Peter Arkle

Sketching isn’t only a means for designers to create works of whimsy that never make it past the drawing board. Done right, the process should pinpoint a building’s quirks and problem areas early, before the sketch segues into design development. While many designers turn to paper and pencil, a growing number of digital tools are becoming available. But creating accurate and usable sketches requires more than an app. From an information-sharing stylus to a tablet holder that offers physical support away from your desk, these tools aim to bolster your sketching.

Mighty and Napoleon, Adobe Systems
As ARCHITECTreported back in May, the design software developer is delving into the hardware business with an Internet-connected stylus and digital ruler slated for release in early 2014. Produced in partnership with stylus maker Adonit, Mighty will function like a regular stylus but with additional features, including the ability to store and share information among mobile devices, accessible via a forthcoming sketching app from Adobe, Parallel. A button on the pressure-sensitive stylus’s ergonomic aluminum casing will let users access the app’s dashboard without touching the screen. Napoleon—whose name derives from its diminutive size—is a digital ruler designed to project a straight line on the screen.

Nimblstand, Gustavo Fontana
One’s desk isn’t always the optimal place for sketching. From Framingham, Mass.–based industrial designer Gustavo Fontana, this dual-purpose, portable stand props up tablets and smartphones in any work environment. Nimblestand can accommodate tablets up to 9.6mm thick, smart phones up to 14mm thick, and Apple’s wireless keyboard. The unit also can hold a stylus.


Trace 2.0, Morpholio Project
Earlier this week, the makers of popular sketching tool Trace released the first major update to the digital tracing-paper app since its launch more than a year ago. Morpholio Project’s Trace 2.0 has all the fitting of a versatile digital drawing platform, including an expanded color palette that includes hues and textures unique to industry groups such as architects, lighting designers, and engineers. The update also adds 12 image filters that let users view their drawings in different tracing mediums. Also new with the update, past iterations of a design can be viewed as layers accessible by swiping the device’s screen in the motion of peeling back a page. The free app is available for the iPad.

The Morpholio Project

Book, Fifty Three
From the developers of sketching app Paper and sleek stylus Pencil comes Book, a means for bringing ideas visualized using tablets to life in print—all in a gift-able, $40 package. Launched this past October through a partnership with the notebook company Moleskin, Fifty Three is offering the custom-printed book with 15 fold-out pages to showcase a curated selection of user drawings creating using the app. Each two-page spread has the same dimensions as a standard iPad screen and comprises FSC-certified paper. The feature is built into the company’s Paper app and can be accessed when users are ready to share their finished work.

Fifty Three

For designers who dabble in tech—or who simply enjoy a good white-boarding session—AppSeed aims to turn wireframe sketches into working interactive prototypes. Led by Greg Goralski, an interactive media professor at Humber College in Toronto, the app uses open-sourced computer vision code library OpenCV to read and isolate lines and shapes drawn on actual paper, and then transform them into interactive elements on screen. Though each user’s project design can—and should—be manually adjusted during subsequent iterations, Goralski says the software’s goal is to keep the focus of early versions of the design on the user experience. “It is built for the studio environment and to assist in the professional creative process,” he toldForbes. “To allow for more iteration, more brainstorming, to get better ideas at the beginning of a project.” The design team claims to have a working version of the software and raised nearly $45,000 via Kickstarter to fund scalable development.