Best in Show: Paper and Pencil


When we invited three bloggers to walk the floor of CEWeek NY and search for the products that most excited them as or for seniors, we had no plan to pick an editor’s award.

We saw some some products we hoped our bloggers would notice – among them, the Rocki Play (what a neat solution for those of us who want to keep using our great sounding analog stereo speakers but have moved on from CDs); Skulpt AIM (beautiful in its simplicity and ease of use); and Jabra‘s tiny but powerful wireless speaker with microphone (perfect for anyone who wants to amplify phone or Skype conversations, or, as Jabra says, for turning your phone, tablet or laptop into a portable jukebox; like iHome speakers, this one has NFC for easy bluetooth pairing).

Our Winner

Then we turned a corner and  ran into fiftythree‘s booth, where the company was demonstrating the pairing of two products: it’s Pencil, a digital stylus that looks like a woodworker’s pencil; and Paper, its free iPad app that offers a carefully conceived suite of tools for artmaking, as well as a flourishing community for sharing work.

We were hooked.

Fiftythree’s Paper app is not designed for seniors – it’s designed for everyone. It is streamlined and intuitive, with no small fonts to squint at or buttons to aim at. To mix or smudge colors, you simply… mix and smudge. The Pencil, especially the more expensive Walnut version, is light and easy to hold. This is tactile pleasure at its best – and however inexperienced an artist you are, the results look great. (Note: You don’t need Pencil to use Paper, but we recommend the pairing.)

The applications are simple: You can sketch, paint, draw and write for fun and relaxation (trust us: this is an intensely relaxing experience); you can make a card and mail it directly from the app to your friend, or a grandkid; you can print a Moleskin-like notebook of your work – also straight from the app; and you can connect with other Paper and Pencil users in the fiftythree community to share your work or comment on theirs.

In the fall, the community component will be getting a boost, and fiftythree is hoping that people of all ages will collaborate on artworks, as well as forming bonds across generations – even borders.

We hope so, too.

Pencil is available on, $59.95 for the Graphite version and $74.95 for Walnut; Paper is available for free in the iTunes Store.


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