Scribbles Ignores the Conventional Wisdom

January 29th, 2010

Check BoxI just recently downloaded Tweetie, a desktop twitter client, and noticed that the company who makes it also makes a product called Scribbles. Noticing that its homepage proclaims Scribbles is ‘Incredibly easy to use’ and has a ‘Revolutionary User Interface’ I decided to give it a spin.

Scribbles is an ideal addition to any visual designer’s toolkit – it is simple without being simplistic, has features designed to enable creative flow and speed, and generally does a good job at what it claims to do. While I found its control over color a bit frustrating, the layer control and ‘trace’ tool were both features that I can actually see myself using. For a small piece of software like this that relies on demo versions to spur purchases, a handful of features that stick in a user’s mind can mean the difference between an application that is used once out of curiosity and one that is purchased and becomes a valued tool.

Scribbles Sketch by unidendified artist from Scribbles GalleryWith that said, after using Scribbles for an hour or so, the biggest insight I came away with was that it really is designed to be used on a tablet computer, or at least with a tablet input device. First, Scribbles’ tools respond to pressure, which obviously makes use of a tablet ideal. Second and more importantly, without the array of mechanical tools like bezier curves, lassos, masks and all of the other little robot helpers designers use, Scribbles relies on the fine motor abilities of the user’s hand. In fact I feel that the design is revolutionary precisely because it it designed from the ground up with the hand in mind.

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MacLife had this to say:

Its bare-bones aesthetic doesn’t come from dumbing down the program’s capabilities, but rather from cleverly removing unnecessary complexity.

Personal Anecdote: A classmate of mine in design school hurt his right hand badly in an accident during the school year. A talented and experienced illustrator, he was distraught that the multiple surgeries and six months of physical therapy would derail his entire semester. One of his professors took it in stride and simply said to him – “well, just use your left hand.” He did, and being the talented individual he was, could soon draw and paint deftly with his left hand, with a looser, more expressive (and IMO more interesting) style.

I suppose this story goes to the heart of the point I am trying to make here, that sometimes removing ‘crutches’ that we use and starting from the ground up allows us to see things and communicate in ways we didn’t even know we could. I look forward to more software that challenges us in this way.

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