iPad Publishing, Part 1
Creating a magazine for the iPad has been both a challenging task and a rewarding experience. Many questions came up during the early stages of development regarding design, art direction and usability and I will try to walk you through some of the decisions that were made along the way.
The beauty of the iPad, and to a certain extend the trouble with it, stems from the fact that it is a relatively recent phenomenon. The publishing industry simply hasn’t had enough time to settle down on a particular format or presentation for the new medium. The device is a blank digital canvas and is largely open to interpretations. So far so good.
A few things, however, become apparent the moment you start playing with the tablet. High resolution photographs appear much more compelling and dramatic on the device due to what Apple calls the Retina display - pixel density that makes graphics look smooth and vibrant at any size.
See the Guardian Eyewitness app for an example of stunning photography and compelling browsing experience.
The second thing which becomes evident after browsing through some of the best iPad magazines on the iTunes store is that innovation and creativity became hostages in the process of translation. Many big publishers such as Conde Nast for example, simply opted for static image-slideshow bundles as the easiest way to translate and deliver their monthly publications to the new medium. The biggest drawback to this approach has been the enormous size of the monthly issues which are often bigger than 100MB and would take more than 5 minutes to download even on home wi-fi networks.
In the other camp are magazine apps such as Wired, Richard Branson’s Project Magazine and Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily which have been specifically designed and tailored to fit the new medium. In general I believe those are steps in the right directions, although the results have been largely mixed. I feel they simply overdid it by adding too much interactivity and gimmicks which made the actual content consumption even more cumbersome.
Not surprisingly, the best results seem to have come from close collaborations between creatives and technologists. One of my favorite content apps is Reportage : “Congo, la paix violee” by France 24 . It’s a fine example of understanding the new medium to achieve a balance of form, content and functionality. The experience is compelling and intimate. The message doesn’t fight the medium, the message is the medium.
Check out Reportage : “Congo, la paix violee” for a successful reportage brought to life on the iPad
In the next post, I will describe some of the decisions and choices we went through during the development of our first magazine for the iPad.