How the iPad Will Change Publishing Design


“It may well be the saving of the newspaper industry,” publisher Rupert Murdoch proclaimed.  His reasoning was that it would make it cheaper to distribute content to a broader audience, including driving down costs such as paper, ink, printing and trucks.

“It has all of the visual impact of paper, enhanced by interactive elements like video and animated graphics,” Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired said.  “We can offer you a history of Mars landings that lets you explore the red planet yourself.  We can take you inside Trent Reznor’s recording studio and let you listen to snippets of his work in progress.  And we can show you exactly how Pixar crafted each frame of its new movie, Toy Story 3.”

With three million units sold in less than three months, and who knows how many since, it is safe to say the iPad is here to stay!  For many it is the second coming, as if the printed word never existed before.  Still others joke about how they fit the oversized iPhone in their pocket.  One thing that is clear is the impact of the iPad on the publishing industry, even in its initial stages.  Industry leaders are quoted left and right that the evolution has begun.

Other major players are following Apple into this format quickly (e.g., the Android-based Slate).  This leads to an interesting question the publishing industry faces:  who designs these new publications?

The Players:

  • Classic Magazine Designer—the seasoned veteran on the team.  Armed with an understanding of the impact of a single frame.  Trained to transcend the one-dimensional page and create an aesthetically appealing user experience (really a reader, but kind of a user).  Has a clear concept of space utilization and associated costs.  Is typically very quality and detail-oriented, and selective in the application of design concepts.  Uses years of experience in eye patterns in the decision-making process to focus designs.  Cares about long-term brand development/management targeted to a specific reader base.
  • Web/App Designer—the wunderkind you were lucky enough to recruit.  Represents the tip of the sword in the digital evolution.  Provides immediate products based upon the wants and needs of the ever-growing digital community.  Facilitates interactive experience for users.  Has a deep understanding of coding, programming and development to engage a constantly changing attention span and meet the appetites of the reader base.  Pushes the format through experimentation, for better or worse.  Has no aversion to change or ties to traditional publishing dogma.

I think the answer lies, for at least the time being, in understanding the content presentation format itself and our preconceived notion of publications.  When we think of this evolution our models are based upon the foundation’s cooler versions of current publishing formats.  The iPad itself was designed as a rectangle, not a square; almost magazine-esque.  Most e-mags resemble their print format in nature in order to facilitate reuse of content development efforts.  It is because of this that I believe that the seasoned veterans—classic designers, will control the initial experiments in this new publishing format.  The publishers’ brands are too important to push the boundaries of their readers.  This will be a closely monitored transition, always fighting the line between staying fresh and true to the brand.  Publishers will be forced to bring the web/app designer to the planning table to understand the potential of the devices and support interactive parts of this new format.  It is going to take some time for the art majors and the programming geeks to find the right relationship.  I think this “don’t choose one or the other” model is at the core of most offerings on the market.

The key change will be in the next generation of designers.  Some are beginning to call them “interaction designers.”  They will be blessed with their fathers’ traits for programming and coding environments to support the user interface experience and their mothers’ artistic integrity still valuing the static image and importance of a layout (feel free to switch father and mother as appropriate).  These new breed of designers are hard to come by in today’s workforce, but will lead the evolution of publishing.  Only then will we take full advantage of this new format.  Just think where we will be in two years.

We at Affinity Express would love to hear your perspective on who and what will define the designer of these new digital products and the evolution of the products themselves. Peace.

About TJ Ceballos
TJ is both vice president of solutions management and solution architect for Affinity Express. He has more than 15 years of experience in the publishing industry.

2 Responses to How the iPad Will Change Publishing Design

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