What does iPad mean for designers?
Now that the iPad is out let's think about whether it is a useful tool for us designers. Sure it can serve all the business and entertainment needs we have, but does it have the ability to help us professionally? Can the iPad makes us more creative, more efficient and can it help us with our everyday design tasks? Let's take each activity we do as designers and see if iPad has a place in it.
As a designer you need to go through a lot of information. Part of it is inspiring and relaxing, such as looking at other people's work, reading about trends, etc. You can do this right now on a computer screen and some of it in printed magazines. You could try to use your laptop to be away from your desk too. The iPad however will allow you more freedom and flexibility. It's much easier to sit with an iPad in hand than trying to find space for a laptop on small table at a cafe.
The other part of being informed needs concentrated effort, like reading emails and doing tutorials. Emails can be done while commuting on the iPhone, but iPad will be much easier to use. Tutorials and other serious stuff will have to be done on the big screen.
Bottom line, the iPad has a place here and somewhat helpful.
Most of us gravitate to less phone calls and more written communication, in email, chat and various project management applications. The iPad can't make phone calls, but can do all the rest better than an iPhone or a laptop as it's more convenient to carry around.
The iPad has a place here too.
Doing research and background work
Must of our actual work is getting ready for work. Looking through what others have done in the related industry and finding inspirational and resource material for the job at hand. While this can be done on an iPad, it is more efficient to do it on the largest screen available to you. Also, saving files for reference needs to be done on the computer where the actual work will be done.
The iPad can be of help here, but will not be the primary device.
Sketching and ideation
It's easier and more intuitive to do this on paper, but I imagine your designers adopting the iPad for this purpose.
Limited use here.
Doing design work
Besides the fact that iPad can't run Adobe CS applications at the moment the screen at 1024x768 isn't suited for serious and efficient design work.
The iPad will not replace your big screen and computer until it has a larger version running all OS X apps.
Most of us already show our designs on a laptop screen or on a projector when presenting. The iPad will be a great device to present your work especially when you're dealing with your client on a one-on-one basis. It's not suitable for large group of clients.
Showing your portfolio with the iPad's is also very effective and cool.
Clearly the iPad has a great role here. It can essentially sell you and your work to clients.
Recreational design related activities
If you like sketching and doodling for artistic release the iPad will be of great help as it's big enough for half serious work and small enough to carry around easily. You could of course do it with a simple pen and paper.
You may like reading magazines and books about design and art in general. The iPad can be helpful here too, but printed books and magazines can still be an easier and cheaper option at this point.
In short, the iPad is useful but not essential.
The iPad will save you time and effort in design related support activities and will play a huge role in presenting your work. It will not replace your phone, laptop or desktop. At the price of US$500 I think it's highly recommended for designers. You can earn that money back in just one job that the iPad helped you get