“Oh my god! Nobrow has made an app!” was the excited squawk that echoed across the editorial desk when we first found out about the publisher’s expansion into digital; so surprised were we that a brand formerly so print-focussed was branching out onto screens. The exclamation was swiftly followed by cooing admiration, however, as one by one we watched the accompanying demo video and realised just what the new move entailed.
Determined to go above and beyond other comics publishers who have tentatively dipped a toe into the digital sphere, directors Sam Arthur and Alex Spiro have created a “layering” effect which allows you to view illustrators’ original sketches beneath the finished, coloured panels, with a simple swipe. Cool, huh? We asked Alex more about it.
The shift away from traditional printing and into the digital realm is quite a big step for Nobrow. What made you decide to develop the app?
To be honest, Sam and I went from moving image and very digital animation-based backgrounds into print (because we loved print) but we were never allergic to the idea of exploring the digital reading marketplace. We were often asked “how would Nobrow approach digital?” and the answer was simply to be able to add value to the reading experience. However, we wanted to be patient and wait for the right idea to materialise so that our foray into the field would be something of significance, at the very least to those who already admired our work.
What were the key values you were keeping in mind during the development stages?
The key for us was to create something that would complement the printed book – an app that would act as a platform on which readers could gain a greater appreciation for the artists’ work. We wanted to take advantage of technology to add something to the comic reading experience rather than simply digitising a backlist that many people may already be familiar with. It was also essential to ensure that the user interfaces would be easy and elegant to use, and the digital design team had this at the fore through development.
“We wanted to take advantage of technology to add something to the comic reading experience rather than simply digitising a backlist that people may already be familiar with.”
Were there any other apps which influenced you?
We were aware of what already existed in the marketplace and some of the great apps out there, but truthfully our aim was to bring something genuinely new to the table. We wanted our app to be as exciting as our printed books.
Can you tell us about the measures you have put in place to bridge the gap between print and digital?
Our efforts to bridge the gap, as it were, are to allow digital readers to appreciate the process work behind our printed books. And in turn, those reading the printed book can get an insight into the artists’ process through digital. Very simply, through our “Layers” feature we are doing what would require a significant amount of complexity to achieve in print but is rendered almost effortless with a screen. A book that peels back its own layers of process would require triple or quadruple the number of (physical) pages, not to mention costly printing on acetates and tracing paper leafs for every single page in the book. With our new iPad app, you can achieve the same if not more with simplicity and ease and without requiring the reader to carry around a 400 page comic book! We know that our fans are not just interested in the content, but also in the process. Our first priority is to engage our fans with exciting content they couldn’t find anywhere else, so this was our solution.
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