Anyone Still Want to Contend That the iPad Isn’t a Creative Tool?

By  |  Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 3:59 pm

“The iPad is for consuming content, not creating it.” iPad skeptics have been repeating that mantra for months now. It’s become clear that the rap is a snippy, simple-minded exaggeration of two more specific facts about Apple’s tablet:

  1. After eight months on the market, it hasn’t yet matched all the creativity apps available for Macs and Windows (two platforms that have been around for more than a quarter of a century).
  2. Most writers aren’t going to be crazy about cranking out massive quantities of prose on its on-screen keyboard. (Even that is subject to debate: Macworld Editorial Director Jason Snell wrote this article entirely on an iPad, and it recently won an Azbee award.)

But while it’s true that the iPad can’t replace a Mac or Windows PC for every creative task, the evidence is piling up mighty fast that it is an exciting creative tool. Yesterday night, I dropped in on a San Francisco art show called Future/Canvas, and I can’t imagine any rational human being attending the event and continuing to maintain that the iPad is only for passive, sheeplike intake of content.

(Sorry for the quality of the photos that follow–I snapped them with an iPhone 3GS. Sadly, it’s a mediocre creative tool, at least as far as its photographic capabilities go.)

As far as I know, Future/Canvas was the first multiple-artist show that consisted entirely of works created with iPads. Much of the art on display was in the form of prints of digital paintings and drawings created with apps such as Brushes and SketchBook Pro

But iPad art was being created on the premises, too…

…and attendees got the opportunity to interact with iPad art apps such as TypeDrawing and Magic Window.

The exhibit’s music was courtesy of Rana Sobhany, a DJ who does her thing with…well, look¬† below.

Among the notables who attended: Steve Wozniak (who needs no introduction) and Yiying Lu (creator of Twitter’s Failwhale and cofounder of Walls360), seen in this photo by Dale Larson.

I chatted with Josh Michaels, creator of Magic Window and one of Future/Canvas’s organizers. I asked him if he planned to mount more iPad-art shows, and he paused and mulled it over before answering: He wasn’t sure, because it was an expensive proposition. I’ll bet this isn’t the last event of this sort, though. And I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if art created on iPads becomes so common that it stopped being noteworthy. I mean, when did you last hear anyone making a fuss over art simply because it was created on a Mac or a Windows PC?


Read more: , ,

13 Comments For This Post

  1. Nigel Barber Says:

    We have only begun to scratch the surface of the iPad's creative abilities. I couldn't wait for it to be released as I was so inspired by its potential that I created an app, Vectoria, which was designed specifically for a larger touch screen.

    I am now happy to say that the iPad is an amazing creative tool, and there is so much more to come.

    Vectoria is at I hope people enjoy it as much as I do.

  2. spinoza2 Says:

    I've always just assumed the people who've been claiming the iPad's only for consumption are themselves deeply uncreative. Almost as bad are those who equate being creative with drawing or audio-visual apps. There are now countless creative writing apps available, how about WordPress? Having the ability to write and directly publish to the world is a pretty powerful tool! The onboard keyboard works great on the iPad, but I also use my Bluetooth keyboard a lot.

    Or what about all the mindmapping apps, like MindMeister, Popplet, or iThoughts? What about OmniFocus, OmniGraffle, Numbers, Keynote, or Pages? What about all the dictation and transcription apps, like Dictamus or Dragon Dictation?

    What about WritePad, the handwriting recognition app? Geez, what about Adobe Ideas, SketchBook Pro, or PS Express?

    What about the countless language learning apps? Or the explosion of education apps, like Star Walk or The Elements?

    Clearly, the people who claim that the iPad is only good for consumption are clueless!

  3. Guest Says:

    That is the difference between true creatives and poseurs. Poseurs complain about what a tool can't do, and how it's limiting them, without even trying the tools first (see the first link for evidence). True creatives are too busy creating with whatever tool is on hand to waste time whining about it.

  4. ediedi Says:

    Why? Just to justify a gadget's 'street-cred'?
    Smells of PR stunt.

  5. Fred Says:

    There's a big difference between saying the iPad's not a creative tool and saying it's far better suited to consumption than creation. It's mediocre at best for working with words, and I'd never use it for anything longer than a blog post, which doesn't not count as long form. Apple certainly hasn't packaged it for creation by the masses, with no camera an no way to easily get images on the device. Can you create with it? Sure. Is it as well-equipped for creation as consumption? No way.

  6. David Says:

    Sure. Cause a camera is the only way to get images onto the device. I mean, all those people doing digital and video editing strap desktop PCs or laptops to their backs with cameras attached.

    Thanks for proving Guest's point.

  7. The_Heraclitus Says:

    I've used an iPad. Cool device. Do I like typing on it? Not at all. COULD I use it to render in blender? I'm sure I could (if it ran on it). Would it be anywhere as good as my desktop & input peripherals for it? Not a chance in hell.

    Could I use my 10 speed to commute to work in the rain? Yep and, I would if I had no other way.

    In short, just because I CAN use a pipe wrench for a hammer and it'll work fairly well, I'll choose an actual hammer if it is available. Pure logic.

  8. Albert Says:

    And I chose to see the situation this way, Heraclitus. If what I find myself doing most of the time is putting nails into walls to hang pictures, do I really need the multi-magazine, air-compressor actioned nail gun with laser sighting?

    Or would the ease and speed of using a hammer be perfectly apt for my needs?

    But, you’re right, I would be sacrificing the thrill of using heavy machinery. That can be fun in and of itself, but not at all necessary.

    And great alternatives are not always a compromise to be avoided at all cost.

  9. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Absolutely Albert. Each should logically use the tool that enables the most productivity. For those people who don't do work that requires a real computer, just like those whose work doesn' require a real hammer, the iPad could be the right tool.

    I guess that goes with being a successful exec. Don't spend extra money to become less productive…

  10. Reece Tarbert Says:

    Could you create content on the iPad? Sure, if you want to prove a point (and get some publicity in the process) but how is this better or more convenient than the alternatives? I mean, most of these examples seem to belong to the "in spite of" rather than "because of" category…


  11. @zachishi Says:

    Seems to me that if this was a google product all these comments would different. "wow this is what an open platform can do" or something like that. There is a lot of hate these days.

    I think these works of art made with any device or platform are just that, works of art. Do they really need to be qualified.

  12. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Really? Why would having Google manufacture it change reality?

  13. @paulconley Says:

    As luck would have it, NPR has a piece today on Hockney's use of the iPad for art.