesting.

  • roddog

    I smell a Newton! Typical Apple BS, innovate nothing, just take an existing idea and bling it up, then wait for the Kool-Aid drinkers to lap it up!

    Let the idiots at Apple keep dissing Adobe and watch “Creatives” be forced to flock to PCs or some half-baked open source product.

    This thing is useless, tiny RAM, tiny disk storage, crappy little processor. At least a netbook can actually get something done other than surf the web and listen to music. Netbooks have more power, cost less, and are more useful. But Jobs' water carriers will buy it anyway!

  • Not an Apple Fanboy Anymore

    It sucks!. It's indeed an oversized Ipod. There is NO full webbrowsing experience like you want. Sure… HTML5 will kick the flashplayer in an while… but that's in a while, and not now. If you surf the web NOW you want to visit the sites with flash NOW. It's not 16:9 and common… an adapter for an USB adapter for your thumbdrive? Overpriced Crapgadget

  • Surveying Tools

    ipad is very cute.. its like on avatar movie :D

  • Pat Arlt

    Digital Sketchbook/Mobile Portfolio is what is really intriguing me right now. But right now this device is mostly for content consumers not creators. But I can definitly see myself (as a web/graphic designer) using one to replace my laptop and move all my design work onto my desktop.

  • choppre

    great article

  • Mark F

    I don't think it's right to mention magazines under the iBooks section. Magazines which are what us designers are commonly developing things for will be forced to create a custom app from my understanding. The iBooks section is for text (and yes, i'm pretty sure it can hold images) with minimal customization from the designer. The user is able to change both the size and the style of type, therefor making it useless for almost any magazine.

  • Ez

    Besides which, let's be honest: magazine format+internet=website. Am I the only one who sees websites as the modern replacement of a magazine, only with daily updated content? The GoMediazine is in effect just a 'regularly' (see what I did there???) updated online magazine. That's free. So why would I wanna pay for magazines downloaded to an IPad when the contents already there waiting, if you're just willing to go to it with a few clicks?

    • George Coghill

      I think you are going to see magazines that offer better design and better content than what a webpage offers, especially since the magazine owners will like the idea of having something they can charge for.

      Whether it it plays well with the customers is another thing.

  • George Coghill

    I'm having a hard time imagining getting any design work done on a netbook. I can barely type on those things.

    Netbooks are great for the tinkerer, but Apple isn't offering up the iPad for those people.

  • George Coghill

    I like your ideas here. I don't think we can say what we'd use the iPad for until it's actually in the wild. I agree that there's a lot of opportunities here.

  • George Coghill

    My term for the iPad (and the eventual me-too tablets) is “internet appliance”, not “computer”.

    It's a device to use the internet on, not so much a “tool”.

  • George Coghill

    The problem is that magazines are dying because of the lack of revenue. While free is nice, all those people who work to actually get that content out there need to make money too.

    I see the free website version being accompanied by an “iMag” that goes into further depth and expands on the multimedia capabilities of the iBooks.

    I think it's just interesting to see where all of this heads.

  • Landon

    I'm very interested to see how this effects portfolios. I think the day is coming in which we will all have an ipad like device to take to meetings and interviews to show off our work and concepts. That much is exciting, to me.

  • Poonit Patel

    Hi George
    Thanks for reading and replying my comment.
    Handhold devices will be the access point for general people for their day to day computing need otherwise for developer, designer etc. must use multi-facility desktop.
    As I know iPad and that kind of other devices are designed for general people for their day to day task and on the move to save time and space. All new things upgrades to meet the requirements and so I hope the new and next version of iPad or other that kind of products will read the feedback and will alter as required and feedback.

  • slumpy

    I think with the iPad we're getting a hint of what's to come, just like when the original iPod came out. Now look where that's gone. Will be exciting to see where we go from here. Especially with all the cloud computing in the works. With apps being accessed on a server and files being saved on a server why would we need large hard drives? Why would we need a super drive? With everything going wireless this iPad as a next step in the computer revolution makes sense. In regards to flash not being supported, well I hate to say it, but I think Adobe is to blame here. As far as I know, Apple has been as patient as they can be when reporting bugs to Adobe. Yet, Adobe has been lazy and not fixed anything on their end so now they are being passed up. I wouldn't be surprised if going forward Apple will not support Flash in any mobile device. Just my thoughts. Thanks, good post!

  • Cuong Nguyen

    great article.

    Like so many have already stated, the iPad is a niche item, but may grow into more mainstream as grows. Apple is in the market to make money, and grow its business, and ultimately increase stock price. Look at what iTunes and the App Store has done to increase Apple's revenue. I mean, they went from being completely a hardware (computers) company to being a huge computer and media company.

    I really like the angle of the iPad being a mobile portfolio device for us designers/creative artists. It was not created for any regular, day-to-day, design or work. We as a community hyped up the announcement and disappointed ourselves because it was not the be-all-end-all computer. I mean, if you want something light and mobile that can use to design, it's call a MBP or MBA.

    Ultimately, Apple's in this to make money from the additional apps that will be developed and sold on the App Store. And the additional revenue from movies and books.

    Although, this won't do to good for Apple's branding power. But that's another topic and discussion all together.

  • Philip

    I think Apple visionaries saw the great effect of the Iphone touch on many drawers and illustrators, one of the features they wanted to develop was that; Enter in the Tablets field, Won't be surprize for me if Apple introduce a new Product related with tablets like Wacom.

    Apple tablets = Touch and hand skills Wacom = just pen, tablets

  • 3lendil

    I liked your article re iPad. I was thinking days before the launch, what if the pad could be a wacom where I could generate material but then transfer it to a desktop and use the iPad as an input device, with the Pogo Stick and Logitech’s iTouch app it might all be possible.

  • Brandon Bender

    That is the only point I cared about when the iPad came out. It was basicly usless to us creative people. I really hope apple gets this thing out to market some time in the future with a real OS!

    Brandon Bender

  • Free Money Blogs

    i have no idea for ipad. but, when i bought it and use it, its not powerful….

  • gern

    The only need/gap/niche the iPad fulfills is another revenue stream for Apple. It's only netbook with even more limited capacity and a touch screen with a higher price tag. Useless, IMO.

  • Richard Ball

    With upcoming web technologies — including canvas, HTML5 video and audio, CSS3, local storage and much more — we will see the proprietary software of Flash fade away for much more powerful and accessible content. The iPad/iPhone/iPod touch gives us a valuable customer base to target with these technologies that will push other browsers to move forward.

  • Patek Nautilus

    my friend said that ipad is not good… is it true?

  • drocka

    Yea, the iPad is “a device to use the internet on”, but it could have been so much more. Even as an internet device, it is lacking…. no flash? Really? Why? It runs plenty of other cruddy or obsolete scripting languages, but those other languages don't offer so many free alternatives to the Apple iTunes Store products as flash content does for the average consumer. Regardless of if you use flash or not, the OPTION has been removed leaving you with a restricted web experience. What it really is, is a restrictive device to consume APPLE STORE PURCHASES ON!

    I have an iPhone, desktop and laptop. If I have a knife, a spoon and a fork…why the hell would I need a spork?

  • otozuz

    I know tha Apple should include a Flash support in the iPad, just to have it. But if you are a Flash developer, even not so advanced (like me), you should know how Flash lives with the mouse.

    How could Flash developers create a cool website like those we see everyday on FWA, without the chance of handling the RollOver, RollOut and dragging events? Even in Javascript you can't drag object on the iPhone if you don't learn the “touch” events implemented by Apple.

    So I still think that Apple should enable Flash on the iPad, but just for the basic stuff. Because a website that is full powered by Flash, would not be enjoyable with your fingers.

    Flash lives with the mouse.

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  • Cheap-jordans


    I think iPad has made some big progress until now. It is worthy for using these days.

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  • New Hair styles

    Im Allgemeinen halte ich die iPad ist mehr und Endgerät, und während es kann nicht beeinflussen, wie wir Inhalte zu erstellen, kann es tatsächlich beeinflussen, was wir für Inhalte zu erstellen. Es kann unzählige Millionen von Menschen, die nicht über einen Laptop oder ein Computer sein, würde aber die Gelegenheit ergreifen, um ein iPad auf das Wesentliche zu tun haben. Diese Menschen sind eine ganz neue Reihe von Kunden, dass gut konzipierte wird, grafische Inhalte außerhalb von nur Webseiten.

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  • panax

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  • Griffin Dance

    The iPad is more than a “casual internet-browsing appliance”. I’m a professional graphic designer, and the iPad is crucial to my design process. I can easily create designs and then send them to clients over AT&T’s 4G LTE network (the coverage here in San Fran is great).

    • Karin Bradley

      I totally agree. It’s the only way to see how your graphics will show on the newest technology. Plus, there are a ton of apps (some better than others). i’m also on 4GLTE with AT&T (in Dallas) and love the combination.