Adobe's Comp CC iPad app.
Adobe Adobe's new Comp app offers built-in commands for typical design geometries. 

Sketching with a pen and paper may be considered old-school in the age of apps, but it's usually the best way to record ideas quickly regardless of location. With its recent launch of Comp, an iPad app that turns rough drawings into wireframes and layouts, Adobe hopes to bring that analog brainstorming process into the digital age.

The free iPad app pulls in the design assets of a user’s existing Adobe Creative Cloud and Creative Profile libraries, including images, colors, and vector shapes, as well as fonts from Typekit. A single-source file saves all past versions of a layout. And the program sharpens lines and rounds out curves to turn roughly drawn shapes into standardized—and usable—geometries. Sketches can be export in multiple file formats, including JPEG and PNG as well as directly to InDesign CC, Illustrator CC, or Photoshop CC with live, native objects, allowing users to finish the job with the full resources of a computer.

Though the software’s target audience is graphic and layout designers, it also has appeal to architecture firms that have their own in-house content divisions—a trend that we covered in-depth last fall. Plus, who doesn’t love a sleek design app, particularly one that makes our rough drafts look better?

Adobe's Comp CC iPad app.

As Wired notes, the app hones the value proposition for the tablet as a design tool by bridging between desktop-centric and programs and a mobile platform suited for informal use on the go. “There’s a brainstorming stage for every designer,” Comp developer Khoi Vinh told Wired. “But I think there’s an unmet need, because pen and paper have been the tools of choice. With touch devices there’s this opportunity to get the best of both worlds, and to work as quickly as you could on paper, and be as disposable as paper.”

Comp isn’t alone in helping designers pair their desktops and tablets.

Two former Apple developers recently introduced the interface app Astropad, which allows users to mirror what's shown on their Mac desktop on their iPad. And the New York–based Morpholio Project’s latest app, Board, lets designers collect, collage, compare, and present digital swatches of material, photographs of products, and more in a share-able format that harnesses the Internet's creative capacity on the go—a veritable Pinterest, only with more presentation options and an integrated product library.

But the Holy Grail, it seems, is rendering paper digital. Notebook maker Moleskine is on it, partnering last year with Livescribe to design a notebook that digitally stores notes taken down with a Livescribe smart pen. The company has also teamed up with Adobe to create an app that lets designers turn sketches drawn in a Moleskine Smart Notebook into digital Creative Cloud assets by photographing the page with a companion app

Though architects won't likely be designing buildings using only tablets and smart phones any time soon, it wouldn't be a bad idea to invest in a good stylus.