What a difference a year can make!

Where it all began...

I have about 30 sketchbooks and Moleskine journals lying around that I have used to track my ideas, designs, learning, and experiences over the years. Occasionally I open them up to reference different events or for inspiration, but for the most part they are just collecting dust. 

Last fall, I discovered the many benefits of digital drawing, and have since jumped in with both feet. My first attempt at digital drawing was when I attended the Tableau Customer Conference and decided to create a sketchnote journal to remember the experience. After trying out a handful of apps, I decided that Paper would be the best tool for the job. Its simplicity and realistic feel of the pen tool is what sold me at first, knowing that I would be writing a lot of notes and needed to be able to quickly select new colors or tools. I only discovered other great features like zooming, rewind, and background fills as I got in the groove. 

I've been relying Paper ever since, I think because even as they add amazing new features, they maintain a fast and intuitive interface that I need. I will use other apps like Adobe Draw, Photoshop Mix, Procreate, and Notability depending on what I'm trying to accomplish. But anytime I want to take notes, spitball ideas with clients, or generally need to work quickly and efficiently, Paper is my jam. 

And where it has gone....

I thought it would be fun to share how much both I and the app have improved in the past year. First, I'll share some sketchnotes I did at a Data Viz DC meetup in October 2014: 

Visualizing Beer Styles, October 2014

Visualizing Beer Styles, October 2014

Anytime I messed up or wanted to relocate something, I'd have to erase it and rewrite (so basically avoided that at all costs). I liked grouping different text with this hash mark type of outline and used the watercolor brush quite a bit for texture/color.  

Now check out my sketchnotes from another Data Viz DC talk just over one year later: 

Time Maps and Follow That Bus, November 2015

Time Maps and Follow That Bus, November 2015

First thing you probably notice is that the text is TINY! This was my first time using the iPad pro and I'll definitely need to limit myself to a minimum text size next time. But there are so many enhancements that FiftyThree has added to Paper in the past year that make this 10x easier to create and a much cleaner final product. I'm constantly reorganizing the page, moving chunks of text or images with the cut tool. I'm drawing cleaner looking charts with the diagramming tool, and quickly highlighting chunks of text with the fill. It's made my life so much easier, and I can't wait to see what they do next.

And now for a quick comparison: 

  • No Think Kit vs. Think Kit
  • No Pencil vs. Pencil Stylus
  • First Generation iPad (pretty low res in comparison)  vs. iPad Pro (super high resolution + huge screen) 

Where it will go next...

I'm not just using the iPad for digital sketchnotes. It's my primary tool for researching, conceptualizing, and prototyping as I set forth to build a business where I'm trying to help "set the squares free" with visual thinking. My iPad has fully replaced those old journals, and has facilitated more sharing, collaboration, and quickly capturing inspiration on the go. I'm considering different ways to make this accessible to people who aren't naturally inclined to sketch their ideas, and I really hope to help solve the problem of virtual collaboration and brainstorming (I'm imagining people whiteboarding together, but on their iPads from cities around the world). Would love to hear any of your thoughts on the topic!