Courtesy of Morpholio
Morpholio Trace lets users sketch on layers of digital tracing paper and store, share and critique design work through the Morpholio app.

Mobile devices have seen unprecedented growth recently. Apple alone has sold over 84 million iPads in the past two years. It is clear these devices have changed the culture of digital-media consumption, but have they changed the way designers work?

The Morpholio Project, a digital-media company started by practitioners and academics in the design professions, enters the currently limited field of design-oriented mobile-device apps with the goal of expanding productivity beyond the studio and desktop computer. In October, the company released Morpholio Trace for the iPad, a supplement to its core Morpholio portfolio app.

Launched in late 2011, Morpholio allows members to store, share and critique design work. Trace, along with the Morpholio app, is available for free from iTunes. The new Morpholio offering is a "sketching" app that performs much like tracing paper, transforming a mobile device into a palette for quick iterative design. The app works by overlaying a blank page, images (JPEGs only) or one of many grids, storyboards or figure templates (99¢ per set) to start a sketch.

To create or annotate a drawing, multiple layers of digital tracing paper can be added to build up dense, although somewhat limited, images. For this purpose, Morpholio Trace works quite well. The app is responsive and lines are rendered smoothly, but using a stylus improves consistency and accuracy. One of the app's creators, Mark Collins, called Morpholio Trace "productively constrained," offering only three options for pen thicknesses in either red or black. In just a few minutes, one becomes accustomed to the location of different line weights and colors, so the drawing process feels intuitive.

Learning to use the app is easy: The erase, undo, save and e-mail functions are all accessed from a single toolbar. For more complex, nuanced drawings, there are apps with more functionality—such as Autodesk Sketchbook, a popular drawing tool for mobile devices among designers.

In contrast, what Trace offers beyond sketching is its connectivity to Morpholio. Although the apps are now separate, there are plans to combine the two in the coming year, allowing Morpholio members to share visual, not just textual, feedback.