"Above & Beyond" The Traditional iPad Publication App

Above and Beyond app icon.pngThe last two weeks have seen the release of three high profile non-traditional publication apps for the iPad: Al Gore's Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, The Final Hours of Portal 2, and now Above & Beyond: George Steinmetz--the latter two coming out of Joe Zeff Design's shop in Montclair, NJ.

Above & Beyond is part magazine, part hardcover photography collection, part website and part documentary. The app allows you to view Steinmetz aerial photography, hear how each photo came to be, and learn about George's motorized paraglider through video and an interactive 3D model.

With the release of this new app, I asked app creator Joe Zeff to answer three questions:

Above and Beyond: George Steinmetz Promo from Talking Eyes Media on Vimeo.

This app not only re-invents what a publication can be on the iPad, but also the traditional editorial and publication model. How did this project come about? 

This app had its start at a dinner party last November. George and I met briefly, but we barely spoke with one another. George had just found out that an overseas assignment had been postponed, and he wasn't in much of a partying mood. Meanwhile, I was immersed in conversation with an old high school friend I hadn't seen in years. He had just finished a memoir since published by Harper Collins, and truth be told, I was sizing him up for a potential app. My studio had just published its first app -- Splashlight Studio Tour -- and I was looking for a subject with more meat. My wife Roberta chatted briefly with George and showed me his website when we got home that evening. I was drawn by the patterns that appear in his work -- George has an incredible eye for composition, and his pictures appealed to me from a graphic design perspective. Then I watched a video that The New Yorker had produced about George, and learned about his motorized paraglider. Not only did we have a trove of incredible photographs to work with, but a rich story that tied everything together. I sent him an e-mail before going to bed and heard back the next day.

Starting with the stunning photography, this app includes everything from audio commentary, to documentary videos, to CG infographics. It seems that you and your studio now wears multiple hats. Walk us through production cycle for this publication? How long was it from concept to App Store? 

One of the exciting byproducts of this and other apps we've created is the empowerment of independent content creators to produce high-quality content without reliance on large publishing companies. With "The Final Hours of Portal 2," Geoff Keighley was able to maximize the value of his own content by creating -- extending, actually -- his own personal brand. Whether or not it continues to be a hot seller, Geoff will have a viable foundation on which to build future apps directed toward the video game community. I think there's a valuable lesson here for designers who wait anxiously for their employers to figure out the iPad. There are opportunities for small groups of motivated individuals to create the business models and content strategies that will define this medium. In today's digital marketplace, yesterday is much less relevant than tomorrow. While publishers work to salvage decades of investment in print, independents can start fresh today and create entirely new products that are immediately relevant, with potential to grow into much larger properties.

Tell us about Above & Beyond. Do you see this as a series of apps? What other subjects might be covered?

We have several options for Volume 2, and I want to collect some data points before choosing one of them. Above & Beyond could be a series about photographers. Above & Beyond could be a series about people who see things others cannot. Above & Beyond could be a series about people who inspire us. Or it could be all of the above. There's no reason that Above & Beyond couldn't focus on a brain surgeon, for instance. It's really all about the brand, and it's broad enough to extend in multiple directions depending on the insights we're able to collect from the first installment. Feedback is a huge part of our development process -- I'm spending much more time than ever before in conference rooms talking about digital publishing strategies, and focusing just as closely on how my 11-year-old responds when I bring home an iPad with "Above & Beyond: George Steinmetz" installed. Ultimately, there's a need to satisfy both audiences in one way or another -- the youth who will someday represent the consumer base for tablet magazines, and the companies that need to better understand how to create products that engage them.

See past interviews:

Grant Glas, Principal, Invisions Technical Arts

Noma Bar, Illustrator

George McCalman, Art Director at AFAR

Joshua Gorchov, Principal at the Loud Cloud

Tim J Luddy, CD, Mother Jones

Dan Saelinger, Photographer

Maili Holliman, DD, Pop Up Magazine

Chris Rochelle, Photographer, CHOW.com

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  • Grant Glas

    Great work Joe, just downloaded the app. Always love reading insight from one of the leaders in digital publishing.

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