SXSW Dual – Touching Stories: Designing Digital Magazines for the iPad

SXSW Dual – Touching Stories: Designing Digital Magazines for the iPad

The launch of the iPad signaled the start of a new era for magazine publishing. A single device that delivered the fidelity of print and the interactivity of the Web, all wrapped up in a fun and easy-to-use form factor gave the industry new reason to hope. There was one trick: no one had designed for this brave new medium yet. Editorial teams suddenly needed to consider multi-touch gestures, multiple orientations, dynamic layout and the integration of rich media into the design of their issues. Ink-smudged print teams had to reach out to the pixel-based life forms in charge of the company Websites, and engage a new breed of Cocoa developers as well. Whole new models of information design and user experience we’re launched at high velocity into the App Store. Both speakers were involved in designing some of the first digital magazines that launched on the iPad on April 3rd, 2010. They’ve spent the last year exploring new ways to experience and engage with magazine content on this exciting new platform. Together they’ve worked on iPad editions of magazines such as Spin, Dwell, National Geographic, Car and Driver and many others. In this session they’ll share hard-earned knowledge and useful insights on how to design for gestural interfaces, how to integrate interactivity smoothly into digital magazines and what it takes to build an issue for the iPad.


  • Matthew Carlson, Principal Experience Strategy & Design, Hot Studio Inc
  • Matthew Davis, VP, User Experience/Creative, ZINIO


  • Optimized Development Timeline for the Zinio iOS app
    • Zinio developers developed the entire app in a month, had very tight timeline from apple.
    • UI design and asset creation was done from the beginning, and then sent off to the programming team on a rolling basis, to streamline.
    • Continuous production process helped make Apple’s strict deadline to be featured at the launch of the iPad.
  • For user experience, Zinio added the ability to add interactive elements at any point in the display of media. No need for special interactive modules, publishers may insert interactive content anywhere.
  • The Zinio project encompassed building a tablet-friendly store for 3000 magazines, 75000 sku’s.
  • App is now launched, but is still being worked on and refined. iApps cycle much more quickly than desktop apps.
  • Daily operational tools for streamlined content app development
  • Whiteboards. Easy to draw ideas, good for sketching out ad-hoc thoughts.
  • Sketching paper for prototypes
  • Good listening skills
  • Lots of wild gesturing, since they didn’t have an actual ipad prototype to play with – apple had not released hardware to developers, prior to the official launch. Zinio built prototypes out ofnpaper and cardboard, to approximate size and feel of the app
  • Major considerations for building the app
    • Architecture of magazine, publication layout
    • Construction – pdf, pixels, html, cocoa
    • Layout
    • Navigation
    • Workflow
  • Takeaways
    • Realize the shift of the tablet into all sectors, new ways to use
    • If you’re a writer, think about the experience in your stories to drive tablet interaction
    • If you’re an interactive designer, make sure you have a tablet! Must have.
    • If you’re an art director, start thinking about beautiful visuals
    • If you’re a publisher, now is a good time to mix up your team and get art dept to talk to dev dept, etc.