Designing for the iPad. Art direction turns a page.

Designing for the iPad. Art direction turns a page.

With the recent launch of the much anticipated iPad, there has been a virtual firestorm of commentary, critique and speculation on the potential impact this device will have on our culture. Some are embracing the new technology and can’t wait to get one and others are ‘not drinking from that Kool-Aid’ and snuffing it as a fad item.
Now, to be honest, I am a pretty die-hard Apple fan and have been using their various products for over 20 years now. Even though I wanted to have my own iPad as much as anyone, I am not usually one of the early adopter types. I like to see how the first editions shake out first before I take the plunge. But, take a trip down to the Apple Store and try one out? Why not? So, I did.

After fiddling around with the new interface and opening up some of the apps, I was pretty impressed by how smooth everything worked and how well thought out the interface was designed. Then, I saw this video put together by Brad Colbow critiquing the art direction of the new apps by Time, GQ and Popular Science magazines. It was then that I realized – this opens up a whole new era of graphic design and art direction.

A few months ago, before the iPad was officially released, Apple had made the source code available to a few publishers to help them create a format to work in the new interface. Having heard that they were busily working on their magazine layouts, I’m not sure I fully understood what they would or could create. When watching Brad’s video, it becomes readily apparent that these pubs are absolutely not just a ‘reformatted to fit the screen’ version of their printed form. These are something different – something even dare I say it, breakthrough.

They’ve got portrait and landscape formats, layered visuals, integrated menus, video links and lots of interesting visuals. And, the one thing that keeps me buying many of my favorite magazines over and over again, beautifully art-directed page layouts.

I think many were expecting the iPad to be just an over-sized iPhone with a bigger screen and not much else. But, upon further inspection, this looks like yet another medium for which we, as designers will be needed to evolve the industry and take the next steps to advance ourselves and our client’s businesses.

For such an ailing medium that has been plagued by increasing costs, internet migration and dwindling ad spending, magazines and newspapers should be breathing new life in this new and exciting format. No longer are their layouts going to be static. The possibility of movement, interaction and searchable content are all there for their new generation of readers and advertisers.

Just look at the possibilities. Where else in the interactive genre are you able to work with such a stable and constant size and format? It’s like having a moving magazine page without worrying about cross-platform testing, browser sizing, screen resolution or even web-safe typography. The type of art direction and design that I saw for Popular Science was engaging, exciting and cool to look at, with tons of interesting information. I must say, I’ve never seen PS look that good before. And this is just the beginning.

Yes, there will be a bit of time for the trickle-down effect to make it’s way to other publications. No, not every publisher has the budget or the manpower to create something on the same scale. But, on the other hand, do publications have time to wait? What kind of new advertising will this open up?  How can this type of media cross over into other things? If it’s not on the iPad, which other formats will it be?

So, suffice it to say I am excited about the new iPad and I am excited about the possibilities of the next new design medium, tablet computers. And I can’t wait to get started.

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What do you think? I’d like to hear your thoughts.