This Year's Killer App — Pen and Paper
There's something big that the smartphone, try as it might, has not been able to stare down into oblivion: pen and paper.
February 7, 2012
Mark W. Smith
surging smartphone has succeeded in rendering many other gadgets obsolete.
alarm clock? Who needs one?
GPS navigation system? Why pay for one when you can get turn-by-turn for free?
there's something big that the smartphone, try as it might, has not been able
to stare down into oblivion: pen and paper.
as we scramble to replace our daily activities with simplified digital
solutions, there's still nothing quite like writing something down.
interfaces, even for the agile-thumbed, can be cumbersome.
like the Apple iPad are popping up in more boardrooms, but anyone who tries to
take notes or manage a calendar on one quickly runs into problems. The novelty
factor quickly fades as men and women in suits struggle to thumb in notes
during important meetings.
one of the most competitive app categories today is productivity and task
management. It seems every week there's a hot new app that promises to
streamline our digital lives, linking things like to-do lists and calendars to
help keep us focused.
Siri digital personal assistant, baked into the iPhone 4S, includes a
much-hyped feature to help add reminders to a calendar.
fact, that's where this column began — a list of the best apps to help you stay
even this tech columnist, who spends an embarrassing amount of time each day
perched behind screens of all sizes, quickly came to a realization.
still nothing better than paper.
Best tool for the job
pen and paper have found an unlikely ally in Detroit-based designer and
developer David Klawitter.
as he works to create innovative digital interfaces for the Web and mobile
devices, his process is decidedly analog.
designs begin as a sketch on paper, many of which are often spread across his
desk in the newly renovated Detroit Labs offices inside the M@dison — a Dan
after Klawitter's ideas are fleshed out does he begin building app interfaces
on a computer.
Klawitter, paper is the only way to ensure he's allowing himself to sketch
freely, without the constraints that come with a computer mouse or tablet
don't focus on the details," he says. "Just put the bulk of the work
as someone who designs interfaces for mobile devices, Klawitter realizes that
he's asking people to do something cumbersome.
input of information is still a little strange," Klawitter says. "It
doesn't feel right."
friction is not lost on Field Notes, a brand of actual paper notebooks that has
seen its sales increase steadily the last few years, even as the legion of
smartphone owners also grows.
a charm to Field Notes — my favorite notebook. They're modeled after
promotional notebooks once given to farmers by seed companies in the 1930s and
'40s, says brand manager Michele Seiler.
has become so digitized, that this is sort of deliciously analog," Seiler
says. "You can hold it in your hand and write it down and it fits in your
back pocket. I think people like the nostalgia of that."
pocket-sized charm has propelled Field Notes to a darling status of sorts in
the movement to push back on some of the digital intrusions in our lives.
Notes are now carried in J. Crew stores nationwide and customers snatch them up
at diverse places such as a high-end men's fashion store in the UK and a
hardware store in Texas.
it's OK — join the steady numbers of people reaching for the pen and paper.
Reports of their demise — death by app, apparently —
have been greatly exaggerated.