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The iPad as design tool – a guest post by Jack Gold

This post is provided by Modenus’ LinkedIn group member Jack Gold at Presidential Interiors.  Feel free to add comments about other creative uses and apps for the iPad.

I intended this post for those who have already purchased an iPad – but are simply not finding it easy to use for their design business.  I’m not going to make the case for iPads vs. laptops for designers, because honestly I think its no contest.  But for those who find change hard – let’s just throw in a handful of “versus” points:

The iPad is always there when you need it, instant on (vs. most laptops boot up time) 10 hour battery (vs. most laptops 2 hour battery) and intuitive apps with clean crisp interfaces – that provide just the right measure of continuity to your presentation as a designer and lover of all things orderly and beautiful.

As a portfolio, the iPad works wonders.  Simply drop all your hottest project photos into a folder on your desktop – and when you sync your iPad to your computer – select that folder as the one to sync.  A few painless minutes later, and you’ve got your entire portfolio of work in crisp, sharp digital focus – and the ability to zoom and pan across your designs makes it very easy to tell the story of your portfolio projects.

But ultimately, presentation is just the beginning.  The right mixture of apps (all available for purchase online, and all very inexpensive) takes the iPad out of the “cute” category, and makes it a serious work machine.  Here is a list of my favorites:

This program is one of many that provide cloud-based file storage, but it is my favorite.  Once you sign up for a free account at
dropbox.com, you will be prompted to create a folder on your desktop.  You then install the application on your iPad – and whatever files you place in your desktop folder – become instantly available on your iPad.  For me, this is invaluable.  All of my active projects always sit in my Dropbox file, which means I have access to every concept photo, every rendering, every proposal, every single document on every single project – at my fingertips.

Incidentally, using Dropbox means I have access to all my active work files on my home computer as well – and I do not need to buy the largest capacity iPad – as I am not storing my files on the device itself, but rather in the “cloud.”

When I open a Client’s File on my Dropbox, they instantly see the titles of my subfolders:

Concept Photos and Sketches, Final Shop Drawings, Progress Photos, Proposals, Renderings, Vendor Invoices, etc.

While I am allowing the client a sneak-peek into what goes on behind the scenes of their project – I am also inadvertently showing them the amount of work that goes into each project, and thereby justifying my value to them.

While iBooks is a great app for downloading and reading books – many users don’t know that it is also a fabulous tool for PDF storage.  When you receive a PDF as an email attachment, simply choose “Open in iBooks” and the file will show up on the shelves in your iBooks library.  This becomes a great way to review architectural plans and other PDF’s with your clients. (Learn more here: http://www.apple.com/ipad/built-in-apps/)

Adobe Ideas
This is a fabulous application, letting you make quick notes in the field – but perhaps most importantly – letting you mark up regular photographs.  With a few swipes of your finger, you can easily add or erase elements of a design photo, letting your presentation evolve as the ideas mature. (Learn more here: Adobe Ideas on the Adobe Blog)

Benjamin Moore Pro
While we should never use a screen to view accurate colors, BMP is a great app that contains all of Benjamin Moore’s color preview paints, from all of their lines.

You can create specific palettes for specific projects, and this becomes far easier than flipping through multiple cards on a typical chain. (Learn more here: Benjamin Moore Pro in the App Store)

For those of us who create or use 3D renderings, whether in Autocad, Google Sketch-up or another 3D program, 3DVIA is a wonderful iPad app that allows you to download 3D models, and manipulate them in true 3D on your iPad.  One of the greatest ways to view a project on the road. (Learn more here: http://www.3dvia.com/)

Moving aside from simply looking at applications, the iPad brings a lot of other extreme convenience.

As a web browser, it is perfect for double checking quick info when you need to know NOW.  You can quickly surf manufacturers websites, see product specifications and sizes – and taking a moment to pre-load your most common vendors into the bookmarks will make these pages instantly available to you.

There are numerous time-tracking applications with big bold “Start/Stop” buttons that make it really easy to keep a log of the time spent on a specific project.

Easy invoicing applications like Freshbooks and QuickSale make it super simple to send out PDF invoices via email or even snail mail – straight from your iPad.

While we tend to think of our laptops and computers as private domains where work gets done, the iPad lends itself to opening ourselves to a certain level of transparency that can work in our favor.

As a small, lightweight and extremely simple device to use, passing the iPad back and forth between designer and client becomes natural and instinctive, and it brings a level of intimacy and openness to the design process that is really exciting.

Like a writer who sees his work published, or a painter who sees his work framed, the client experiences a certain level of satisfaction at seeing their project sitting on your iPad, taking a place of prominence in a very personal piece of electronics.

These are the basic tools, and these are the basic ways in which I use my iPad to enhance the concept and follow up sessions with my clients.

I can spend hours talking about the fabulous calculators, the easy to use measuring and size configuring applications, the thousands of magazine applications that can be used for browsing for ideas – but in this presentation, I’ve decided to stick with the basics.

Think of the iPad as an extension of yourself, and as an incredible tool to use when trying to bring the client “into” the heart of a project.

I do, and as a result the way in which I conceptualize, design, present, conduct walk-throughs, submit proposals and invoices – it has all evolved.

If you start looking at your iPad as a tool that can be used to enhance your workflow – and not just a fun toy – it will undoubtedly do the same for you as well.

Jack Gold is the owner and Senior Designer at Presidential Interiors, a NYC-based millwork and cabinetry firm.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1077065847 Fred Castillo

    awesome. Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/dcoopsd Brandon Smith

    I was excited after receiving my iPad as it meant no longer carrying to job sites a ton of paperwork with me.  The first app I downloaded was a pdf reader to which I upload construction documents and specifications.  Walking through a job site with the iPad, making notes directly to the pdfs is infinitely easier than walking with a roll of plans trying to make notes on paper.  Additionally, I’ll carry contracts with me, make modifications on site and have my clients sign right then and there (not to mention, I have an app for credit card acceptance so retainers can be paid upon signature). 

    I’ve downloaded AutoDesk’s new WS program but have yet to use it in full.  We’ll see how that one works after some time.

  • lisa league

    Dropbox on the iPad is a necessity – well, for me Dropbox is a necessity period. Minimal Folio syncs with it, and adds the ability to flip through slides and drawings etc. vertically and horizontally.

    Photogene is a nice lightweight photo editing app that has saved me time. 

    I wish I could say that I used Autodesk Sketchbook express more – also just recently found Wacom’s Bamboo paper – think I might check out a stylus to use with both.

  • http://twitter.com/LeafMag Leaf

    Like Brandon Smith I carry construction docs, but use it most often as a presentation tool.  I can save a mood board or a series of photos and sketches to show easily anywhere.–Susan C.

  • Anonymous

    Ipad include many tools with different types of works. It provide facility instantly and applications with crisp clean intuitive interface.  It just enough continuity in your presentation as a designer and loves all things orderly and beautiful.

  • Anonymous

    I really like the Dropbox for Ipad.  I have been able to put my portfolio on there instead of carrying one with me.  Also great for other documents.  I’m still trying to find a good Ipad app to draw floorplans while at client appt. instead of sketching them on paper.


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