Yesterday, a headline from Wired caught my eye: “Sorry, Apple. Turns Out Designers Don’t Use iPads.” The story briefly mentions the Adobe demo featured at last week’s Apple Event, and then moves on to share a statistic from an informal survey by Adobe’s principle designer, Khoi Vinh. According to his survey of 4,000 designers worldwide, 64% say their favorite brainstorming/idea generation tools are pen and paper.

Given my current research project on tools used in collaborative planning, this finding was not surprising so much as it was validating. Certain snippets of the article resonated so well with what I’m finding that it was almost spooky. Take, for instance, this paragraph on one reason paper is superior to the tablet:

The ephemeral nature of a sheet of paper is key. Design critic Steven Heller points out that ideas on tablets just aren’t as easy to share. “If you’re going to start passing things around in a meeting, doodle-like, a machine distances you from the core of the idea,” he says. Think about the feeling of showing someone something on your phone: You’re always ready for them to hand it back. With a piece of paper ripped from a notebook, that sense of ownership isn’t a factor.

“Ephemeral” was an early name for one of the categories I’m using to code a planning/brainstorming session for a group of workplace writers. I’ve now shifted the terminology, but the principle still holds. For the group I examine, the “ephemeral” nature of their tools (whiteboard and dry-erase markers) are key. They can toss out ideas without having to commit to them heavily–one swipe of an eraser and they’re gone.

I am still working on this project, but will be reporting more on it soon. In the meantime, it was exciting to find confirmation that these ideas hold true outside the world of writing as well as within it.


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