I recently bought an iPad, and quickly found myself entranced by the experience of it and the possibilities it presents for publishing, design, and creative invention. When I attended the conference “Magazines: From Dimensional to Digital,” I gained some insights about what the future promises.
With the arrival of Apple’s new platform, companies now have a new medium, and a world of possibilities along with it, for creating compelling interactive experiences and content. The numerous media now available—print, web, mobile phones, iPad—each have their unique advantages. The iPad has an interactive vocabulary that is different from websites, and it provides numerous possibilities for creative innovation, revenue generation, and strengthening brand identities.
At Li’l Robin, we are excited about the possibilities and are eager to work with clients
to take advantage of this new medium.
During the next few years, apps and publishing designed specifically for the iPad will provide insight into how the new medium will evolve. Content on the iPad now ranges from what might be described as “interactive PDFs” to apps that take fuller advantage of the platform and its touch control by offering interactive and animated graphics, 360° views, video, and sound. Links allow users to purchase content or products, and to connect to email, Twitter, and Facebook. Table of contents and page overviews are accessible at the touch of a button.
Content designed as simple magazine and book pages works well on the iPad, as the pages are easy to read and maneuver, but the essential question remains: Is this the most effective and engaging use of the medium?
I ♥ My iPad
As a platform, the iPad has a variety of key advantages: Its design allows users to interact with it in a variety of settings—while sitting at the breakfast table or relaxing on the couch—making the experience of the iPad more of a leisure-time diversion—and not work. The larger, richly colorful screen also makes it a far better medium for reading than the iPhone or the current generation of the Kindle and other e-readers.
The publications created for the iPad meld the design and layout of print with the interactivity and rich media of the web. With these capabilities, the iPad can significantly enrich the storytelling aspects of narratives told in books, magazines, and on the web. This is particularly true for photography and travel projects, where the ability to access maps, high-resolution images, and information graphics makes the experience much more immediate. The app interface can be simple yet simultaneously offer a great deal of information at the user’s fingertips.
We believe that the better the design, the better the reader’s experience will be. At the same time, it will be crucial to evaluate editorial content to determine where interactivity and multimedia will be a meaningful enhancements and where they’re merely gimmicks.
Magazines: Paper or Digital Elastic?
The magazines Wired, Time, Popular Science, and Men’s Health, to name just a few, have been early adopters of the iPad as a publishing platform.
At Wired and Time, editors and art directors work simultaneously on the print and iPad editions. They evaluate editorial content and determine early on which elements will get enhanced with added interactivity. This demonstrates a savvy approach: Content for each medium will be similar but must be conceived and designed to take full advantage of the unique capabilities of each platform.
Wired also worked with the type studio Hoefler & Frere-Jones to refine the main text typeface used in the magazine so that it allows for the best possible reading experience: A custom font was given a taller x-height, making it easier to read.
In a nutshell:
• Consider the different platforms and what will work best for each one. Assign additional editorial and design elements accordingly.
• Make sure the multimedia content is creating a more meaningful way of engaging with the material.
• Adapt the editorial and design approach for each medium.
• Maintain a consistent brand identity and overarching strategy throughout the platforms.
Books: The iPad Wonderland
The iPad offers endless possibilities for books, especially children’s books and other interactive genres. The added interactivity makes children’s book adaptations highly educational, allowing kids to learn through play. I remember my daughter, Luna, playing Dr. Seuss’s ABC DVD on my computer when she was four years old—because of the songs, the way that words are highlighted as the narrator reads, and the playful approach to learning letters, the DVD was much more engaging and memorable for her than a static book, and it certainly helped her learn the alphabet. The iPad offers even richer possibilities, and today’s kids, many of them already fluent with iPhone and iPad touch controls, are ideally suited to learn from iPad content.
A wonderful example of iPad interactivity is the Alice in Wonderland app developed for the iPad by the studio Atomic Antelope. Here the imagery and interaction—allowing users to move characters and other elements of the illustrations—heighten the experience of the story and at the same time emphasize the tale’s ambiance, magic, and mystery. Kids can interact with objects in Alice’s world, and they are thus drawn into the fantasy in a much more palpable way.
In a nutshell:
• The iPad is well-suited for “interactive storybooks” and as an educational tool.
• Publishers need to find the optimum balance between interactivity and reading.
• Projects need to be engaging and well-designed and have a clear and organized structure.
Museums and Cultural Institutions: Galleries at Home
The iPad presents an opportunity for museums and cultural institutions to bring their exhibitions and content to new audiences throughout the world. In the same way that a museum’s web content enriches the exhibition experience, an iPad app could be an exciting and engaging complement to the actual exhibit, allowing users to explore a wealth of material while also generating additional interest in the exhibition itself. By packaging the content and exhibition offerings for the platform, a museum can achieve a number of essential objectives: create experiences that build the organization’s brand, educate audiences about its cultural treasures, and create excitement and interest in other offerings related to the exhibition—including books and other projects—as well as the organization itself.
New Media 3.0
This is an exciting new territory with lots of possibilities and opportunities to delve into. We are in the infancy of this new platform, and publishers, companies, and cultural organizations will be inventing and evolving applications that best take advantage of its capabilities.
By being flexible, we can adjust strategies as we become more fluent with the iPad’s design and interactive vocabulary, and how users respond to it. As Wired magazine’s creative director Scott Dadich has observed, the iPad publishing process is one of “revolution through evolution, [where we] improve and add continuously.”
We’re looking forward to exploring the possibilities of this new platform with our clients—not to mention playing with the iPad during the trip to the beach.