The Human Body Book is one of reference publisher Dorling Kindersley’s (DK) best-selling titles, having sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Now DK has turned it into The Human Body iPad app, developed in collaboration with leading agency AKQA, that uses interactivity to reveal the structures that make up the human form.

The app includes about 60 per cent of the book's content but adds functions possible only a tablet, including video, audio and even 'haptic' features that use vibrations from the iPad's built-in speaker to allow the user to feel the heart beating or nerves racing.

We interview Justin Moodie, digital publishing director at DK; and Dan Rosen, head of mobile at AKQA.

DA: How did this project come to be?

JM: "A year ago all the publishers in DK sat around a table and presented ideas for potential apps. We then went through those ideas and asked ourselves which of them were global in scope, added real value by being digital and were based on content that was already selling well. Everyone agreed that The Human Body fit that bill."

DA: What was it about the Human Body book that is best enhanced by being turned into an app?

DR: "The iPad experience provides rich imagery with highly detailed medical annotations and, unlike the book, provides multiple routes into content. It is authoritative, accessible, and highly visual, and delivers unparalleled access to the structure and functions of the human body."

DA: How did you begin conceiving and developing the app?

JM: "Working together with AKQA, we started by setting limits on the app: everything we’d like and everything we need. 'Everything we’d like' was the outer limit of the project and allowed us to thing big. It was an all-day brainstorm with creative, editorial, digital, content, technology and marketing where everything was allowed.

"The inner limit was 'everything we need'. This was a more sombre meeting where we ruthlessly cut the project to the essentials and focussed our minds on what was really important to us. This was the absolute minimum we would be happy with if we wanted to launch the product. Once this was in place, we had a clear idea of the path we wanted to take. The rest of the process was working between those boundaries -- and within our budget and timeframe."

DA: How did you distil the wealth of information in the book into an approachable app?
 
DR: "We used a multilayered interface to present the vast depth of content in a manageable format, which could be accessed from many different journeys. To ensure any information required is accessed as quickly and easily as possible, we organised the app into three distinct levels: Systems, Chapters and Stories."