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Adobe and former NYT designer Khoi Vinh made a super simple design app for iPad

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Over the past few years, Adobe has been making a concerted effort to build apps that could eventually become as important for creation and design on mobile as apps like Photoshop and Premiere have become on the desktop. As part of that effort, it ended up speaking with designer Khoi Vinh, known for overhauling The New York Times' website during the late 2000s, and using his input to create an iPad app for quickly throwing together layouts, be it for a website or a flier. Today, that app is finally being released under the name Comp CC.

Vinh wanted to start his layout work on an iPad

Adobe calls Comp CC the "digital answer to the back of a napkin," and that's a pretty good way of putting it. The app is supposed to allow designers to quickly sketch out a layout as they would on paper and then take that sketch a step further. Rather than leaving a designer with shapes and lines, Comp CC allows designers to import their own images and access TypeKit's font library. At the end, they should have something that resembles a usable rough draft, which can be imported into Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign for further work.

comp cc

Comp CC really plays off the idea of sketching. Rather than selecting "circle" or "square" or "text," you just draw a circle or a square or a couple of lines, and Comp CC fills them in with proper placeholders. As you're sketching, you can then change an image placeholder into an actual image or switch the font used in a line of text. The app wants to help you make something that looks pretty decent pretty quickly.

Vinh demoed an early version of the app, then going by the codename Layup, at Adobe's conference last year. Vinh said that he told Adobe he wanted to be able to start his design process on an iPad. "I'm a big fan of these devices," he said. "They're so powerful, so comfortable. They're reshaping the way we think about work. And I believe they can also reshape the creative process and change up how we approach creative problem solving."

Adobe obviously doesn't expect anyone to do all of their work in Comp CC, but the idea is that it can be used to get some work done — and maybe even in a more constructive way than other tools would have allowed. The iPad still sits in a weird place between being powerful enough to assist "real work" and being used too casually to generate "real work." Comp CC seems to play to that middle ground: it's powerful, as tablet apps now can be, but it remains straightforward and focused on moving quickly, without total precision. That's a nice combination, and it could make Comp CC the kind of mobile app that Adobe has been looking for.

"It’s not a desktop tool that has been ported to the iPad or a replica of real world art materials," Vinh writes in a blog post. Instead, he says, Comp CC is designed to be "a wholly different approach" tailored to the iPad's strengths.

Comp CC is, naturally, meant to complement a Creative Cloud subscription. You can use the app even if you don't have one, but you won't be able to take your creations much further when you're done. The app is free to download and use, though you will have to sign up for a free Creative Cloud account.