Turning a Print Magazine into an iPad App in Three Weeks

Imagine that you’re handed scores of magazine pages in the form of multiple InDesign files. Your task is to reconceptualize that content into a publication that not only looks like it was designed for the iPad, but adds audio and video. And the tools you’re using are so new that they’re evolving as you work with them. Now imagine that you have only three weeks to complete the entire project.

While I think I’d react with a four-letter word, the small team faced with this very real challenge handled it like the pros they are. Scott Citron, Mordy Golding, and Bob Levine created Scientific American‘s “Origins and Endings” app using InDesign CS5 and Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite.

They do admit that it was a test of their skills. “Just because content fits on a magazine page doesn’t mean it fits on an iPad ‘page’,” notes Scott Citron. “When you shrink down a page of the magazine to the iPad’s 1024 by 768 pixels, you end up with so much text. In the first few prototypes, the text and margins were way too small. We settled on 17.5-point body type and 22-point leading. The print magazine body text is 9.5 points.”

There were also plenty of technical challenges. As Bob Levine notes, the hardware and software are so new that “there’s no experience to call on. You don’t know which rules you can break and still have it function.”

To see how this team solved the design and technical problems, download the full article as an interactive PDF. This PDF is best viewed in Adobe Acrobat or the free Adobe Reader.

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Posted on: May 2, 2011

6 Comments on Turning a Print Magazine into an iPad App in Three Weeks

  1. that’s fascinating (and quite overwhelming). It’s difficult for me to imaging that in the near future, we’re going to be re-creating our work multiple times for multiple outputs. sounds a bit exhausting to me. I know that once I’ve sent a project to print, the last thing I want to do is go back into the file and keep working with it!

  2. …promoting super quick turn-around times. Deadlines are squeezed so tightly now, the design community really cannot afford to have clients thinking that yet another design vehicle (an entire digital magazine in this case) can be produced in a shortened time span.

  3. I was hoping that the article would actually describe how the designers turned a print magazine into an iPad in three weeks. Instead all we get are a couple of quotations about how difficult it was and a couple of mentions of margins and font sizes. Though the article did say that they used InDesign and the Digital Publishing Suite, there was no information on how they actually used those tools to accomplish their task. No mention of the techniques they developed over the three weeks. No mention of lessons learned or problems to avoid. No mention of how they divided the workload and how each contributed to the final project. Really, nothing of substance at all…

    Just a disappoint article all around.

  4. I agree 100%. I read this hoping to learn something new and the only useful information I got out of it was an idea of font size differences.

  5. I understand your desire for solid how-to information. However, the Digital Publishing Suite was still in flux when Mordy, Scott, and Bob created this app. In addition, the conversion situation they faced had some unusual aspects that wouldn’t apply to every publication.

    Those two factors meant that most people would not have been able to use app-production information for their own projects.

    Terri Stone
    Editor in Chief, CreativePro.com

  6. It’s funny re-reading this article after almost a year later. We are trying to figure out a way to recreate an entire publication with audio and video in a matter of a few days while the print version is on press. And doing it with with just designer (me) instead of a separate team.

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