Behind the Glass: Creative Pros Guide the Design of the Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Companion Hybrid
October 17, 2013

Behind the Glass: Creative Pros Guide the Design of the Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Companion Hybrid

Wacom’s mobile tablets were developed to capture creative inspiration anywhere. The inspiration for the mobile Cintiq line was found in the studios of designers around the world.

Creative professionals turn to Wacom products for greater productivity and control over their creation. Until recently, the Cintiq line from Wacom meant designers had to capture their creation at their desks, but Wacom knew pros traveled to find their inspiration. With this in mind, Wacom’s Ellen Burton, global brand manager, and Michael Thompson, global product manager teamed up with the Human Factors engineers, to create a mobile tablet for rich media creation. The Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Companion Hybrid are the results of that two-year process that started with foam core. A hunk of it, which was then carved down into what Burton and Thompson believe will work for the professional designers, photographers and illustrators that they visit over the course of the product development.

“We create a full-featured foam core model based on the feedback from professionals that we received on the last product. Our aim is to make each Cintiq product as intuitive and helpful for creative professionals as possible,” said Burton.

Burton and Thompson traveled with their foam core models during the development of the Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Companion Hybrid. As part of their process, they visited designers all over the world, often sitting in their studios simply observing the ways in which professionals work. When they weren’t jumping on the plane to visit studios, they read forums, the Wacom Facebook pages and polled current Wacom users.

Challenging Established Assumptions

“When we first started designing the Cintiq, all of us agreed that a 14-inch screen was the right size. Our first foam core model had a 14-inch screen, but when we put it in the hands of designers, it was immediately clear that it was too large,” said Thompson.

The team went back to the drawing board to create a mobile tablet with the smaller 13-inch screen. Not only did the small size make it more manageable for drawing, illustrating or editing photos and videos while on the go, but it was a standard size for laptop bags.

“These two products were created to give creative professionals a mobile solution for their workflow. The tablets had to be both practical and innovative,” said Thompson.

Finding the Bite that Pros Expect

The professionals for whom the Cintiq is built demand a tool that can keep up with the rich media they’re creating. That means that the feel of the stylus and the screen was critical. Wacom aims for the pen and paper authenticity that many pros want. “The surface of the screen had to have some friction. It had to have some the bite you don’t get with other tablets but you do get with paper,” said Thompson.

They began by etching the glass, which had been successful for the larger Cintiq models, but the process of etching the glass for a mobile tablet presented challenges. “We landed on a film for the screen, which makes the screen feel far better to the touch,” said Thompson.

The stylus too received careful attention. Designers wanted the ergonomic benefits they were used to with Wacom. “We learned that lesson the hard way,” said Thompson. “The first prototype stylus we included with the mobile Cintiq didn’t have the Wacom flare and we heard about it.”

After feedback on the stylus from a design firm in Portland, Thompson and Susan Adams from the Human Factors team went back to Wacom to add the flare to the bottom of the stylus. Three days later, they showed back up to the design firm with the new model. The flare stayed. “The designers couldn’t believe we made the change so fast and that we listened to them.”

Optimizing for Pro-Grade Hardware and Software

Thompson and Burton also worked with Intel® and independent software vendors such as Adobe and Autodesk to make sure the mobile devices were fast enough for professionals and would be optimized for the types of software that creative professionals would use.

Intel and Wacom sponsored concept testing and their teams of developers advised on increasing performance and thermal testing. Due to the rich media creation for which the Cintiq Companion is intended, Intel recommended the Intel® Core™ i7 processor for professional use. The 3rd gen Intel Core i7 boasts an Intel® HD Graphics card, Intel® Quick Sync Video, Intel® InTru™ 3D Technology and Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology for a fast processor that won’t compromise the batter and will easily handles the rich media Cintiq users will create. ISVs offered feedback on the types of processors that were optimized for their software, tested the products and have added support specifically for the Cintiq Companion. Inspiration in Surprising Places

“The stand on the Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Companion Hybrid was inspired by a cutting board,” Thompson recalled. The cutting board lays flat for chopping, but then is easily folded up to easily transfer food to a bowl or other surface.

“Everyone wanted their own angle for the Cintiq, but no one could agree on what angle. So we needed a stand that could easily be maneuvered to the preferred angle of the user.” The stand Burton and Thompson developed is made with a living hinge to withstand the constant folding up and down required for mobile use. With all of the feedback and research realized in the final product, Thompson is already working on the next Wacom tablet aimed at rich media creation, while Burton is focused on marketing their current creations. Thompson is traveling to design firms and talking to professionals on ways Wacom can improve the mobile products that Wacom offers. “Mobile is just part of the picture for Wacom. We want all of our products to offer greater efficiency and productivity. Designers who work on older Wacom products tell us that the most important part of our products is the time they save when using our pen tablets. Our mobile devices must always offer that productivity as well as that intuitive use,” said Thompson. To keep up with what’s coming down the line from Wacom, follow Wacom on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.