Replacing my trusty moleskin with the iPad mini
In the past I’ve waxed a bit lyrical about the importance of authentic experiencesas well as how skeuomorphism could continue to have a place in digital design, but only if it relates to how physical experiences can be used as shorthand for digital ones.
My most recent encounter with the jarring gulf between digital and real was when I got an iPad mini and started to look for a notepad app that would replace my moleskin.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPad mini. It ticks a lot of boxes for me. For a start it’s a mini version of an existing thing, a fact that will always appeal to me. Plus, its just brilliantly convenient, it fits in the pocket of my bag and I can carry it around the office along with my coffee cup, water bottle etc without difficulty.
It’s perfect at home too, propped up on a pillow with the Gruffallo on, or for reading a book on the bus. It even works really well for email and calendar and is starting to seriously replace my Macbook for these workaday tasks.
However, the one thing I promised myself I would try to use it for is proving beyond its capabilities.
I get through notepad after notepad at work. For organising my time, taking notes in meetings, sketching design ideas, and planning out projects.
I wanted to switch away from paper to using only my iPad for these tasks. Largely for the convenience of being able to sync, share, paste and edit, but also with saving the trees in mind.
But, despite some rather frustrated and increasingly costly trials, I simply couldn’t find one app that would cause me to make the switch from the real thing.
In the end, the results of my search could be categorised into two camps:
- Those elegantly simple apps that did one thing really beautifully
- Those that tried to be like a proper notebook/app combined that had all the functionality, but were too complicated to use intuitively.
At Fjord we believe that great design has simplicity at its heart. Luke Forsythe one of our leading services designers, referring to the design bible, ‘The Universal Principles of Design’s’ ‘flexibility-usability tradeoff’ believes strongly that mobile design in particular will move ever closer to simplicity.
He states the new going out app YPlan as a great example of this done brilliantly, saying about it: “It’s about starting small, staying focused, and cutting everything out but the core.”
However, in a world where pixels on a touchscreen are a proxy for real life experiences, how can we design beautiful, simple interfaces that are also flexible and intuitive enough to accommodate the non-simple needs of humans?
As Seth Godin says in his latest book ’The Icarus Deception’, talking about the human need to create art, “it works the way our brains do not the way our machines do…”
Sometimes an approximation of reality is just not the same as the real thing…
But this feels like a lost opportunity to me as it leaves me in the less than ideal situation of having to use a set of multiple, disconnected tools. So, i will keep searching for that perfect app. Designers out there…get onto it…