I worked at a small design firm early in my career. One of the owners possessed the object of my desire: a titanium PowerBook G4. He would bring it to the office on his motorcycle. Worked on it all day in his corner office, doing everything from programming to design work. And at the end of the day, he’d pack it up so he could work from home. I wanted that freedom. Mobility. I wanted mobile creation.
Fifteen years later, and mobility is not a problem. Now it’s choosing what devices you use. How mobile do you want to be?
It’s akin to how joyful listening to music must have been a century ago. Think about it. If you wanted to listen to music, you had to go someplace to where a band was playing. Or you made your own music. Or you went to church. Now we listen to music while we do three things at once. Every song ever made is available to us through a myriad of devices and delivery systems. It’s almost an afterthought.
The same is true with mobile devices.
Over the years, I have tried a variety of devices to achieve the mobility I desired. I experimented with writing on a Palm Pilot. I looked at the old Treo’s. Something light and small enough that I could do simple mobile computing. Nothing beat the laptop. I’ve owned three MacBook Pro’s over the last 8 years. It’s heavy. They have become lighter over time, but my latest, a 2011 model, is still 5 pounds.
Then the iPad was released in 2010.
My Mobile Creation Bag
There is a lot of speculation on the current state of the iPad. For me, it’s the perfect machine on the go. I bring mine with me to work everyday. I can comfortably read documents on it without wasting paper. The Office365 apps are a dream. But where it shines for me is for writing. I use a Logitech K810 Bluetooth Keyboard that syncs with both my laptop at home and my iPad Air. I toss it in my bag everyday in case I want to write. I’ll use it instead of my iMac. The iPad offers a focused writing experience for me. The first draft to every blog post or comic script gets it’s start on my iPad. When I get into doing revisions and publishing, I’ll switch back to my laptop. After I’m done working though, it’s back to the iPad. I use it on my couch for casual computing.
The only thing I don’t use my iPad Air for is drawing and sketching. I have a Wacom stylus. I just find using it and the available software for it to be cumbersome. So I have a simple spiral sketchbook that goes with me everywhere. I also carry a mechanical pencil, a click eraser, a Pentel Touch pen and a Pentel brush pen for drawing on the go. I hope in the future the iPad offers a better drawing experience. Maybe the rumored upcoming “iPad Pro?”
There are other solutions for mobile/digital drawing. I’ve narrowed down possible choices to the Microsoft Surface and the Wacom Cintiq Companion. The Surface is a little too close to owning another laptop though. The one Cintiq Companion I’ve played with weighed more than my Macbook Pro. For now, traditional tools work better for me. Especially when I can take a photo of a sketch with my iPad or iPhone and send it to my laptop to work on later. You should read about illustrator Ray Frenden’s experiences with both the Surface and the Companion if they are of any interest to you. His reviews are informative.
I carry these items in a lightweight bag everyday. If I’m traveling on vacation or I’m headed to the office, it’s the same bag. I don’t need much else. I still want to keep my laptop though. If I’m traveling and I know I need to work, it comes with me. Design work in particular needs a tradional desktop experience. I can do some simple programming on the iPad, but I feel a lot more comfortable with my laptop.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the next five years. I’d love to have a 15 inch MacBook Pro with the same power, but have it weigh as much as the new MacBook. If it had an Apple designed stylus, then it may be a perfect fit.
One last thing…
In order for my whole set up to work, everything I work on needs to be able to sync. This is easy now. My favorite apps all sync to the cloud between my iOS devices and my MacBook Pro. Day One, Evernote, and iA Writer Pro are my main writing tools. They offer the best digital experience for me.
Recently though, I read this article from the New Yorker: Why Startups Love Moleskines. If you are anything like me, you bought a crapload of Moleskine notebooks in the mid 2000s. And if you were me, you thought, these are kind of expensive and they won’t lay flat on my scanner. I switched back to simple and cheaper spiralbound sketchbooks. But these new Evernote Business Notebooks by Moleskine interest me. I may pull the trigger on one and try it out. It appears too good to be true: a perfect mix of analog and digital tools. I’m not holding my breath. But I’d like to at least try it out. I’ve talked about my love for Evernote before. It might be worth a shot adding one of these notebooks to my bag.