Javier Galindo / Morpholio

New York–based design studio Morpholio continues its quest to digitize quintessential design tools with its latest app, Journal (iOS, free). Joining its predecessors Trace, Board, and Crit, the combination sketchbook, notebook, and photo organizer offers the functionality of architects’ much-endeared analog notebooks, but with the added performance of a digital product that exists in the Cloud—and without the risk of being lost or coffee stained.

Journal users can add an unlimited number of virtual pages to the app on which to sketch, paint, type notes, or scrawl annotations with a stylus or their fingers. They can also upload and draw directly over an existing image file, such as a photograph or project detail; like the real deal, the added markings will transform with that image if it is moved.

Users can swipe through the pages of their sketchbook to reference an idea and track its progression. Morpholio co-creator Toru Hasegawa, who is also co-director of the Cloud Lab at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation, says the ability to revisit ideas  previously jotted down is what distinguishes Journal from existing sketching apps, such as Paper, Autodesk SketchBook, and the now-defunct Adobe Photoshop Touch. While these apps are intended to achieve a singular output—an illustration, for example—Journal is about having “no end to a drawing,” he says. “Journal is an idea-think app. We want to keep the ideation there and keep it messy.”

Journal’s highly responsive, page-turning navigation—this isn’t your typical e-book or e-magazine’s laborious, slow animation—was designed to support how our brains process information, Hasegawa says. Scrolling through pages horizontally, as with the iPhone’s photo library, or vertically, such as with a PDF document, is not an efficient way to parse through all the data available in today's digital age.

Rather, he says, “in-place picture replacement,” where images flash before a user's eyes and the backdrop stays still, allows them to register up to 15 images per second and to reflect on their work without it becoming a chore. “Letting users respond to their own images is significant,” he says. “You are trying to learn what your brain does well.”

Journal comes with a digital brush, pen, and eraser; other writing implements—including a highlighter, charcoal, and Chinese wax pencil—are available as in-app purchases. Myriad page types, such as grid paper and calendar pages, as well as 16 color palettes, are also available for purchase.

Karl Bengzon / Morpholio

Users can post page spreads to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The Morpholio team is working on adding the abilities to share an entire journal, to print pages or the entire book, and to search through journal contents. Virtual sticky notes can also be added to pages, but their usefulness as tab bookmarks is forthcoming.

This app should be welcomed by those who resolve to keep a journal but never do—after all, it’s rare to see a designer without a sketchbook, tablet, or smartphone in hand these days. “You can literally live your whole life not making any mark,” Hasegawa says. “If there’s nothing to look back on, did you exist?” Well played.

Stallan Brand / Morpholio