As a new member of the Elexicon team, I wanted to learn more about not only our design processes but other communication professionals in our community. So, on January 17, 2019, I attended a West Michigan PRSA event on the topic of design thinking. The educational event was led by the West Michigan Center For Arts + Technology (WMCAT). The hosts were Brandy Arnold and Kirk Eklund, and they targeted the one-hour conversation toward PR practitioners.
What is design thinking?
According to the hosts, design thinking—or human-centered design—is “intentional problem solving.” This mindset can be applied when constructing products or processes.
This intentional problem solving method has a five-step approach that was originally proposed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. The five steps are:
Brandy and Kirk informed us that the five-step approach is not linear and that there will be no clear step to transform and/or solve a problem. Design thinking can even revert back to the first step due to research findings along the way. That said, it is important to include empathy in each step because centering the target audience will ensure a successful outcome for the entire process.
A design thinking example
To dig deeper into the impact of design thinking, Kirk provided an example: an MRI machine created by Doug Dietz, a designer at GE Healthcare.
Dietz created an MRI machine that was supposed to change healthcare. Although the MRI machine was helpful for providers, he discovered that patients, specifically kids, were afraid of the machine. He was dissatisfied with his original invention, and sought to find out why the kids feared the machine.
Dietz utilized the first step of design thinking: empathy. Through his study of how kids felt about the MRI machine, he found that younger kids feared it because there was a lack of adventure in the MRI experience. From this insight, Dietz adapted the machine to create the Adventure Series.
The results of Dietz’s human-centered design approach were outstanding. According to Kirk, the sedation rates of MRI experiences dropped from 80% to 1% from these changes. Furthermore, this example shows the tremendous impact of a collaboration between innovation and empathy.
To understand this design thinking example further, watch a TED Talk led by Doug Dietz himself.
“When you design for meaning, good things will happen.”Doug Dietz, designer at GE Healthcare
To wrap things up, I learned that design thinking is a flexible process that can help solve problems in unique ways.
Elexicon takes a similar approach to design thinking and human-centered design, which we incorporate into our agency principles. I believe that this process can help you solve even the most complex problems, and provide valuable insights for any company or organization.
As a designer, I’m always looking for ways to improve my workflow by practicing my craft, honing in my skills, and looking for tools—both software and hardware—that might make me a better, more proficient designer.
Years ago, I began using a graphics tablet to aid in my design process for digital illustration, photo editing, graphics creation, etc. Almost immediately I saw the benefits of using a tablet over relying solely on my mouse to navigate my designs. The pen provided a much more natural editing experience than clicking around with a mouse, and made the analog illustrator in me happy. Beyond that, the literally thousands of pressure sensitivity levels through the pen on the tablet give so much control with photo editing, illustration, and design work compared to the single pressure level of a mouse. I now encourage any budding designer to invest in an at least an entry-level graphics tablet to help improve their design workflow. It only makes sense.
Years after purchasing my first Wacom Bamboo tablet, I wanted to upgrade my available design real estate, which brought me to the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium. The Intuos served me well for 5 years, yet my ultimate goal was to invest into a tablet that offered the flexibility of designing directly on the device. After much research, I eventually purchased the Wacom’s Cintiq Pro24.
The CintiqPro is one of Wacom’s flagship design tablets. This particular model and its siblings the Cintiq Pro 13 and 16 were released earlier this year, with the 32″ model being released a little over a month ago.
The Pro24 has a 24″ 4K screen with superb color accuracy—able to display 99% Adobe® RGB. I won’t get into all the specifics on the hardware, but if you’re interested, you can find details here.
Wacom’s long been the target of complaints from people having issues with their drivers and installation on their products. For my part, I’ve never had issues with installation for any of their products.
The CintiqPro comes with essentially every cable you’d need depending on the computer configuration that you’re running. I’m working on a late-2014 Macbook Pro, so my connectivity setup includes a DisplayPort cable with DisplayPort-to-Thunderbolt 2 adapter (both supplied by Wacom), as well as a USB cable for all functionality of the tablet to work properly.
The cables tuck in nicely to the back of the hardware, making cable management a bit easier,while allowing for different angles to adjust the display for working comfort. If you find yourself with $3,000+ burning your pocket, Wacom also makes a product called their ProEngine that fits nicely into the backside of the display where the cables plug in. This essentially turns your design tablet into a workhorse computer—no longer requiring an external computer to power it. If you want to pretend you’re going to buy that and see some specs, check those out here.
I will say that on my computer, those inputs get quite crowded. Fortunately, I would rarely use both of my external monitors alongside the tablet for my work. Still, I will be investing in a new DisplayPort-to-Thunderbolt cable soon, so it won’t be quite as crowded. For those running computers compatible with USB—C, such as the newest Macs outfitted with Thunderbolt 3, this wouldn’t be an issue.
Calibration of the pen and display was also a breeze, and took mere minutes to run through. Within 15 minutes of getting the product out of the box, I was up and running and ready to design.
Yeah, this thing is big. If you’re going to invest into a graphics tablet this size, make sure you have sufficient desk space to accommodate it. The tablet itself weighs nearly 16lbs, so it might not be super comfortable to use in your lap, but I also would argue that’s not the intended purpose of this device. I’m honestly thrilled with how much real estate there is to work on here, and the 4K resolution is great, so the tradeoff between portability and real estate is favorable.
The surface of the tablet itself is great to design on. The top of the tablet is completely flat etched glass which gives a very natural feeling for the pen. Because the surface is devoid of bevels, it’s also incredibly comfortable to lay your arm on, and you can travel the full surface of the display without interrupting your pen stroke.
Wacom also has a model of the Cintiq Pro24 that supports touch functionality. After much research, I opted out of that $500 upgrade, as many designers and artists I read about complained of glitchy performance, which often resulted in them just turning off the touch functionality while designing with it. With the ExpressKey Remote functionality (covered below), I’m able to cover basically all the bases I need if I really want the ‘convenience’ of touch functionality (minus the glitchiness and added $500 pricetag).
The pen itself is a bit narrower than its predecessors and is very comfortable in the hand. The pen has virtually no lag or parallax on the display, supports tilting or shifting of the nib for different design effects, and doesn’t require a battery at all.
The pen touts 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, compared to Microsoft’s Surface Pen at 4,096 levels of sensitivity (and added requirement of a battery) or other smart pens like the Apple Pencil. The Wacom Pro Pen and other Wacom hardware are engineered and built specifically for design professions, and their product orientation reflects that. So I’d argue that the comparison isn’t direct, though Apple, Microsoft and others also provide good alternatives. I’ve read plenty of articles that compare and contrast Wacom products to those produced by Apple or Microsoft, but it’s a little ‘apples-t0-oranges.’
Because of the edge-to-edge screen, Wacom has obviously removed any physical buttons from the surface. The power button is along the top edge of the tablet, and the side edges have inputs for USB and MicroSD card slots. And there are a number of under-glass buttons that allow you to access system and display settings along the top right edge of the display when under power. All of the actual hotkeys and controls from past tablet models now live in Wacom’s ExpressKey™ Remote. The remote itself is included with the Cintiq Pro24, but can be purchased separately from Wacom for a little over $100 and is compatible with other Wacom products.
This thing is awesome.
The keys are fully programmable and allow you to toggle between commands. Because the remote isn’t connected to your tablet, you’re able to position the keys where it’s comfortable for you. This is especially great for right or left-handed designer’s preferences. The remote itself also has a magnetized base so it stays in place on the device if you have it resting on the side. Wacom provides a charger for the remote, which plugs directly into the tablet, and allows you to use the remote while charging as well.
OK, I won’t say these will be technically my final thoughts since I’ve only been able to use this for less than a week, and I’m planning to do a follow up after I’ve been able to use it for a greater length of time. What I will say is that the design experience on this thing is incredible. For me, integrating a graphics tablet into my design workflow was a game changer years ago, and investing in the CintiqPro 24 is just another huge step in that process. I’ve already seen it help aid in the accuracy and speed that I’m able to edit photos, illustrate, and produce designs.I can’t wait to find additional opportunities to continue using it to further develop my skill set and offerings to our clients.
Product Pros & Cons
It’s a product review. Can’t have one without a pro/con list, so here you go.
- A beautiful 4K display.
- A large, completely flat design surface to work on
- The build-quality and apparent durability of the device.
- The ExpressKey Remote is super convenient and is very easy to configure.
- The battery-free Pro Pen 2 with 8,000+ levels of pressure sensitivity.
- An adjustable base for design-angle flexibility.
- Out-of-the-box connectivity options from Wacom make set up easy.
- At just over $2,000.00 for the non-touch model, it’s pricey.
- The large size won’t be for everyone. It’s not a tablet you’re going to take to the coffee house with you to work on.
- The DisplayPort-to-Thunderbolt 2 converter is a bit bulky (but I am thankful it was provided).
- The cables in general are long. Not a huge deal, and it does allow you to move the tablet around quite a bit, but cables all over my desk drive me nuts.
Here’s a quick sketch I did the night I set up the tablet, which was the same night of Stan Lee’s passing. I’m forever grateful to him for his creativity and the universes he crafted. He was an inspiring individual to me who was part of the driving force that encouraged me to pursue a career in art and design.