Concept Design Equipment Shoot-out: Part 5

Alright here we are in the final installment of this series. It was such a beast to write but I hope the write up is really useful for all of you who are interested to get into digital concept development. Before we go on do check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 first.

Design Work Flow

We will now look at how these tools function in the work environment its place in the design process, that’s the real reason why we bought them in the first place right?
Sketchbook + Drawing Pen: 6/10
The instant pick up and draw here is great for quickly jotting down ideas and concepts. Its also great for group sketching sessions, where you can sit around with your team members.
However, unless you are willing to rip out your pages it kinda hard to get your sketches up on the concept wall. The only other way is the photocopier, with sometimes its just a pain to get to.
Ultimately for me, the sketchbook is a more personal thing, often a place for my personal cool ideas which I don’t necessary want to share. In the end of the day, for corporate work, I just use a piece of A4 or A3 paper. Makes it also quick work to get it up the sketch wall.
Wacom Intuos 3 Drawing Tablet: 8/10 and 0/10 (Situational)
I gave the Wacom Drawing Tablet a situational score because it’s great in certain situations and horrible in others.
The Drawing Tablet is fantastic, not for sketching actually, but finishing off your sketches. There are some designers that do draw directly on them, but most designers I have spoken to, drawn on paper, scan and color using the Drawing Tablet.
This means you are able to create high quality sketch presentations. I see this as great tool in studios that do use high quality sketch presentations for concept selection. Studios like car design companies and designers that move through the design process quickly and use concept sketches to communicate to clients skipping the 2D stage completely.
And that’s about it. In most cases, in studios like mine, we usually communicate to our clients in 2D and 3D. Sketches are kept for the designers and design management. Thus in our case the tablet gets a 0/10 because we don’t use it at all!
The tablet is also hopeless in group sketching sessions simply because sketching collaborations is almost impossible, as only one person can sketch on the canvas at the time.
At the end of the day it really about how you want to communicate to your client. Great concept sketches or 2D or 3D? This will really help you decide to buy it or not.
Toshiba Portege M200 Tablet PC: 6/10 and 2/10 (Situational)
Like the drawing tablet, the Tablet PC gets a situational score. Not as extreme of a score as the Intuos, but still situational.
This tool is really great for the solo designer or a designer that does the majority of the design him/herself. Its a great way to also sketch with the client and make quick modifications on the spot.
However that’s about where the advantages end and it starts to get it’s 2/10 score.
The PC’s lagging pen and small screen really makes it tough to do the real high quality sketch illustrations. It still can be done but be prepared for a lot of zooming.
It does not get a flat 0 because group sketching is still difficult, though its a lot easier for collaborations compared to the Drawing Tablet. However at the end of the day instead of a photocopier you have to get yourself to a printer to get the sketch out on the sketch wall. So it loses points as it’s now an additional step of getting it to the PC that is connected to the printer. Unless that is, you have a wireless printer or a docking station for the Tablet PC.

Final considerations and last parting thoughts

Its really a privilege to own all 3 tools, as I get to play around with it and try it in all situations. But I must say at the end of the day, Ye olde Sketchbook is still the best and the cheapest. Its really versatile and the battery will never die. I do slightly regret purchasing the other 2 tools.
I would place the Tablet PC in terms of function in between the sketchbook and Drawing Tablet. However its not perfect as a drawing tool or a digital canvas. The added advantage is that it is a pretty powerful PC and pretty decent (if you spec out) running 2D and 3D programs, not to mention emailing, blogging and surfing the net. I would skip it if you already have invested in a desktop, but if you are like me, living without a PC in the first place, its a good choice to pay a little more instead of getting a desktop.
We end this series with my parting thoughts with the Intuos 3. It probably the best digital concept tool you can buy, using it is almost as good as paper, but only to a certain extend as its usage is really task specific. Like I said its a great finishing tool, but unless you are also going to draw directly on it and the majority of your design work is digital (read digital artist) then I would not bother. Also one more thing, after reclaiming your table space with an LCD expect to lose it with the Intuos 3 at least with the A4 size and above.
Finally, despite what they say, some people never quite get used to the disjointed drawing on the tablet. Getting the tablet as close to the screen as possible helps reduce the disjointedness, but delicate hand work such as sketching is still difficult, thus making this tool great for large arcing lines such as those used in shading or coloring.
I hope you enjoyed this beast of a review and do stay tune for more great content and design resources by Design Sojourn.

  • DT

    December 4, 2008 at 1:13 pm Reply

    Hi DOHboy,
    Sorry for the late reply. What you are doing is not what I would consider sketching.
    I view sketching as fast visuals to represent and idea in its entirety. I supposed sketching an idea by tweaking a general profile also works, but if you like to do it this was you would probably have to use software like Alias studio for option 1, and for option 2 Alias or Rhino.
    However I do, recommend, that going into such software should be when you have the design worked out on paper first, and then using Alias to create that hot presentation sketch!
    Good luck!

  • DOHboy

    November 27, 2008 at 4:03 am Reply

    Good review, i understand your rating with the situational clause, but i was hoping it would help me make a choice between buying one or the other.
    In your review you talk of finishing your sketches digitally with the both mediums. What is your opinion for which one is easier to do the following.
    1. I like using digital media because i can drag and manipulate my curves and do alot of “save as” concepts tweaking the styling lines or trying different features out on the overall product.
    2. Using photos of a model or subject and creating sketches of the top to draw out unshaded line to be printed for further sketching and shading.
    I have a current work flow of sketching from blank then scanning taking a concept i like and digitally tracing the outline and then tweaking these curves to explore similar options. I feel when im dragging these curves im losing the natural shape that my hand originally created and am hoping that instead of dragging these curves i can create them again using a stylist for a more natural result.
    What should i choose to help me get more out of my current work flow?

  • Design Translator

    November 20, 2006 at 6:18 pm Reply

    Hi Aprilday,
    Thanks for your comments and please do keep in touch.

  • Aprilday

    November 20, 2006 at 5:28 pm Reply

    I used to draw on the wacom, Cintiq. (similar to tablet PC)
    However, I find that working hours on the screen can really strain my eyes. And sometimes you will get quite close to the screen to draw small details. And remember its not a paper, it still a screen, lited and should always keep a distance.
    Try working on the wacom for hours, and u will know wat i mean. 😉
    Pen & Paper still work the BEST! Get your thought fast down!
    As for tablet, yes i agree with you, only for finishing work.
    And yes, I do have frens who work directly on tablet, but do calculate the amount of time spend. Maybe should have a competition to see which is more efficient. 😉

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