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.
Craighton Berman is the founder and creative director of Manual, a design brand that makes designed objects for food; he is an adjunct professor at University of Illinois at Chicago currently teaching "Entrepreneurial Product Development"; he has design work in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago; he was the first designer ever to use Kickstarter to launch a product; he taught a drawing workshop to Disney Imagineering; and he has a YouTube video with 5 million views.
Core77: What kind of design work do you do?
Craighton Berman: My studio practice essentially has two sides—product design and visual storytelling. On the product side I have a startup called Manual where I create and launch designed objects for food and drink. On the visual storytelling side I combine illustration and design-thinking to tell stories and bring ideas to life. This manifests itself in many different ways from illustration, to rapid visualization to animation. In one week I might find myself creating comic-like illustrations for a book, large-scale sketchnoting a strategy session for a large cultural institution, running a brainstorm session for a consumer product company, and creating an animation that explains how a new technology works.
What do you find yourself using sketching apps for?
I use sketching apps for the majority of my client work. The functional reasons is time: digital sketching allows me to quickly iterate and share that work with almost no additional work after creating. However over time it has also influenced my drawing style and has become an aesthetic as well! At my studio I might be doing illustration on my Cintiq for animation or publication work, on a tablet I might be doing on-site sketchnotes or storyboarding an animation while on a flight.
Which do you use most and why? How does it/do they compare with others?
My work generally comes out of Autodesk Sketchbook and Adobe Photoshop. I use Sketchbook for all of my up-front concepting and roughs because it's lightweight yet powerful and it exports to high res PSDs. Once I move into final production I can open my roughs in Photoshop to refine and finalize. I have used Sketchbook on every platform from iPad to iMac, but recently I have fallen in love with the version they made for the Microsoft Surface.
The Surface has the best digital sketching experience I have used—screen resolution, pen sensitivity, pen distance from drawing, kickstand, removable keyboard, and most importantly palm detection. Sketching on a Surface in Sketchbook is the closest thing to pen to paper I have experienced—plus it also runs a pretty killer touch version of Photoshop. (full disclosure: I work with Microsoft, but I truly love this product) I have dabbled with a handful of other sketching apps, but find that many others offer various features and novelties that are interesting, but I tend to want the tools to get out of the way while I work. The best way to do that is to learn one platform and stick to it until it becomes transparent.
How does it fit your sketching style?
My sketching tends to be loose yet confident and minimal—I like drawings that employ as few lines and colors as possible. I've found that sketching on a plastic screen has influenced my style to be much more fluid, and the ability to create quick underlays, re-arrange the pieces for composition, and then create a final drawing allows me to be much more stream-of-consciousness without worrying about the final result. I love the clean lines created by digital sketching—I tend to avoid the use of airbrushes and any other tools like that in favor of harder edged lines and color fills
Which features do you enjoy or rely on the most? What do they allow you to do?
Layers—I can't imagine life without them! Always a light grey underlay, a black linework layer over top, and colors beneath that linework layer. Every piece of the drawing is on it's own layer for max flexibility. I'm always zooming in a ton to do any sort of text—it's really hard to control your handwriting at a normal scale.
Any pet peeves about the app(s) you use?
My pet peeves are mainly around the app getting in the way of getting in the flow of drawing. Sketchbook does a great job of letting you get immersed in sketching and doesn't make you focus on the tool, but any time I'm forced to think about the interface—saving files comes to mind—it really breaks the 4th wall and becomes a lot less appealing.
This article is part of the Core77 Tech-tacular, an editorial series exploring the myriad ways that technologies are shaping the future of design.
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