Forget the Cupertino keynote, if you have missed GQ’s Men of the Year in the Christmas rush, then I recommend everyone download Condé Nast’s new GQ January 2010 app for the iPhone. Why? Because it’s a great example of the future of interactive design.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again; the future for magazines is not in creating browser-based web pages. We’re hopefully past the days of newsletters formatted in MS Word, or experiencing websites with terrible typography, microscopic little pictures and business-card sized videos, not to mention, those tiny little ads embarrassingly hidden in the corners, jumping up and down saying ‘click me, click me!’ It’s all more annoying than the donkey in Shrek.
Despite the amazing advances in functionality on the Internet over the last few years, design in digital channels is a long way from the offline aesthetic renaissance spurred on by desktop design programs like Quark Xpress. One only needs to browse a newsstand and marvel at the freedom of design, where bold, beautiful, creative typography are sensually entwined with stunning imagery. Even the Wall Street Journal runs color photos now! In contrast, type in the URLs of these same publications and prepare yourself for a walk through a design desert.
Yes, templates hold consistency, but like themes variations in classical music, they’re supposed to be deliberately broken to add interest or context. Good design adds value to the communication; it doesn’t just deliver information. It’s exciting and part of entertainment and we all know HTML just can’t do that. Connection speeds wouldn’t even let you send it if you could. Also, Flash is not the saviour and only a mere gimmick that doesn’t even rise to the level of commercial art.
So why am I now as excited as teenage boy who has just discovered a discarded copy of Playboy in a country lane? Well, starters being able to ‘pinch’ and ‘squeeze’ Rhianna… Ok, no that’s not it (lie, lie!).
Consider the fact newspapers close down on a daily basis as they struggle to make ends meet as advertisers abandon them. The ratio of ads to editorial in the print world is 60:40 or higher and online is shamefully a long, long way from anything like that.
Stop and observe the newsstand and notice the ever-shrinking physical magazines to pocketsize away from A4, and that many newspapers have now moved away from broadsheet formats. Next, hold up an Amazon Kindle next to one of those little mags – not too dissimilar is it? Watch how you flick through a magazine, getting to the article you want, taking in the visual fluff from all the pretty pictures including those ads that get you salivating over that latest hot hatch. Ah, so this is what all those rumors of the impending full-colour, networkable 10’ Apple iPad being launched on Joe public was all about.
Look back at the GQ app on your iPhone.
Hold the phone in landscape mode and see a full version of PDF-like scalable magazine that you can flick through with your finger just like cover-flow. Zoom into any of those beautifully designed pages and notice how many are actually full-page ads – all of which are now clickable! Yes, they really should be more interactive, but that too will come. Next, find the article of choice and turn your phone to portrait mode – turning the app into an interactive mobile version where you can read articles like as if were a web page. At the base of the screen, there’s a hidden drawer that lets users zoom into view photos and watch videos and when you flick through the pics there’s randomly assigned full screen static images from the Grey Goose and Gillette sponsors that are also clickable. There’s even an interactive contents menu, which tells where the media-rich articles live.
GQ trials are already showing the new audience is spending upwards of an hour with this app, which fully mimics print versions. So, let’s face it, the combination of interactive features is going to boast much more measurability then print ever could.
Are you catching the importance of this? It could be the biggest societal change since the invention of the printing press. Well, it’s certainly the start of subscription-based content coming across to a whole breed of new consumer devices, as that little iPhone is doubled in size to the iPad. Combined with the ads, the commercial aspects of ePaper will help battle against the declining print sales as the value of the purchase is fed back into developing better content as opposed to distribution, and the current awkwardness of news/magazine content online.
Is it any wonder why the New York Times wanted to be in on the launch on the new Apple iPad? Black and white typography of old, making way for a new generation of streamed full color interactive video news, complete with full page rich media ads. Advertising as it was meant to be. Informative and interactive and coming to iPad near you… sooner than you think. The Kindle must feel like yesterday’s fish and chip paper.
I’m sure there will come a time when interactive means I can move Rhianna’s arm slightly on the cover of GQ – or perhaps that will come on a future ePrint Playboy version? So as I wait the next 60 days to get my hands on all new things iPad, I remind myself I’d be just as happy getting a virtual version of beautifully illustrated 12” record gatefold covers, or maybe an e-picture disc to collect in iTunes. Oh how I can’t wait for the future to discover retro.