We talked with some seasoned sketchers about their app-inions and how and what works for them. Read more from Core77's Sketching App Showdown, including Chris Cheung's introduction to digital sketching, in the Core77 Tech-tactular.
As Chief Design Officer of Sound United, Michael DiTullo is a passionate advocate as well as experienced practitioner of design. In addition to his work at Sound United he frequently consults for the epic artisans car maker, Icon. DiTullo holds a BFA in Industrial Design from the Rhode Island School of Design and also studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art. His work has garnered international awards and has been featured in many media outlets and publications.
Core77: What kind of design work do you do most?
Michael DiTullo: My background is in industrial design, but as I’ve grown in my position now I’m responsible for a team of designers in the ID, IxD, and brand design spaces. My personal work is still mainly ID focused in CE, Footwear, transportation, and other lifestyle goods.
Audi R8 sketch by Michael DiTullo on an iPad
What do you find yourself using sketching apps for?
I mainly use sketching apps for rapid communication. I travel a lot, so being able to sketch on my phone or my tablet allows me to be in constant visual communication with my team as we bounce ideas back and forth. Sometimes I’ll sketch over my team’s CAD, or jot down notes and doodles on the go. I also find it personally enjoyable to be able to focus on doing a great sketch on a plane or in a hotel room and not need to bring any additional materials. I haven’t turned on a TV in a hotel room in years.
Where do they fit into your creative cycle?
I use digital sketching apps in my entire design cycle, form strategy frameworks, to concept generation and ideation, all the way through annotating production work.
How, if at all, do sketching apps fit your sketching style?
I think most designers love tools. For me the sketching apps are just another tool. When I’m with my team at a big table during a brainstorm session, we use paper and sharpies, and pencils because those are the right tools for that kind of collaborative social interaction where we are sketching on each others work and getting ideas down. At my desk I’m usually on my Cintiq in Photoshop or Sketchbook because that is the right tool for that setting. On-the-go I’m on my tablet or phone…though the tablet Sketchbook app is getting so powerful that it is almost good enough to replace the desktop.
Bell & Ross watch sketch by Michael DiTullo
Which do you use most? Which features do you enjoy or rely on the most? How does that compare with other apps?
I’ve experimented with a lot of apps but I always come back to Autodesk's Sketchbook and Adobe Photoshop. The tools are great, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that familiarity didn’t play a part. I’ve “grown up” with these apps over the years and for me, I want to focus on getting the ideas out efficiently. I don’t want to be thinking about how I get a certain tool to function.
Are there things you can do with an app that you can’t with a stronger program or on paper?
The main benefit is the pure portability and immediacy. I always have my phone, I frequently have my tablet. The app is always there. I’m not going to travel with an airbrush…though I used to travel with a dozen or so markers, white and black chalk, and Prisma pencils, it just isn’t very practical. The ability to simulate all of those tools and to be able to share it immediately via email, Dropbox, social media, what have you, is amazing. Frankly it was almost unimaginable 10 years ago, and now it is just normal.
I also mix mediums a lot. I’ll start a sketch in my notebook, or on a scrap of paper, take a quick pic of it with my phone, and then start adding color, editing it, pushing it, riffing off it and iterating. That ability is very liberating.
Footwear sketch by Michael DiTullo
How does in-app sketching relate to your other work (or play)?
I’m amazed how much they have integrated into everything I do at work and how easy it is to open up sketchbook on my iPad sitting on the couch and just doodle a bit. Change is good. Change keeps you fresh. I love seeing what other people are doing with these tools on Coroflot portfolios. It pushes me.
Any pet peeves about the app(s) you use?
At the risk of sounding like an old man, it is the small changes that don’t seem logical. Downloading an update and then having to find where layers are, or why the airbrush was moved off the main palette, it is just a small pain point really, but typically this also comes with a big improvement somewhere else in the app so the momentary discomfort is worth it. Discrepancies between desktop tools and mobile app tools can also be frustrating, but are understandable in terms of the scale of the app and the processing power available.
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This article is part of the Core77 Tech-tacular, an editorial series exploring the myriad ways that technologies are shaping the future of design.