Going through No Layout is sort of like visiting Printed Matter in NYC. Both have a ton of visual things to look at and flip through though the biggest difference of course is one is online while the other has to be experienced in person. A couple days ago Daniel Pianetti of No Layout introduced me to the site via email. I like what they’re trying to do. It’s essentially showing printed books and magazines online as is—it’s not try to repurpose content for online. It’s there to be looked at and discovered. If they weren’t online the chances of me actually finding any of these titles is probably zero. Now that I know about them, if I come across them in person I’m more likely to buy a copy because I’ve already been introduced. The site itself has a couple simple features. A viewer can flip through pages and if they like the title save the issue to their personalized library. The biggest issue is that these artifacts can only be viewed—not read. There’s no way to zoom in to ready the text. They do realize this as it is noted on their Facebook page that they are working on a tool to do just that. If you happen to be bored with what is being published you might want to check out some of the independent titles they’re displaying.]]>
Recently I noticed a couple friends using Flickr essentially as a blog where there’s a decent amount of text corresponding to the images. James added a playlist (which is worth a listen btw) and link to an image while Chris used a photo and video set to display and explain a process sketch. While adding text to an image in Flickr isn’t new I was struck at how close in time I noticed both of them using Flickr for more than just photos. I also thought it was interesting to compare this to how something wouldn’t work like this in Facebook. While people using Flickr do have the option to make something private it just feels more shareable and less intrusive than with other walled gardens.
At the moment we’re living in a fragmented media world. There’s so many tools that basically function the same to publish content. What defines each product is how others can find it, save it and talk about it. With James’ playlist it also found a place on his blog. For comparison I took a screen shot of the same content displayed on Big American Night. I follow James both on Flickr and RSS with his blog so I probably wasn’t going to miss this playlist. But for those that don’t have the inclination trying to follow all methods of publishing it presents a challenge. Is there one tool that can aggregate and display meaningful information that maintains the uniqueness of each platform while making it easy to discover stuff while saving time for the publisher not having to reformat content a million times?]]>
At the moment I’m curious about all things iPad apps for a couple reasons. I have one and really enjoy what it can do in terms of displaying content to experience, I’m designing a couple apps at the moment and I’m interested to hear best practices and experiences. I think that there’s a huge shift from the computer as a work experience to screens that offer a lot of capabilities never assumed before. So when talks like SPD Paper to Pixels v2 are programmed in relationship to iPads (and tablets), I’m pretty interested in going to them.
Each of the panelist (Neil Jamieson, Deputy Design Director, People, D.W. Pine, Design Director, TIME, Michael Lawton, Design Director, and Peter Herbert, Sr. Art Director, Popular Mechanics and Joe Zeff, President of Joe Zeff Design) had ten minutes to talk about their app, process (before & after the iPad came out), and general thoughts about it. In the case of Zeff he gave an overivew of different types of apps, business and what their company is working on.
iPad apps from publishers are disntinct in their release time. They follow their print version of the weekly, monthly & one time “book”. Each of those releases are going to create unique time constraints on how the work is going to be created. Each publication went through a lot of iterations to get to the format that they’re at now. They have basic interaction flows & buttons, they tend to design for two formats (portrait & landscape) except for Popular Mechanics, the print edition closes before the iPad version is worked on. It sounded like most of the design is produced with inDesign which has limitations of the interactions. Print metaphor being used for screen interactions.
There was a slightly different model for the weekly vs the monthly in terms of time a story might take to produce. Popular Mechanics has more time with an issue so interacitve features can be devloped longer. A designer might talk to a programmer about what is possible before the concept makes it’s way up for approval. The weeklies seemed less interactive with moving graphics and more about converting print to screen. Buttons are designed so that a secondary layer on top of the original page pops over. They all seemed adverse to any type of kit that would flow their designs, they also seemed to feel that standardation templates weren’t worth using as it would impeed the need for a designer.
In terms of graphics that were developed with CGI, CAD (it might have been some other technical program), flat image can be converted into three dimensions easily. I do think as things can scale in size depending on zooming, vector graphics will stay nice and smooth while other illustration methods of production will have to adjust. Otherwise they look fuzzy. Photos look great and allow more to be displayed than a print version can. I think they’re still trying to figure out videos in terms of whether their clips, bringing stuff in from sources like YouTube or animating illustrations.
Web, Print and the iPad
Most of the design groups went outside for consultation. It felt like they (print people directing the iPad) avoided the web teams at all cost. This is where things got interesting for me. There seemed to be a lot of friction in attitude with the freeness of the web. The editorial side seemed to be holding back on content that people might buy with the actual magazine. I can’t really blame them but if no one knows about the story how are they going to buy it? Other print influences like text constraints with the copy desk were finding it’s way to the apps. Fit to print shouldn’t have to exist with an iPad yet those types of conventions seemed to drive the design.
When is the Hybrid and Evolution Going to Happen?
Looking at the number of people that touch any particular article, the number of times it is designed and the lack of ability of the reader to share the information that they’re reading make the apps that I saw last night pretty unsustanable. Plus when new screen devices come out, will they be desined five or six times?
It would be easy to create a venn diagram that has one circle for web overlapping with print and in the middle would be a happy iPad app. On paper that makes sense, in real life I think that’s less attainable. I think workflow has to be built from the ground up using best practices of continously building and iterating on stories as information develops. For other stories that need to be vetted out and edited in final form before going public, allow the story to dictate the length, not trying to fit into a print sized grid. Maintain a regular publishing cycle but allow for that schedule to flex when appropriate. Don’t treat content that is being read on screen as a lesser value, create venue’s for people to share what they think is really valuable. Subscriptions is a print based idea, online apps should reconsider this. More acess to resources within a story is paid for, less access to browse allows someone to see if they want to pay for the issue. The only nature to make modifications to reading shouldn’t be ignored. Give the reader the ability to adjust line length, size and background colour if they want to. The system should be able to flex and adjust to those type of visual treatments.
Sometimes it’s just nice to read something
While there’s infinite possibilities to do stuff on screen, one thing needs to be remembered. Sometimes it’s just nice to read something, not to do something as they’re reading. Just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be. If the story, photo or any other media type is treated as the atomic unit that is the basis for the production and is flexible for the screen that it is going to be seen on, and not be contrainsed like print production, a great experience for the reader can be achieved while being successful for the publisher both financially and reputationally.
Now that the iPad has been out for a couple months I’m starting to see different types of clusters of functions happening for publishing. There’s the standard web version through a browser, stand alone mags like Wired that have to be designed twice to fit portrait and landscape formats, pdfs, feeds like Flipboard and now a light weight flipbook like device that is essentially the print magazine in digital format. While the tech fan in myself would prefer a fully immersive and interactive experience, swiping through Dazed & Confused for the first time was pleasant enough.
Dazed & Confused used the publishing service Exact Editions to format their magazine so it could be viewed in an iPad. A viewer has the ability to see full spreads, individual pages and the ability to zoom in on an image which I feel is a really important feature that some photo heavy iPad apps are missing on. The trade off is that there is a slight load delay for each page to load—something I’m fine with because I can see a lot more detail with the images. I also noticed that the ads made a lot more sense in terms of visuals, really nice formatted images. The only glitch in the full spreads is that the images on don’t always line up if it is a full bleed through the center of the spread. The navigation also allows for a quick tap to thumb through all the pages.
How is it to read? I didn’t read from cover to cover but I didn’t have any issue reading the articles that I did. I’ve displayed a couple examples showing the full spread and the quality of the image when I zoomed in to read. Sure I couldn’t tweet about an article or share it, but I also don’t think that is the point. Again I usually would tend to feel everything should have a url attached to it, but for this I didn’t really care. Would I pay for this? Looking at Amazon, the print version is $75.00 a year ($6.25/issue). That’s a bit expensive for a really limited set of features. I could see myself paying somewhere between $35 to $40 but not much more. After all I still can get a ton of great content already designed specifically for an iPad that allows me to do much more. As a younger and more digital savvy type of publisher emerges there will be some pretty cool strides made in the upcoming year. For now it is interesting to watch how they figure out what that is.]]>