Ipad for architects

iPad for Architects: The Truth of a love/Hate relationship

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December 2015. I was in a California Apple Store and I was in love. I bought the first generation of iPad Pro. We all know its fun and beautiful to use. But is it actually productive for architectural drawing and design? After 5 years, I give you an Architects honest opinion (well mine) of what I think about the ipad Pro. Warning: you may not like what you are about to read. Here’s ‘iPad for Architects’…

The Beauty

When you see the commercial on TV and try it out for first time, it is definately amazing – it is beautiful and fun to use and you believe this thing can be very useful for drawings and design. I’m pretty sure I remember Apple showing an architect use it in one their commercials.

ipad beauty

The Ugly

For me, my hand on the glass and the apple pencil on the glass, they never feel 100% comfortable, this is the truth about ipad for architects. That plastic sound you hear when the pencil touches the glass screen. It’s the sound of horror movies.  

pencil on ipad

The original pencil was badly designed.  Not only did you have to keep charging it all the time, the pencil was round. There is a reason why pencils are facetted- so they do not roll off the table and lose them. I believe the latest Apple pencil has been redesigned to combat this.

Drawing, Sketching & 3D Modelling

What about work and productivity? For me, when I attempt to actually do any ‘real’ drawing work, the ipad  wastes my time and turns out to be unproductive. Obviously the reason for using the iPad is to save time at work. At work you just want to draw something quick. You do not want something taking up a lot of your time.

I have gone through countless apps including 3D software like FormIt, amazing drawings apps like Concept. They make it look so easy. Its not. I spent many days trying to model something simple in 3D with the pen in FormIt. It was one of the most horrible digital experiences of my life. The Apple pencil does not work well for modeling in 3D. So you can forget about that idea. You have to zoom in and out, swivel left right, sometimes I had to use my hand and the pen alternatively. When I went back to the mouse, it was like a big weight being lifted off my shoulders.

3D Modeling with ipad


“…the term ‘faffy’ always comes to mind.”

When it comes to free hand drawings, the term faffy always comes to mind. Zooming in and out, clicking in wrong places, having to pan around. So many times changing the pen types (because there are so many), settings, finding the correct app, updates, the list goes on. It’s good for a few things like taking a photo, then sketching over it, now thats something your couldn’t do quickly before. But honestly, I have not replaced it with the real sketchbook yet.

Because there are so many apps and techniques available. Creativity and trying out new things is wonderful. But I find that’s the reason why its not ideal at work. This is for presentation techniques, it’s not for designing.

So every time I sit down to do draw something on ipad, I end up drifting off doing something different or downloading a new app or updates then before you know it, you’ve wasted an hour of your time. The fun factor in the iPad is actually a disadvantage for production, its takes me twice the amount of time as, say, sketching on old piece of paper or even drawing it on your usual software with a mouse in the office.


Showing Off iPad for Architects

One of the best things of course is displaying your portfolio or showing work with clients in meetings. However bare that aside, one of the best things about it is the ability to use it as a portfolio at interviews. Still not as good as a real portfolio, because the screen will inevitably rotate of go all over the place when someone touches it but it’s getting better as people become more used to the ipad. The ipad pro 12.9″size is much better for interviews than the smaller ones. Don’t forget, a lot of people say you will be ahead of the game if you show some real sketches at interviews, I’m not sure if a digital sketch counts as a real sketch. From personal experience I’ve won jobs because i’ve taken real sketches on tracing paper in my portfolio before.


Of course I strongly believe the ipad is the best thing to use for surfing the web. Its just a beautiful and comfortable experience. You can sit anyway comfortable with a big screen and Surfing is a dream. Also Watching video. Having said that, because everything is usually on my phone, I’m using it less nowadays.

Social media can be a good experience. One hand Facebook and LinkedIn have an excellent experience on the iPad. On the other hand, apps like TikTok and Instagram are actually better on the phone.

ipad for architects best for surfing

Mark ups

Mark ups at work were one the main reasons I bought the ipad Pro. You ipad Pro can quickly reply to an email and mark up something and reply back. It was a great idea until you actually done a few times at work with something important. Sure it does work and its ok. Again, the novelty wears off after a few weeks. I remember I spending an hour marking something up, sent it, and for some reason it did not send and it was lost forever – because it was inside mail.

The way you share files and the way documents are saved on the ipad is a bit unreliable, maybe that’s changed since I’ve written this but I don’t particularly want to find out again but losing more work. So that was one of the last times I used that. Sure its ok on a train or on the go . I’m actually back using adobe on my workstation at work. – its still quicker. I know you can not draw curved lines very well with a mouse, but you hardly need to do with mark ups. I’m not drawings art. Writing seems to be quicker for me on a a real keyboard too., but it still takes longer mark up something on ipad than my workstation in the office, I don’t know why.

markups for ipadpro

Love it or Hate iPad for Architects?

I have seen articles all over the internet boasting the ipad is a good design tool. Maybe it is. It does encourage creativity, in new ways. I do believe this is is only really for certain niche designers and only a few little things.  Also if you for travelling, but how many architects actually travel when working, most people do work in the office and its certainly quicker so I do not think its a game changer. I think the main great thing about the iPad for architects is that its like a portable drawings package all in one where you can take it anywhere. Like carrying around thousands of pens and pencils around with you.

tools for ipad

I wonder if I had all those things available I would probably be spoilt for choice and spend too much time deciding what to use – exactly what the ipad is like. .I’d like to know, are they actually doing work or just having fun? Maybe both. But please, don’t show another advert with architects using it.


📐Russell M. Henderson is a practicing RIBA Chartered Architect based in Tanzania, East Africa.

🎥Russell (Architect Russell) also makes videos on YouTube , TikTok & Instagram sharing thoughtful, honest and pragmatic knowledge while working and living abroad.

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