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App Dev Tips


Art Desiging an App: Meet the Art Director, Beth Lower


As I wrote in last week's post, How Many People Does it Take to Build a StoryApp?, producing a good StoryApp can require a pretty extensive, and expensive, team.

In addition to the work of the author, illustrator and program developer, you may also need a UX (user experience) designer or a game mechanics expert, depending on the features and navigation you wish to include in your app. If you're developing for children, you may need the help of an educational consultant to ensure that your content is appropriate for the development age and/or to create related curricular materials. And if you don't have a mechanism in place to market your app, you will, most assuredly, need a publicist as well.

But the one person you can absolutely not live without is your Art Director.

I'll never forget the moment when I realized just how true this is. I developed Beware Madame La Guillotine on a shoestring, as you know, and therefore hoped to get away with using Apple's palette of preset buttons, icons and other graphic elements. But when my programmer sent me the initial mock ups, I couldn't believe my eyes.

Several "u" words came immediately to mind: unbecoming, undesirable, uninteresting, and unpromising were among them. But the word that really screamed in my ears was "ugly". It was not unique. It looked like most of other apps in the App Store.

In walked Beth Lower, graphic artist extraordinaire. Beth is an acclaimed Art Director, well known in the magazine world. She came to my StoryApp eager to learn all she could about app development and ready to apply her already proven graphic design skills to the digital environment.

We still had to cut corners from a financial point of view. We used Apple presets in the static content of the nav and tool bars, for example. But all dynamic content in the body of the app, such buttons, text layout, illustration set up, graphic icons and maps -- you name it -- were realized thanks to Beth's artistic eye and creative contribution. I look very forward to collaborating with her again.



How Many People Does it Take to Build a StoryApp?


Once upon a time, stories for children were published as books. The realization of these paper-based creations involved two distinct phases that could take several years to complete. The editorial team, comprising a writer, an editor, an art designer, and an illustrator, fed the fruit of their combined efforts to the production team that delivered so many copies per print run, per edition.

This is still the way books for children are produced today. And it will remain the process for many, many years to come. Because it works.

For books.

But there is a new(ish) kid on the virtual block: the StoryApp.

To realize these electronic creations the production process speeds up with production and editorial teams working in lock step. New editions are possible with the click of a few buttons. And the creative team expands, adding to the editorial ranks described above the following contributors:

  • a program developer (i.e., coder);

  • a user experience (UX) designer to work with the art designer to develop the user interface (UI), or navigational path, especially if the StoryApp is non-linear;

  • a game developer, if the StoryApp is to include interactive learning elements and features;

  • an animator, if the images are to move;

  • an educational consultant to assure that the app is developmentally appropriate to the target age and intuitive to use; and

  • a marketing and branding guru to ensure that people know the StoryApp is out in the world and how they can access it.

Some of these people might double up on tasks, of course -- the UX and gaming professionals might be the one in the same, for example. But you get the point:

It takes a lot of people-power to realize a great StoryApp.

And unlike their print cousins -- some of which require no artwork and all of which require no thought to intuitive userability as everyone knows how to turn pages -- all StoryApps require art, illustration, graphics, and design. For digital formats are highly visual.

Which is why StoryApps can be so expensive darned to create. Especially good ones.

Using a program developer, a basic utility app will run you about $5-10K. A robust StoryApp, however, like Beware Mme la Guillotine, A Revolutionary Tour of Paris, that includes interactive elements, intuitive navigation, and learning tools built in, will run you anywhere from $30 to $130K.


But there is hope on the horizon for independent StoryApp publishing startups and independent authors and illustrators. This past April, at the Tools of Change in Publishing conference at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, I made a point of compiling a list of all the companies present who are now promoting StoryApp Publishing Tools for publishers and do-it-yourselfers, alike.

Click here to access the list.

I will be updating it periodically, so please subscribe to my mailing list to ensure that you know when updates are available.

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