Designing with an iPad?

Affinity Designer takes us one step closer to designing full time on iOS.


I’ve been thinking lately about switching to an iPad Pro for most of my computing tasks. I’m about to go back to grad school and an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard is a tempting solution for note taking and research.

For writing purposes, I currently use Ulysses and Bear for writing and both of those work seamlessly across Mac and iOS. Updating my blogs with iOS won’t be a problem. I’m intrigued by apps like Linea and Sketchbook Pro that take advantage of the Apple Pencil, but other design apps are where I start to struggle with the switch.

Maybe that’s starting to change, though. This week saw the release of vector design software Affinity Designer for iPad and an announcement from Adobe that they plan to bring a full version of Photoshop to the iPad next year. What’s left that’s keeping me from making the switch to iOS?

  • Fonts. I know Adobe and Affinity have ways to handle font installation, but the lack of a central way to install typefaces across iOS is problematic for designers. One of my issues is that I want to install typefaces that I’ve designed and aren’t in an online library like Typekit.
  • Multipage Document Design. I’m not sure an app like Adobe InDesign (or the forthcoming Affinity Publisher) will ever make the jump to iOS, at least not in their current form.* It’s not that iOS isn’t powerful enough, but I’m not sure the long document design paradigm works on iOS with a touch interface. The interface and underlying concepts would have to be significantly reworked to get a workable long document solution. And apps like Affinity Designer may be able to fill some of the shorter document use cases.
  • Type design. I use Glyphs for typeface design. I can’t see type design coming to iOS either. I don’t know that the audience for an iPad version of something like Glyphs is big enough to justify the development costs of the software. Plus, testing fonts and installing plugins would be challenging given the sandboxing restrictions that Apple has in place for iOS.

I could easily do 90% of my work on an iPad, but I’d need a Mac for long document work and type design. I may still buy an iPad Pro** — after the inevitable upgrade this fall — and use it as my daily computing device, but I’d probably be better off with a MacBook, at least for the next few years.***

* I wouldn’t put it past Affinity to eventually develop a version of Affinity Publisher for iOS. They seem to be focused on providing an alternative to the full Adobe Creative Cloud suite and the subscription model. Developing full versions of Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer for iOS is a massive differentiating factor.

** I’m tempted to buy the new $329 iPad that works with the Apple Pencil. But I really want the smart keyboard and everyone says the Apple Pencil is significantly better with the iPad Pro.

*** I love the form factor of the current MacBook, but I’d really want a little more power and at least one more USB-C port.

Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, grad student, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. He recently finished a project to design a new shirt a week for an entire year. Follow Bob on Instagram and Micro.Blog.