is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
I’m still having a lot of fun with Apple Pencil and Adobe Illustrator Draw (see what I made with them last week). Here’s a new drawing, of a young Elvis Costello. I’m not sure if I got the likeness really right, as portraits are not really my thing. But I do know I had a lot of fun doing it.
As I’ve been using the Pencil, I’ve naturally had lots of thoughts about its design and how it works. Here are a few of them, randomly ordered.
The weight of the Apple Pencil feels just perfect. It’s substantial enough to be very satisfying to hold and write and draw with, but not so heavy as to be wearying to use. I’m not sure that any stylus should cost US$99 the way that the Pencil does, but this one is built solidly enough to make a pretty convincing case for the price tag.
As elegant a design as the Pencil is, I can’t help but feeling that it’s not a finished design. That there’s no way to attach it to your iPad, and there’s no available pen clip (there are cheap hacks out there, but none of them seem perfect). Those are two of the more notable shortcomings that people talk about frequently, but just as significant, in my mind, is the fact that you need an adapter to charge the Pencil with a Lightning cable.
The cap at the top of the Pencil hides a male plug that lets you charge the stylus in your iPad’s Lightning port, of course, but it’s very awkward to do so, and I would prefer to just be able to use the same cable I use to charge my iPhone. The Apple Pencil box ships with a strikingly diminutive Lightning adapter that lets you do that; I lost mine within a day or two.
I added a Pencil Cozy to the top of the Pencil to prevent loss of the cap. It’s also a great way to easily identify your own Pencil if you’re in a room full of people who are using iPad Pros and Apple Pencils, which is something that happens at Adobe.
Lastly, I’m very eager to see Apple Pencil support migrate further down the iPad line. I demonstrated Pencil and Illustrator Draw for several people, and more than any other demo of what an iPad can do, what I heard was, “I want one.” Apple Pencil really feels like a killer app for the iPad, but it faces a big problem right now: it’s not exactly cheap, and it also requires spending at least US$599 on an iPad Pro (or at least US$749 for a 128G model, which is really the smallest capacity model anybody should be buying). That price point is a significant hurdle for non-professional users, and I hope Apple clears them soon. Imagine if, by this year’s holiday season, Apple releases an iPad mini-style tablet—something at an entry level—that works with Apple Pencil. That could make for the biggest quarter the iPad has had since its launch.+