Focus: interactive design

New tools for tablets

Quark and Adobe, the giants of print design software, have been increasingly adding interactive features to their page layout and design tools. Not only can you now output a layout to a website, but designers can enter a whole new cross-media market.

The latest version of QuarkXPress comes complete with the ability to export your layouts to a variety of digital formats, namely the Blio and EPUB eBook formats. It’s also due to ship the App Studio, allowing designers to create publications in Apple’s iOS App format. In each instance, a Print layout is created in QuarkXpress and then repurposed for an eBook or App layout. There are new palettes and menu commands, and video, slideshows and HTML links can be embedded to add interactivity.

Adobe’s current offering is the Digital Publishing Suite, a limited release exclusive to publishers, which ties into InDesign via plug-ins. InDesign CS5.5, however, will ship with the tools integrated. Designers can use the new Overlay Creator and Folio Producer panels to insert interactivity into layouts, preview publications on the desktop, and upload them for final production with Digital Publishing Suite-hosted services. It will create content for Apple iPad, BlackBerry PlayBook and a wide variety of Android tablets – plus versions for reading on computers using Adobe’s Digital Editions reader.

While most coverage of the Digital Publishing Suite has been on big-brand magazines like Wired, it’s also possible to create interactive versions of corporate publications and even brochures using the technology. Thinkology recently produced the Points West magazine for Mercedes Benz in two forms: a traditional A5 32-page booklet and a 78-page digital iPad App edition, the biggest hurdle being the limited real estate of the iPad. Says Thinkology MD Simon Milton: “Due to the resolution, fonts need to be a larger size than they would appear in print, which in turn affects the size of the imagery used in the layout. Fortunately there is a solution that if we were designing for print we wouldn’t have. We can simply add another page within the stack, allowing the user to scroll vertically to access more content.”

The best of both worlds

Thinkology creative director Matthew Hinchliffe says designing a magazine for the iPad slots perfectly in-between print and Web disciplines. “We can incorporate all the design sensibilities of print design while adding the enhancements that the digital realm offers. Speaking as a digital and print designer it’s the perfect blend of both worlds.”

However, both Adobe and Quark have been rather slow off the mark with their digital edition tools, allowing other software developers to gain a toehold in the market by being out first and offering higher levels of interactivity and different pricing models.

WoodWing’s Digital Magazine Tools are most appropriate for larger publishers of magazines and newspapers as it’s essentially an output module for the company’s workflow and content management systems. This includes a plug-in set for InDesign that adds more interactivity than is possible using the Folio Producer tools, and can output to a wider range of tablet platforms – including iOS, Android, HP webOS, and Blackberry Tablet OS as well as HTML5 for ‘pure’ web publications for reading on desktops as well as tablets, phones and other devices.

Also in the market is Mag+, created by international publishing group Bonnier, but has been recently spun out into its own company, Moving Media+. A major advantage of Mag+ is that it has no upfront cost – you pay when you publish – and seems the best suited for the creation of marketing materials such as brochures and catalogues.