The TX2 pen and Apple Pencil

Something I  was very excited about this week was a new Apple release. What caught my eye was the Apple Pencil. Jony Ive, Chief Designer Officer of Apple, has been my ID inspiration for years now.  When I read the release of the Apple Pencil it immediately reminded me of a product he designed 20 years ago. I remembered reading about this design in his biography;  Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products. Working at the Roberts Weaver Group, right out of college, Ive designed the TX2 pen. This pen, along with its beautiful form, suprised the design world with its function. Not only did the pen have the obvious qualities necessary for a writing utensil; it also had a  “non-functional” ball and clip mechanism at the top. The reason behind this was what Ive described as “fiddle factor”. He noticed that people enjoyed, and often found it necessary, to have something to play or “fiddle with” while in meetings, long discussions, etc… in order to focus on the task at hand while having a mundane distraction. This idea really fascinated me. That sometimes an object or part of an object, can really have a such a simple use,  in this case, increases a user’s happiness ever so slightly.

Looking at the Apple Pencil, despite it being different in function to the TX2 pen, reminded me of the pen in appearance. They both have sleek, round, forms and are almost completely pure white. Despite the Apple Pencil having no “fiddle factor” component,  that type of innovation has definitely made the pencil as exciting as it is to someone like me.

When I first watched the release video, I was mesmerized by the variety of the pencil. Not  only is it an upgraded version of the market’s current styluses and tablet pencils, it  allows for different widths, styles and textures of sketching. I have never sketched on a tablet or Ipad before but the Apple Pencil makes it seem so easy and possible, which is, at the end of the day, is what makes people want to buy things. Feeling that not only is a product “cool”, but that you will be able to understand and enjoy using it is what makes products not only marketable, but popular. The interaction between the pencil and Ipad screen has been described to be so flawless that it appears to be as smooth as ink flowing out of a real pen. With added pressure by the user, the line weight heavies and thickens. This is what true innovation means to me. In one single stroke, a line can be both thick and thin, which not many materials can achieve, either on paper or tablet.

Finally, what impressed me was that the Apple design team did not exclusively think about how to improve current styluses. They also realized that to make this product successful, they had to redesign the surface of what it was going to be drawing on. Along with giving their pencil a finer tip, they redesigned the sensors in both the tip of the pencil and the display of their Ipads to ensure compatibility. The two writing utensils, although used in very different ways, both have a clean look and simple form, which users always gravitate towards. The beautiful simplicity of these two products made me excited to find out more about them.

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The TX2 Pen                                                                              The Apple Pencil