I've been doing a ton of training, consulting and public speaking lately about Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, EPUB, and designing for tablets. I ask two questions of almost every audience. 1) "How many of you here today are designers, art directors, or production artists?" and 2) "How many of you own a tablet?" Most audiences I speak to are almost entirely designers and related disciplines, so almost everyone raises their hand to question one.
But I'm almost always surprised by the few hands that are raised in response to question 2. In my experience, graphic designers are reluctant to jump on the tablet bandwagon, and this surprises and disappoints me.
I'm convinced that tablets are kind of a big deal. Tablets are primarily content consumption devices. Total worldwide iPad sales hit 55.36 million through December 2011. Trendforce predicts that 94 million tablets will sell in 2012 alone. NPD DisplaySearch predicts this number will be up to 383 million per year by 2017. If these predictions are anywhere near true, that's a lot of people with tablets consuming a lot of content. Who's best at curating, creating, and presenting that content? You, the designer.
Those of us in the design industry share a common problem. When we retrieve the mail, what do we do? We look first at how each print peice is designed, judge it good or bad, look at the typography, try to identify the typeface, smell the ink and determine if it is soy-based, and examine the varnish and the paper stock. Then we look to see if it's addressed to us!
If you think that you're going to learn how to design effectively for tablets without spending the same kind of time looking critically at tablet content that you do print content, you're mistaken. You need a tablet now so that you can be reading digital magazines, consuming on-screen news, reading ePubs and iBooks, and learning what types of interactivity work and which don't. I'm convinced that as a designer you need to immerse yourself in the world of tablets and start developing a new visual literacy in screen-based design.
Three times in the last few months I've been asked to train designers on how to create tablet apps with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, but the company didn't provide the designers any access to tablets. That's like asking a designer to create a full color annual report using only a grayscale monitor, no printer, and no ruler!
Once you start to design apps and eBooks for multiple platforms, you'll find that you'll need to have one of each of the devices you are going to create the content for. So if you are going to create an app for iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and Kindle Fire, you'll really need to have access to each of these devices so you can preview and troubleshoot.
So there you have it. If you've been looking for an excuse to get that shiny new iPad, this is it!