Notes from ‘investing in your creative industries’ event last Wednesday…

March 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm (Day to day updates of my project research and development)

Notes from ‘creating your creative industries’ event


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Some more chapter title typography sketches….

March 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm (Day to day updates of my project research and development)


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How to create an iPhone/iPad app…

March 29, 2012 at 8:39 am (Day to day updates of my project research and development)

How to Create Your First iPhone Application

What if you had a euro for every time you heard: “I have the perfect idea for a great application!“? It’s the buzz on the street. The iPhone has created unprecedented excitement and innovation from people both inside and outside the software development community. Still for those outside the development world, the process is a bit of a mystery.

This how-to guide is supposed to walk you through the steps to make your idea for an iPhone app a reality. This post presents various ideas, techniques, tips, and resources that may come in handy if you are planning on creating your first iPhone application.

1. Have an Idea – A Good Idea

How do you know if your idea is a good one? The first step is to even care if your idea is solid; and the second step is to answer the question does it have at least one of the indicators of success?

Does your app solve a unique problem? Before the light bulb was invented, somebody had to shout out “Man, reading by candlelight sucks!” Figure out what sucks, and how your app can make the life of its user more comfortable.
Does the app serve a specific niche? Though there aren’t any stats on the App Store search, the usage of applications is certainly growing with the explosion of App Store inventory. Find a niche with ardent fans (pet lovers, for example) and create an app that caters to a specific audience.
Does it make people laugh? This is a no-brainer. If you can come up with something funny, you are definitely on the right track and your idea may be the golden one. Heck, I hit a red “do not press” button for 5 minutes yesterday.
Are you building a better wheel? Are there existing successful apps that lack significant feature enhancements? Don’t be satisfied with just a wine list, give sommeliers a way to talk to their fans!
Will the app be highly interactive? Let’s face it, most of us have the attention span of a flea. Successful games and utilities engage the user by requiring action!

Action: Does your app fall in to one of these categories? If yes, it’s just about time to prepare the necessary tools.

2. Tools Checklist

Below is a list of items you’ll need (*starred items are required, the rest are nice-to-have’s):

  • join the Apple iPhone Developer Program ($99) *
  • get iPhone or iPod Touch *
  • get an Intel-based Mac computer with Mac OS X 10.5.5,
  • prepare a Non-Disclosure Agreement *
  • Download and install the latest version of the iPhone SDK if you don’t already have it.
  • a spiral bound notebook*

What Are You Really Good At?

What skills do you bring to the table? Are you a designer whose brain objects to Objective C? A developer who can’t design their way out of a paper sack? Or maybe you are neither, but an individual with an idea you’d like to take to the market? Designing a successful iPhone application is a lot like starting a small business. You play the role of Researcher, Project Manager, Accountant, Information Architect, Designer, Developer, Marketer and Advertiser – all rolled into one.

Remember what all good entrepreneurs know – it takes a team to make a product successful. Don’t get me wrong, you certainly can do it all. But you can also waste a lot of time, energy and sanity in the process. Don’t go crazy, reference the checklist below and ask yourself: What roles are the best fit for you to lead? Then find other talented people to fill in the gaps. The infusion of additional ideas can only enrich the product!

Skills checklist

  • Ability to Discern what works/doesn’t work in existing iPhone Apps
  • Market research
  • Outlining App Functionality (Sitemap Creation)
  • Sketching
  • GUI Design
  • Programming (Objective C, Cocoa) (we assume here that we are creating a native application)
  • App Promotion and Marketing

Action: Select skills that are a good fit for you to lead. For those roles where you cannot lead, hire professionals.

4. Do Your Homework: Market Research

Market research is a fancy way of saying “Look at what other people are doing and don’t make the same mistakes.” Learn from the good, bad and ugly in the App Store. Coming up with creative solutions in the app concept development and design starts with analyzing other (maybe similar) applications. Even if you encounter a lot of poorly designed apps, your mind will reference these examples of what not to do.

Action: Answer these questions:

  • What problem does your app solve?
  • What products have you seen that perform a similar task?
  • How do successful apps present information to users?
  • How can you build on what works and make it unique?
  • What value does your app bring to your audience?

5. Know the iPhone/iPod Touch UI

If you want to create an iPhone app, you need to understand the capabilities of the iPhone and its interface.

The good news is that you don’t have to memorize the encyclopaedic Apple User Interface Guidelines to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t in iPhone Apps. Download and play with as many apps as you can, and think about what functionality you want to include in your product.

Take note of:

  • How do well-designed apps navigate from screen to screen?
  • How do they organize information?
  • How MUCH information do they present to the user?
  • How do they take advantage of the iPhone’s unique characteristics: the accelerometer, swiping features, pinch, expand and rotate functions?

Action: Download the Top 10 apps in every category and play with all of them. Review the Apple Guidelines for UI design and list at least 5 features you’d like to incorporate into your app.

6. Determine “Who Will Use Your App?”

We assume here that you’ve already determined that your app will bring value and that you will have a raging audience for your app. Well, fine, they are raging fans, but who are they really? What actions will they take to achieve their goals within the app?

If it’s a game, maybe they want to beat their high score. Or perhaps they are a first time player – how will their experience differ from someone who is getting a nice case of brain-rot playing your game all day?

If it’s a utility app, and your audience wants to find a coffee shop quickly, what actions will they take within the app to find that coffee shop? Where are they when they’re looking for coffee? Usually in the car! Do present an interface that requires multiple taps, reading and referencing a lot? Probably not! This is how thinking about how real-life intersects design.

Action: Line item out the different types of people who will use your app. You can even name them if you want to make the scenarios you draw out as real as possible.

7. Sketch out Your Idea

And by “sketch” I mean literally sketch. Line out a 9-rectangle grid on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper and get to sketching!

Ask yourself:

  • What information does each screen need to present?
  • How can we take the user from point A to point B to point C?
  • How should elements on the screen be proportioned or sized in relation to each other (i.e. is this thing even tap-able?)

Thumb nailing your ideas on paper can push your creativity far beyond where your imagination might stagnate working in a sketching application! You can also buy the iPhone Stencil Kit to quickly sketch out iPhone UI prototypes on paper.

Action: Create at least one thumbnail page of your application per screen. Experiment with various navigational schemes, the text you put on buttons, and how screens connect. If you want to transfer your sketches into digital format, iPlotz is a good tool to check out.

8. Time for Design

If you are a designer, download the iPhone GUI Photoshop template or our iPhone PSD Vector Kit. Both are collections of iPhone GUI elements that will save you a lot of time in getting started. If you’ve solidified your layout during sketching, drawing up the screens will be less of a layout exercise and more about the actual design of the app.

If you are not a designer, hire one! It’s like hiring an electrician to do electrical work. You can go to Home Depot and buy tools to try it yourself, but who wants to risk getting zapped? If you’ve followed steps 1–3, you’ll have everything you need for a designer to get started.

When looking for a designer, try to find someone who has experience designing for mobile devices. They may have some good feedback and suggested improvements for your sketches. A few places to look for designers: Coroflot, Crowdspring, eLance. When posting your job offer, be very specific about your requirements, and also be ready to review a lot of portfolios.

Action: If you are a designer, get started in Photoshop. If you are not a designer, start interviewing designers for your job.

9. Programming

Even though this how-to is sequential, it’s a good idea to get a developer on board at the same time when you line up design resources. Talking with a developer sooner than later will help you scope out a project that is technically feasible and within your budget.

If you are a Objective C/Cocoa developer crack, open Xcode and get started! A few forums to join if you haven’t already:

  • Apple Dev Forum
  • iPhoneSDK (moderated by Erica Sadun)
  • iPhoneSDKForum
  • iPhoneDev Forums
  • iPhoneSB

If you are not a developer, you know what to do – find one! Specify the type of app you want to produce – whether it is a game, utility or anything else. Each type usually requires a different coding skill set. A few places to look for developers: Odesk, iPhone Freelancer, eLance and any of the forums listed above.

10. Submit Your Application to Apple Store

OK, so how do you submit your application to Apple Store now? The process of compiling your application and publishing the binary for iTunes Connect can be difficult for anyone unfamiliar with XCode. If you are working with a developer, ask them to help you:

  • Create your Certificates
  • Define your App ID’s
  • Create your Distribution Provisioning Profile
  • Compile the application
  • Upload to iTunes Connect

Action: If you are a developer, map out a development timeline and get started. If you are not a developer, start interviewing developers for your job.

11. Promote Your App

If a tree falls in the middle of the woods and nobody was around to hear it does it make a sound? Apps can sit in the store unnoticed very easily. Don’t let this happen to you. Be ready with a plan to market your app. In fact, be ready with many plans to market your app. Be ready to experiment, some ideas will work, others won’t.

Strategies for maintaining/boosting app sales:

  • Incorporating social media. If your users make the high score on his or her favourite game, it is a good idea to make it easy for the user to post it to Facebook or Twitter. Think about how your app can incorporate social media and build that functionality into your app. At a minimum, set up a fan page for your app on Facebook and Twitter and use them as platforms to communicate with your users and get feedback on your app.
  • Pre-launch promotion. Start building buzz about your app before it has launched. E-mail people who write about things that relate to your app and see if they will talk up the upcoming release of your app.
  • Plan for multiple releases. Don’t pack your app with every single feature you want to offer in the very first release. Make your dream list for the app and make sure that the app is designed to incorporate all of the features at some time in the future. Then periodically drop new versions of the app to boost app store sales.

Action: Make a list of 20 promotional strategies that target the audience for your app. Take action on them yourself or hire someone who can!

11. Stay Focused & Don’t Give Up!

It’s easy when you are working on your first app to get all AppHappy, dreaming up a zillion new app-ideas. Dream, but don’t get sidetracked by new ideas. Your first app needs to make a big splash and getting involved in too many projects at once can dilute your passion for making your first application a success.

Action: Get out there and go kick some app!


We recently received a pleasant surprise. Apple had featured our eBook, “Rabbit and Turtle’s Amazing Race” in the iTunes App Store. The publicity came with an immediate 3-5X pop in paid downloads of our book, pushing it to the #12 Top Grossing Book for iPad.

“Rabbit and Turtle’s Amazing Race” is a children’s rhyming book with illustrations, quirky interactions and sound. Its “pop-up book meets the iPad.” That’s the design goal, at least.

I would love to tell you that building a book was a straight path from concept to storyboard to launch and inevitable success. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated.

I will try to give you a sense of how we built our book, the mistakes we made, the discoveries, course corrections, and how it all worked out for us. If I miss something integral to you, please follow up in the comments. Nothing is free, but the cost is relative to not hopping aboard the greatest rocket ship ride since the advent of the web, and the rise of the PC before that. The apps lifestyle — aka “There’s an app for that” — is the real deal. The mobile age is upon us.

What exactly is an eBook, anyway?

I have written in the past about where I think eBooks are headed (“Rebooting the book“), but the essence is this. The advent of sound in motion pictures transformed not only how films were made, but what they were and the economics behind same. This is the rapidly approaching future for the book business and print media in general.

The current state of the eBook business is nominally better than a PDF stuffed into a bookish-sized reader. Think: Amazon’s Kindle. It’s mostly text, devoid of sound and/or interaction. By contrast, in iOS an eBook is an app, and there are few limits to what an app can do. Touch, interact, be read to, and savour high-definition art and stereophonic ambient sounds and special effects.

Now that I built it, will they come?

Here’s the rub. The App Store model is hugely competitive. It’s got around 300,000 apps, and the ease of development and distribution means that clone versions of your app are coming.

So how do we approach this from a go-to-market perspective? For one, we committed to iterating the book. Over a few different releases, we added new features, fixed bugs, and generally improved the product based upon user feedback and proactively monitoring usage data.

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and the headlines are…

March 28, 2012 at 8:10 pm (Day to day updates of my project research and development)

Okay folks…brief update on where the design on my eBook is at in this moment in time.

I’m currently working on the third redraft of the book, the writing of it, that is. I hope to have that complete and printed by the weekend and the whole process begins again. (the whole slow, mind numbing, drink inducing process…sigh!)

I didn’t know where to begin with the typography design practice so decided to start with a few ideas for chapter headings and making them look quite strong and appealing. I’ve uploaded my idea for the first few chapters, the rest will be along shortly.

I’m really into the idea of becoming a full blown entrepreneur…makes sense with the economic downturn…plus, I’d be my own boss and hopefully become ridiculously rich! So am reading tons of books on the subject and have been to two very helpful course days in the past two weeks. I’ve uploaded my notes from one of them, will upload the notes from the one I went to today at the weekend.

I’m starting to look into the idea of turning my eBook into an app when I’m finished the masters work. In fact, I want to have my plans for the layout of what the app would look like finished and ready to hand in along with my other work to show the potential for my idea. I want to keep up with all the trends and mainly be where the money is!

Finally, am gradually working through each chapter, scribbling down thumbnail drawings of my ideas for layouts and illustrations for the book. Will have alot more of these drawings up after Easter

That’s it folks…I’ll keep ye posted on anything new 🙂

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some more chapter heading typography designs and developments…

March 28, 2012 at 7:42 pm (Day to day updates of my project research and development)


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Lot’s of lovely Easter reading! Hopefully these great books will help me along the road to riches!

March 28, 2012 at 5:04 pm (Day to day updates of my project research and development)

I have these in my book research section. I’ll upload notes as I read each one



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Hmmm, possible future venture methinks! I’d love to be paid to read!

March 28, 2012 at 3:07 pm (Day to day updates of my project research and development)

The Society for Editors and Proofreaders has three main aims:

  • to promote high editorial standards
  • to uphold the professional status of editors and proofreaders
  • to encourage the use of services offered by SfEP members and associates.

Formed in November 1988, the SfEP now has about 1,700 members and associates (mostly in the UK) providing editorial services to publishers and a wide range of companies, government agencies and other bodies.

The Society provides training and professional qualifications, and publishes the online Directory of Editorial Servicesprovided by its members. The membership communicates with each other via a number of popular email discussion lists, and the Society publishes the bi-monthly magazine Editing Matters. The membership-only SfEPWiki is a growing repository of the Society’s collective wisdom and experience.

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More type tips for Indesign…

March 26, 2012 at 7:01 pm (Day to day updates of my project research and development)

Typography in InDesign

Typography is an art and skill which is enjoying a renaissance in interest within the design community. Along with use of space and use of colour, typography is one of the most important facets of good design, and the expert use of tools to manipulate typographical elements cannot be emphasized enough. In this in-depth post, we will be going through some of the tools, at both beginner and advanced levels, available to use when working with type within that unappreciated program, Adobe InDesign.


The Character Palette

InDesign Typography

At first glance, the Character palette is pretty straightforward. You can select a typeface, its style, the leading (the space between lines), tracking (the overall spacing between characters) and kerning (the space between an individual set of characters) as well as some text distortion options. While simple in function and layout, control over a wide variety of typographical options exist within this palette, particularly with regards to tracking, kerning and leading.

The hidden side of the Character palette can be discovered through the drop-down context menu. In this menu, a wealth of other options is available: overall OpenType settings for contextual replacements and other OpenType features; type styles, whether all caps, small caps, strike-through, etc; as well as further options for both underline and strike-through. The OpenType settings allow you great control over selecting which OpenType features you want to enable for this paragraph. The side benefit to both the strike-through and underline options that is you can use these to highlight live text within the text box itself, as opposed to having to create a separate rectangular object to draw attention to a particular word or phrase. When digging a little deeper, we discover that the Character palette has much more to offer than just simply allowing us to choose a typeface and size.

The Paragraph Palette

InDesign Typography

The Paragraph palette, meanwhile, allows for over-arching control suited to creating the shape of the paragraph itself. Justification, alignment & hyphenation options abound, and these allow for a wide degree of control over the typographical color of a paragraph or page, providing macro-level adjustments which affect entire bodies of text.

Where the fun begins, much like with the Character Palette, is with the drop-down context menu. The first two options are for Single-Line or Paragraph Composers. Single-Line optimizes the hyphenation and justification options for each individual line, whereas Paragraph optimizes lines based on the needs of the entire paragraph. For example, Paragraph will adjust the spacing and hyphenation of an earlier line to make room if a later line in the paragraph contains a troublesome word, whereas Single-Line would simply adjust the paragraph on a line by line basis.

Some other options within the context menu for the Paragraph palette include links to the menus for Hyphenation and Justification (more on that shortly), an option to balance the ragged lines of a non-justified paragraph, options for bullets & numbering for lists and other larger-scale options. Once again, the depth of InDesign’s typographical control really shines through within the context menu of a particular palette.

The Glyph Palette

InDesign Typography

We’re only going to take a quick look at the Glyph palette, as it’s not as deep as the other two, but it is still quite useful. Basically, the Glyph palette contains every character for the font you’re working with. The principle use for the Glyph palette is for the manual substitution of a selected character or set of characters within your document for ones you choose from the palette itself. Some uses for this could include subbing in old style numerals to replace lining, or manually inserting ligatures. The other main use for the Glyph palette is the creation of Glyph sets.

A Glyph set is a collection of glyphs which you might use on a regular basis, regardless of which typeface or style it is. Let’s say you’re a fan of a particular set of old-style figures and use it across multiple documents, regardless of any other design factors. Creating a glyph set containing those old-style figures allows you to quickly and easily find them and insert them into a document without having to go digging through each font for the right options.


The control we have over hyphenation with InDesign is unreal and, particularly when combined with the justification controls, can result in some really slick paragraphs which let the text breathe and helps captivate the reader’s interest. We can reach the hyphenation controls through the context menu in the Paragraph palette, which gives us a pop-up dialogue box containing the hyphenation controls. While what each option does is self-explanatory, there are a couple of guidelines which can help your text sing.

InDesign Typography

Proper hyphenation requires some care and supervision, but can be generally controlled through the hyphenation options. In general, we should leave at least two characters on the start line, and have at least three on the finishing line; with InDesign, we’d set that as hyphenating after the first 2 letters but before the last 3. We should also avoid more than three consecutive hyphenated lines, to prevent a distracting rag. Any word shorter than 5 is too short to require hyphenation (though you can set this as low as 3), and in general, the last word should not be hyphenated in order to prevent any widows. InDesign can take care of all these more automatic hyphenating tasks, leaving the subjective ones (such as avoiding hyphenation where It awkwardly int-terupts a word, etc) to us to remedy.


Like hyphenation, we reach the justification panel through Paragraph palette’s context menu. The options for justification are self-explanatory, but the real benefits don’t kick in until we begin to explore a bit. Word spacing will adjust the spacing of words, and generally a range of 80%-100%-120% will give us a decently spaced paragraph without too much distraction. Letter spacing, meanwhile, can afford some flexibility as well; in general, a range of -5%-0-5% is ideal. Glyph scaling affords another means to “tweak” the words to make a paragraph optimally justified, and generally around 95%-100%-105% will allow the glyphs enough room to adjust without being noticeably larger or smaller.

InDesign Typography

There’s also options to adjust the auto leading percentage as well as single-word justify; 120% is InDesign’s default for leading, and typically single words should be aligned left. Through all these different adjustments, ensure that the drop-down menu for Composer is set to Paragraph in order to set the engine to adjust for the paragraph as a whole, not each individual line.

These are general guidelines which I’ve found make a decent, workable range. Each paragraph might call for different settings, but like all things design, smaller changes are preferable to sweeping ones. When combining the features of hyphenation with justification, some really beautiful paragraphs are possible which stretch from margin to margin, without rivers, orphans and widows or any other distractions.

That’s a Wrap

InDesign is a powerful program which, unfortunately, doesn’t enjoy the same widespread appeal in the tutorial & blogging world as Photoshop or other programs in the Creative Suite. However, the wide range of options and tools available to you makes it the ideal program for working with typography. I hope you found this post useful, as it barely scratches the surface for what InDesign is capable of with type.

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Reminder to myself to get this book…looks amazing!

March 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm (Day to day updates of my project research and development)

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Great tips in this article, nice and simple :)

March 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm (Day to day updates of my project research and development)

A tutorial for good typography in InDesign – Setting up a baseline grid

Good clean typography is a fundemental skill of any designer. Most designers believe they have good typography but in my experience it is something which is developed through time and experience. I think we all begin our design lives with a desire to be outrageously creative, and only as we mature, begin realise that simplicity and structure is just as, if not more important. In this article, I will go through some simple steps to acheive good clean well structured typography in Adobe Indesign.

The first step is to choose your typefont. In this case I have chosen a simple standard font of Helvetica Neue. I have set it up at 10pt size and 12pt leading. It is important to consider legibility at this point. I try not to go below 9pt for any brochure or printed material, but if the document is to be viewed digitally such as a pdf, it is worth doing it larger.

Next choose how many columns you want the page to be. Here you must consider aesthetics and legibility. Columns are important as they help give the page more structure, but also make a printed document easier to read. Studies show that 8-10 words per line is the most legible and I have tried to reflect this by choosing a 4 column layout. Also, consider border dimensions and the space between the columns. It is common for the space between columns to be half of the border length. In my example I have chosen a 10mm border and 5mm between the columns. Already we see that the page is taking shape. As I have already said, I believe structure is the key to good typography, and these four columns and borders will provide the structure for the entire document. If it is a brochure it will help bring consistency to the whole thing. Images and quotes could should all submit to this grid.

So we have set up a grid vertically, the next step will be to set up a horizontal or baseline grid, which all our text will stick to. This is a key factor to good typography and InDesign is a great bit of software as it has all the tools to makew this process simple. We have already chosen our leading (12pt) so we will set up a grid to reflect this. Go to the top bar menu InDesign>Preferences>Grid. This menu box should display.

Start the grid at 10mm in accordance with your borders. Type into the Increment Every box, 12pt in accordance with your type leading. Press OK. The grid is now set up, to make it visible, go to the top bar menu again, View>Grids and Guides>Show baseline Grid. You will now see guides running across the page horizontally at the same leading as your type. Now make your type stick to the grid. Bring up the paragraph display box, Window>Type and Tables>Paragraph. Select your type box and click on the Align to baseline grid button in the bottom right hand corner. All type lines should now stick perfectly to your grid lines. All further type we will insert from now on will also be made to align to this grid.

Now we will add a heading. The key here is to set the leading up that it will align nicely to our already set up baseline grid. I have set my title at 95pt with a leading of 72pt. Basically I have made the leading to be a multiple of the 12pt our baseline grid is already set up to. This way each line can naturally line up with a line of the body text. The title size also allows it to sit nicely and not overlap at all. If the tops of letters such as h is hitting a lower curve of a g it can reduce legibility and also make it ugly. Don’t forget to click the Align to baseline grid button on the paragraph formating box again. Also select a text wrap so the text will not overlap the heading but flow round it. It should look something like this.

I shall now add an introduction paragraph in the exact same way. This time I will select 24pt leading, again a multiple of our 12pt grid. Align it to the grid and it should look something like this…

As you can see, everything is aligning perfectly giving the page a neat structured feel. In most cases I try to keep the alignment consistent, but in this case I have been a bit creative and made the intro and title right aligned to stick to the body text paragraph and give a crisp centre line.

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