10 iPad Apps for Designers

September 24th, 2010 by Rich Barrett

The iPad may be the greatest device for consuming content ever but how useful is it for those who create content as well? Specifically for designers like myself. Let’s not kid anyone. This is not going to replace your desktop or laptop machine (yet) but there are definitely a good amount of apps out there that you’ll find either useful, interesting or inspiring.

I’ve only had my own iPad for a couple of weeks now but here are 10 apps that, as a designer, I’ve really been enjoying.

1. iMockups
iMockups is an app geared towards throwing together quick, low-fidelity wireframes for websites and mobile apps. It gives you a great, simple tool palette to let you easily add items like photos, greek text, buttons, breadcrumbs, navigation, etc. Plus if you are collaborating with other people there are some great markup options like post-it notes, arrows and big red Xs. There is also a whole section of items just for designing iPhone and iPad apps.

Even for print designers I could see this app being used to throw together some quick and dirty page layouts while you’re riding the train or sitting on the couch. You can export your projects or individual pages to various formats and email it to yourself or save it to your iPhoto library.

2. Sketchbook Pro
Sketchbook ProThere are a lot of drawing and painting apps out there in the App Store. Everyone is probably already familiar with Brushes from their iPhone app, which gained popularity when people started doing some pretty astounding illustrations with it like this cover for The New Yorker last year. Sketchbook Pro is pretty comparable to Brushes and they each have their own advantages and disadvantages but what I like about Sketchbook Pro is that it is focuses a little more on sketching rather than painting. The interface is actually a bit complicated and takes some getting used to but with a variety of pencil and brush tools and a little patience you can create some pretty nice little drawings. Great for sketching on the go if your sketchbook isn’t handy. Plus you can import images from your photo library to draw on top of and export your finished drawing into a variety of formats including a layered PSD file.

The iPad is not pressure-sensitive like a Wacom Cintiq but you can pick up a stylus like this one that might at least make the drawing process feel more natural and less like finger painting.

Of course you can also just go with the free Adobe Ideas app that will let you draw out up some quick ideas with little fuss.

3. Getty Images
GettyPhoto searches can be one of the most time consuming parts of a design project. Why not do it while sitting on the couch?

Getty‘s new iPad app let’s you search their image library, access your Getty account and add photos to lightboxes. It’s a nice looking app with an interface that is derived from the main site but updated for the touch screen enviornment. You’ll find that it’s a pretty comfortable way to spend a few hours trying to find the perfect stock photo.

4. Fontbook
Another part of the design process that sometimes you just want to do while lying down is browse through fonts. With Fontbook you can load your whole font library via iTunes or Dropbox (though to be clear you’re not actually installing them on the iPad to use with other applications) and preview them in a nice display that really shows off the character of each typeface.

5. Moodboard
FREE or $6.99 for the Pro version
Moodboard allows you to create an arrangement of photos, text and colors that you can use while in the ideation stage of a new project. Import photos from your iPhoto library or grab something from Google Image Search. Crop, rotate, set them in little picture frames and arrange them in layers on one of the backgrounds provided. You can also create a 5-swatch color palette to display alongside the photos. It’s surprisingly enjoyable because the app makes good use of the iPad’s two-finger controls by letting you easily scale and rotate the items.

Upgrading to the paid version basically allows you to do more of everything: more moodboards, more colors, more backgrounds, etc.

As a fan of the online image bookmarking services like Image Spark, this will fill the hole that is needed for pooling together inspirational found images for now.

6. Flipboard
If you’ve got an iPad and are even a little into social media you probably already know about Flipboard, one of the most striking apps on the market. It aggregates feeds from Twitter, Facebook and other sources and displays them in a beautiful magazine-style format. I find that the aestheticly pleasing presentation makes for the perfect one-stop shop for perusing my usual sources for visual inspiration. Of the many pre-made channel options that you can add to your board are feeds from yay! everyday, Cool Hunting, Behance, Print Magazine and Drawn! Since you can add a section for any of your Twitter lists I’ve created one for all the Design resources I follow like Webdesigner Depot, Design Newz, Design.org and others.

7. Dropbox
You probably already know about Dropbox so if you’ve already got a free account go ahead and connect to it with your iPad. Very simply this app lets you access a variety of file types on your iPad from your other computers via a shared Dropbox folder.

8. Palettes
FREE or $5.99 for the Pro version
Palettes let’s you create and modify color palettes and (with the paid version) email them to yourself for use in various creative applications. I found the interface to be a little complicated and unintuitive at first but there’s a lot you can do with it once you figure it out. One of the neatest features is that you can import a photo from your iPhoto library and it will create a color palette based on that photo.

9. iFontmaker

As far as fonts go, Fontbook may be more useful on an ongoing basis but this one makes good use of the iPad’s touchscreen and for some people may be a good selling point alone in getting an iPad. iFontmaker is a font editor that let’s you create your own hand-made font and export it as a TTF file. A lot of people, like me, have been meaning to try making a font out of their own handwriting for a while and this is an easy and fun way to do it.

10. Guardian Eyewitness
To tell you the truth, this one is probably my favorite of all of these apps. Every day, Guardian.co.uk uploads a new photograph that has appeared on their news site and gives you a little description about the subject as well as really interesting “Pro Tips” that display specific info about how the photograph was taken. Each and every one is breathtaking when viewed on the iPad’s screen, making this a great app to go to for some daily inspiration.

What other apps have you tried? What are your favorites? Even better: What apps do you want to see someday? Feel free to comment below.