Inspiration

A Guide to Designing on an iPad Pro

Design on an iPad Pro and experience a glimpse into the future.

Apple has quite notably outlined the iPad as its vision for the future of computing. In due time, the Mac may begin to see a decline and ultimately fall out of favor. The exciting news is that this would open up a whole new market for the iPad. It would likely see a similar level of investment that companies are currently allocating to Mac development. The iPad has been capable of replacing a Mac or PC for many users. It is only of late that it has really begun to emerge as a potential replacement across new industries. One of those industries is design. With the introduction of the Pro models and Apple Pencil, the iPad has begun to offer a capable option for designers. Companies like Adobe and Serif are investing heavily in their iPad app counterparts. A number of startups are also responsible for some exciting design apps.

This article serves as a guide to designing on an iPad Pro. It’s a concept that’s far from perfect, but has now reached a level where it’s very much possible. At the very least, it offers a glimpse into how we may be designing in the coming years.

Equipment

First, you’ll need to equip yourself with an iPad Pro of some variety. Unfortunately, a standard iPad is unlikely to suffice due to its incompatibility with Apple Pencil. If we’re designing on this device we need a tool which will allow us to achieve the precision level of a Wacom tablet or mouse. The Apple Pencil is that tool.

It’s also advisable to find yourself a compatible stand and keyboard for your iPad Pro. You may like to buy these as standalone items or opt for Apple’s Smart Keyboard which offers both of these in a single product.

After that, you’ll have everything you need to begin setting up your new design workspace.

iOS 11

Credit: Apple

Apple’s iOS 11 release has some major design and productivity updates. Ensure your iPad Pro has this installed as it will make your design workflow considerably more fluid. iOS 11 includes features such as a readily-accessible dock, a file manager, and simpler multitasking. It also contains the ability to drag-and-drop as well as improved Apple Pencil functionality.

Design apps

Choosing your design apps is an important and personal choice. My main four tools I require for web and app design are for wireframing, vector tasks, photo editing, and prototyping. These four categories should have you covered for most areas of design, whether it be web, branding, or user experience. By selecting an iOS app to perform each of these tasks, I can utilise iPad Pro as my primary design tool.

In each of these four categories, I’ve selected a winner and a runner up. This comes after testing each and attempting to integrate them into my workflow.

Wireframing + Prototyping

I’ve merged these two categories into one, since there is a clear and outstanding winner which excels in both areas.

Credit: Marvel

Winner: Marvel

By Marvel

Marvel is an incredible tool for building prototypes. It allows you to take photos of sketches and turn them into fully functional prototypes in minutes. The simple user interface is also perfect for wireframing straight on the iPad.

Credit: TopHatch

Runner-up: Concepts

By TopHatch

While Concepts doesn’t allow for prototyping, it makes up for it in the area of wireframing. It’s an advanced sketching app which allows you to produce and export anything from low to high-fidelity wireframes.

Vector

Credit: iTunes

Winner: Graphic

By Autodesk

Graphic is a comprehensive vector application for iPad. It offers functionality such as integration with Photoshop and Dropbox. The app also contains SVG export, boolean paths, and layer effects. Its user interface will feel very natural to designers familiar with Adobe Illustrator.

A perfect starting point with Graphic is a premium UI and UX kit. It will allow you to start with a basis when beginning new web and mobile projects on iPad Pro.

Credit: Adobe

Runner-up: Adobe Illustrator Draw

By Adobe

Adobe Illustrator Draw allows you to create production-quality vector artwork on your iPad. It integrates directly with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, along with Creative Cloud. This will suit more visual designers such as those specialising in illustration or branding.

Photo editing

Credit: Serif

Winner: Affinity Photo

By Serif

Affinity Photo is right up there with the most impressive and capable apps available on iPad. It’s Metal optimised, meaning it’s blazingly fast even when editing the most complex files. All-round it’s a feature-rich and polished product which will not leave you disappointed.

Credit: iTunes

Runner-up: Adobe Lightroom

By Adobe

Adobe Lightroom is a paid subscription product but offers some of the best capability in terms of photo editing. It uses technology from Adobe Photoshop to present what is a very capable and worthy runner-up to Affinity Photo.

Productivity apps

Communication

Credit: iTunes

Winner: Slack

By Slack

Communication is vital if you are to integrate the iPad Pro into your workflow as the primary tool. Luckily, apps like Slack work perfectly. Slack allows you to multitask using split-view, and keep tabs on your channels and messages. It’s a wonderful combination, and similar setups can be achieved with email applications such as Apple Mail.

Credit: iTunes

Runner-up: Zoom

By Zoom

Zoom offers some similar features to Slack but with a greater focus on visual and audio communication through cloud meetings. It’s a really neat application for keeping in touch with your colleagues and handling team stand-ups.

Documents

Before iOS 11, managing and handling documents on iPad was not so straightforward. Now you can use the integrated Files app which is compatible with the likes of iCloud, Google Drive, and Dropbox.

There are also a host of word processors for managing your design briefs and writeups such as Google Docs, Pages, and Microsoft Word. All of these are extremely capable apps in their own right and selection depends on the ecosystem you are invested in.

The iPad also makes it simple to scan PDFs such as sketches, via the Notes app. Signing those NDA’s and other contracts is made incredibly easy with the Apple Pencil.

Summary

To conclude, designing on iPad Pro is very much possible. These examples of different designers producing work on an iPad Pro present some incredible results.

When you delve below the surface there are some really quite exceptional applications. The portability and minimalist setup of the iPad is an attractive proposition. Though it may require the odd workaround, designing on iPad Pro is both futuristic and exciting. If adoption continues to increase, it’s only going to get better and better.


About the Author Ben Bate

I'm Ben, a Product Designer from the United Kingdom. You can visit my website or follow me on Dribbble.